Creative Commons Corporation is a Massachusetts-chartered s.501(c)(3) tax-exempt charitable corporation, a non-profit organisation founded by Lawrence Lessig1 with the vision of realising the full potential of the internet—universal access to research and education, full participation in culture, and driving a new era of development, growth, and productivity.
The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the internet, but our existing legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realised. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the web. The default setting of copyright law requires all of these actions to have explicit permission, granted in advance, whether the user is an artist, teacher, scientist, librarian, policymaker, or just a regular user. To achieve the vision of universal access, someone needed to provide a free, public, and standardised infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the internet and the reality of copyright laws. That someone is Creative Commons.
Creative Commons (CC) develops, supports and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximises digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.
The infrastructure provided by CC consists of a set of copyright licenses and tools that create a balance inside the traditional “all rights reserved” setting that copyright law creates.
CC tools give everyone from individual creators to large companies and institutions a simple, standardised way to keep their copyright while allowing certain uses of their work—a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright—which makes their creative, educational, and scientific content instantly more compatible with the full potential of the internet. The combination of CC tools and CC users is a vast and growing digital commons, a pool of content that can be copied, distributed, edited, remixed, and built upon, all within the boundaries of copyright law. CC have worked with copyright experts around the world to make sure CC licenses are legally solid, globally applicable, and responsive to their users’ needs.
Some of the companies and organisations which are use Creative Commons licenses include the White House (US government), Google, Wikipedia and Al Jazeera.
For those creators wishing to opt out of copyright altogether, and to maximise the interoperability of data, CC provides tools that allow work to be placed as squarely as possible in the public domain.
CC builds infrastructure and its users build the commons itself. CC is working to increase the adoption of its tools, to support and listen to its users, and to serve as a trusted steward of interoperable commons infrastructure. In order to achieve this vision of an internet full of open content, where users are participants in innovative culture, education, and science, CC depend on the backing and finance of its users and those who believe in the potential of the internet.
Except where otherwise noted, this content is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License which is reproduced here as Contract 19.
Selected for reproduction in this publication are:
- the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
 Lawrence “Larry” Lessig (born June 3, 1961) is an American academic best known as a proponent of reduced legal restrictions on copyright, trademark, and radio frequency spectrum, particularly in technology applications. He is a director of the Edmond J. Safra Foundation Center for Ethics at Harvard University and a professor of law at Harvard Law School. Lessig is a founding board member of Creative Commons, a board member of the Software Freedom Law Center among other roles.