Creative Commons license for presentations?

I have been thinking a lot about what copyright license I want to place on my presentation slides. Generally speaking, I am a fan of open access, and I want people to be able to reuse what I do for their own purposes. However, this can cause some problems. Keeping in mind that there are different Creative Common (CC) licenses you can choose, so these examples won’t be accurate for all licenses, here are some of my concerns. For one thing, an article can be re-posted somewhere. In theory, that may be a good thing that an article is in multiple places and there are more places to find it, but it also can weaken the gravitational force of the original when it comes to search engines and the like. While it was flattering at first to see I actually published a journal article in India (that was copied from an open access journal), I think it did detract from the original. This is not to say that anyone in India did anything wrong and certainly not anything illegal since the license allowed them to do so. As Andy Powell mentioned in June in a blog post about creative borrowing there are other reasons besides gravitational force that makes people doing this more then just “downright unhelpful.” When information is inaccurate or out of date it can do more harm than good. If I find an error in something that I posted, and know where is, I can make sure it gets corrected or at least that there is a disclaimer of some sort. Also, just simple things like contact information may change and it would be good to be able to make sure the up-to-date information is available which is not possible if people re-publish things in places I don’t know about.

But I think I can live with that if that is the only downside, even if it is annoying. The overall good probably outweigh the negative. However, I have a separate issue with slides used during presentations. If I am going to put slides up on my Web site or elsewhere under a CC license, I have to make sure that all parts of it are also available under the CC license or otherwise fall under fair use. Of course relying on fair use is a sticky situation because the concept of fair use can vary greatly depending on the jurisdiction.

One example of this problem is with Microsoft Office clip art. According to Microsoft, among other things “You may not use clip art to advertise your business.” This means using this clip art would make me unable to use certain CC-licenses. OK, you say, I can find Open clip art. While this is true, it can also add significant time to preparing presentations if you try to do this (esp. if you are working with someone who only uses Microsoft products). But this is just one small example. A better example might be something that happened recently while preparing a presentation. I needed (OK, I wanted) a picture of the inscription “Free to All” above the entrance to the Boston Public Library. I couldn’t get to Boston to take my own photo and I couldn’t find a CC-licensed one, but I found a great photo by informationgoddess29 that was just what I needed. I contacted her and she generously gave me permission to use it. Since I used this image, I can’t legally release this presentation under CC without getting her permission. Now, being a fellow librarian, she may very well have agreed to change the license if I asked, but that would be very forward of me to do that. This also gets tricky with Web sites that you are showing off or other content that belongs to the University you work at. Do I have to apply to have the University agree to release this under a CC every time I am creating a presentation? I would think I do, assuming they won’t give me blanket permission.

I could go on, but I think you can see my dilemma. I want people to be able to freely use my work, but I don’t want them to be duplicating it in different places on the Internet and possibly watering it down (without asking, anyway). But even more, when I am preparing a presentation, I may need to use content I don’t own. While a friendly e-mail can usually result in permission to use it, it generally will not get me permission to give it away to someone else. I could work on being more selective about the content I re-use, and I will try to do that, but it is not always feasible. Even when it is feasible, it may be very time consuming to do so (and I probably won’t do it in that case).

I wonder what others do? Have they never thought about it? Do they just ignore the license on the content from others that they include when licensing a presentation? Do they make sure they have the proper permissions to release the re-used content? Do they just decide not to use a CC license? I don’t know what I am going to do about this. I am thinking as long as I don’t use images/content that can easily be resold (i.e. I down scale images), and I use a CC license that doesn’t allow commercial use, no one will complain, however I want to do more than to think, and hope, that no one will complain. For that reason, I think I may not use a CC license on presentations by default. I think I may just put a note saying that if you want to use my stuff, just ask and I most likely will say yes. This way, I can respond with what content I legally can’t give away. Of course, if I am only using my content, I may still use a CC license so people don’t need to ask, but a blanket CC-license on my personal scholarly archive appears problematic.


  1. Dorothea Salo said,

    September 12, 2008 at 23:09:37

    I make sure that the art I use in my presentations is CC-BY licensed. Flickr’s CC search is a fantastic source of such photos.

  2. Peter Murray said,

    September 23, 2008 at 21:09:52

    Like Dorothea, in recent presentations I’ve been using Flickr’s CC search as a source of material. I’ve also paid for a few images from stock clipart sources. All told, I’ve tried to be sure that the components of the presentation materials I’ve put together end up with a CC BY-NC-SA license. I’ve also noted that other rights are available and to contact me for more information. I figure if anyone takes me up on that offer I’ll go back to the sources to clear the rights and/or substitute other appropriate content.

  3. Thoughts on Creative Commons licenses | Stacked Notion said,

    November 24, 2008 at 11:11:18

    […] main post I came across was Creative Commons license for presentations? This has a good discussion about creative commons licenses, and the issue of other […]