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Julia’s dream is to make a living as a photographer. In this dream, she takes amazing photos, people buy them, and their purchases fund her future work.
But it’s not that simple. Julia wants to publish some of her photos to help spread the word, but she’s concerned because photos are easy to copy. She could lose control and not be able to make a living from her talent.
So she does some research and learns that in the U.S., as with other countries, we have laws that give creators of materials like books, images, movies, artwork and music a way to own and protect their creations. It’s called copyright law. Owning the copyright means having the exclusive right to manage and sell the material.
And she’s surprised to find that when she creates photos, she owns the copyright to them automatically, without taking any other action. Though she can always register them with the U.S. Copyright office for good measure.
She likes being covered by copyright law, but it limits her exposure, because her permission is required for sharing a photo. She needs a way to make some of her photos more sharable.
Her research leads her to Creative Commons, which is a set of licenses that she can use to make her copyrighted photos free for sharing.
By licensing specific photos with a Creative Commons license, she doesn’t have to approve each person’s request for sharing, as long as a few simple rules are followed. She chooses a license that requires the user to provide attribution, or credit for her work, and to be non-commercially.
Using Creative Commons means she retains some rights while her photos and name have the potential to be seen by many more people because they can be shared for free.
After considering the options, Julia decides to license a few photos with Creative Commons, and use copyright with “all rights reserved” for the rest of her portfolio because it will be important for her goals. So she adds copyright information, which includes the year the photo was first taken and her name, wherever those photos appear.
Across the country, Kelly needs a travel photo for his magazine article. He searches, and finds a nice one online and notes a Creative Commons license and Julia’s name. His use is commercial, so he visits her site and finds more photos that fit his needs.
The one he wants is marked “all right reserved”, so to avoid copyright infringement and potential legal issues, he contacts Julia who gives him permission to use the photo in exchange for a license fee. This way, Kelly can use the photo in his magazine and Julia can build her career.
Both Kelly and Julia understand that ownership and proper use of materials can be difficult to navigate, especially because the Web is global and copyright laws can vary by country.
So here are a few things they always consider...
When they see a copyright symbol or notice, they ask the creator about proper use. And they still ask even if they don’t see a symbol.
When they see Creative Commons licenses like these, they know they can share the material for free, as long as they follow the rules of the license, found at creativecommons.org.
Both copyright and Creative Commons are important parts of a system that come with a responsibility to follow rules, rules that support the future work of people and organizations who can make our world a better place.