Licensing, Or How to Legally Borrow Somone’s Copyright

Necessary Series Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The information presented in this series is based entirely on my experience as a creator and curator.

I admittedly don’t have practical experience with licenses beyond Creative Commons, so anything from here is derived from research. Fair warning.

If the previous posts have got you down about using copyrighted materials in your own work, never fear. There are ways to use a copyrighted artifact legally. First, if the artifact is released under a Creative Commons license, you can use the artifact if you abide by the license. Second, you can contact the copyright holder and ask to license the artifact. Like the Creative Commons license, a license secured directly from the copyright holder will tell you what you are and are not legally allowed to do with the artifact. Licenses will often also tell you where and how long you may use the artifact. If you use it in any other way, you have violated the license, and the copyright holder might not react favorably.

Licensing an artifact can give it a new life, which can be helpful when the artifact is passed from cultural memory. But no matter how much the licensee alters and brings more to the artifact, the copyright holder can revoke the license (revisions included) at any time. Licensing can be a treacherous road, but it can also be worth it. Tread cautiously.

I realize that was really a glossover. If you would like to read more, here are some great links on licensing and transferring rights.

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