The Ins and Outs of Creative Commons Manuscript Submissions

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It’s fairly easy to prove ownership of a newly purchased jacket: simply pull out your receipt. But what about a story you wrote, or an invention you designed? What if someone takes your original plan and modifies it? What if a rival claims you stole their idea?

The question of ownership only amplifies in importance as technology and progress gains more speed than ever before. In the field of research, this question is critical: what is the point in investing in and developing a technology that the competition can copy as soon as you share it?

Copyrights, trademarks, patents, and licenses help to regulate this increasingly sticky area. While the first three of these methods are designed to protect intellectual property, a license sets the terms of how that property can be used by others. The Creative Commons license is one such tool, and it has helped protect over 1.1 billion works to date. Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that provides platforms in which creators can license and share their work. Having this form of protection allows scientists to claim their authorship and is often a requirement for submission to scientific journals hoping for the publishers to avoid legal troubles. These licenses “facilitate the dissemination of knowledge while maintaining control of intellectual property,” according to Hyeon (Sean) Kim, MS, MBA, a Licensing Associate at Emory University. By reducing the risk of plagiarism and data-theft, scientific findings can be more freely shared discussed, producing a wider breadth of scholarship available to the public without compromising the rights of the creators.

Creative Commons is affiliated with sharing platforms such as flickr, Wikipedia, and Youtube in order to make works more accessible online. Meanwhile, Creative Commons provides licensing that affirms the creator’s ownership and intellectual property right such as copyright. Kim explained that “the Creative Commons license is a backbone” that protects the ownership and integrity of the work. In addition to the core protection provided by the license, the owner must choose one of six possible attributes. Attributes “further expand restrictions or permissions,” such as whether or not the work can be used for commercial use or whether it can be modified. Commercial use is defined as any activity that results in profit. If a work is used non-commercially, it still requires a citation. By choosing a more conservative attribution, Kim said, any patent applications filed for or issued patent directed to the work can still be licensed for commercial use and receive royalty payments down the road.

Creative Commons is rapidly growing, and it’s easy to see why: it gives authors the ability to license (and later publish) their work through an affordable and user-friendly interface. According to Kim, submitting to Creative Commons is as easy as “uploading a picture to Facebook. Since everything is processed online, owners don’t have to write complex license agreement on their own. “The caveat is that they have to be really careful,” said Kim, as it is up to the owner to choose the licensing agreement that is best for him or her. While Creative Commons provides a Commons Deed which explains each license in laymen’s terms, it is not always easy for the owner to distinguish which version best fits his or her legal needs. Kim’s job is to help Emory scientists navigate this sometimes-confusing process.

The protections of Creative Commons and other licenses have fostered a scientific environment of creation and exploration. Assured that their work cannot be stolen or modified without their permission, researchers are able to publish and share their manuscripts easier than ever before. The increased communication between scientists and the public has helped to encourage the explosion of research and technology in the United States and around the world. As innovation and demand for copyright licensing grows, the role of Creative Commons will only become more prominent in today’s globalized world.