I've had a fairly interesting conversation a couple of times about why I chose to license my blog under a Creative Commons license and particularly why I allowed commercial use of my material without charge. This is the reasoning behind my decision.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a non-profit organisation that provides really simple and easy to use copyright licenses. You can customise how people are allowed to share your work, use your work and even build on your work. They have a great tool to make choosing and displaying your license a breeze. If you're publishing content online, I'd recommend taking a look.
What is the license for this blog?
At the time of writing, my blog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license. Phew, a bit of a mouthful so let's break that down.
Under the Creative Commons licensing you can allow adaptations of your work to be shared or not. You can also stipulate if any adaptations have to be shared under the same license. This is the ShareAlike part of my license and requires anyone who makes adaptations of my work to share it under the same license so others can benefit again.
You can also specify whether or not your work is allowed to be used for commercial purposes. That might be someone taking your blog and turning it into a training manual or using one of your pictures in a magazine that's sold at a price. My blog has no restrictions on commercial use and you're free to monetise my content with attribution.
The licenses require that anyone who uses your work attribute it in an appropriate manner. You can specify whether you would like it attributing to you by name, or in my case, to a URL. Any use of my work should be attributed to scotthelme.co.uk as the source.
Why do I license my work this way?
The conversation I had originally came about as a result of Troy Hunt's Pluralsight course, Introduction to Browser Security Headers and again more recently with his course What Every Developer Must Know About HTTPS, so I decided to write something up. Troy has a huge amount of courses on Pluralsight and they're all worth checking out, these particular ones being no exception. I'm very pleased to say that I featured a few times in the courses and particularly some of the statistics used were those I gather in my Alexa Top 1 Million crawls. Troy used the statistics within the bounds of the license, which permits commercial use and only requires attribution to scotthelme.co.uk, which was present.
The argument here was that I'd done the research to gather these statistics, written up a blog about them and published them for everyone to enjoy. Troy had them come along and was "making money off my hard work", for which I would see no gain. There's quite a few things wrong with this viewpoint so I'd like to go through them.
My blog is licensed how it is because my primary objective is to make the web a safer place. I genuinely do what I do so that others may learn and benefit from my work and we can all build a safer web together. Sharing our knowledge freely is one of the best ways that we can all contribute to improving the situation! Things are getting better out there, but I think the worst is yet to come (Hello IoT!).
I allow commercial use of my work for a few reasons. Primarily it's because it allows me to get more exposure and gets my work out in front of more viewers. Thanks to the attribution requirement in the license I got my domain placed on the slide decks of top rating Pluralsight courses from an industry expert. Whilst I might not see direct revenue from the course, to say that I'm not gaining anything is flat out wrong. In honesty, from my perspective right now, exposure from Troy Hunt is more helpful in achieving my goals than the revenue probably would be! Secondly, my material wasn't ready for commercial use. Troy had to take it and spend considerable time developing it to place it into that Pluralsight course. Recording, video editing and building the structure of the course all take time, skills and resources that I just don't have. This is the work Troy is doing that he is getting paid for. If I restricted commercial use of my material then I can only see a worse situation for myself, nothing positive would have come from it.
How do you license your work?
I'd encourage anyone reading this to take a look at how they license their work or material. Perhaps you don't license it and have nothing stated formally on your site. Maybe you have a generic copyright notice with all rights reserved. Take a look at how you currently license things, or don't license things, and think about implementing a Creative Commons license. Even if, like my license, there aren't any restrictions on using your material, it's better to state that clearly and allow wider use of your work without people having to contact you or wonder what kind of usage is allowed. The more freely you allow people to use your material, the wider and more generously it's likely to be shared and the greater benefit it can be to the wider community!