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Creative Commons Licensing Toolset For Digital Media

You can't look at the news lately without seeing reports of the legal and technological warfare going on between "big entertainment" copyright owners against virtually everyone else. It's shaped up as a moral mother-of-all-battles pitting the music and motion picture industries, among others, in an open fight against technology companies, telecommunications providers, consumer electronics manufacturers, and increasingly, their own customers.

In some ways, it's become a contest between two extreme views of copyright protections: At one end of the spectrum is the "All Rights Reserved" model – rights that these days are increasingly intended to include complete control over how, when, and on what devices customers are permitted to view the content. At the other end is the "information wants to be free" model that sees copyright as an obstacle to consumers' rights, and the rights to use, criticize, or build upon the works of others. Somewhere in between lies the practical realization, ensconced in the spirit of copyright law, that all progress in the arts and sciences builds upon the work of others who have come before.

Unfortunately, the way in which the copyright debate has been defined by its extremes is influencing the rest of us to take a position of being either "for" or "against" copyright. "While most people think of copyright as an on/off switch, there's really a whole spectrum of copyright protections and permissions available," says Creative Commons Executive Director Glenn Otis Brown. It's always been easy to simply accept the default copyright protection - "All Rights Reserved" on a work and be done with it. But, historically, applying the nuance available in copyright law requires high priced, specialized legal talent.

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