Collections and Remixes

In the context of Creative Commons, a ‘collection’ is pretty much as the name states. Southwest Minnesota State University (2020) describes it as what happens when you take individual works and put them together into a single, collective work as long as they remain intact. In other words, this is what happens when you take CC-licensed or public domain material, treat them all like they’ve got ND conditions, and put them together. Kind of like a photo album, if you don’t trim things.

Another example: go to any bookstore, especially in the art section, and look at any book on paintings or art, the kind you would find in a public museum gift shop, like Hokusai’s The Great Wave off Kanagawa.

Hokusai, Katsushika. “The Great Wave Off Kanagawa.” (1830-1832). The Great Wave Off Kanagawa (A-11177-4). Honkan (Japanese Gallery), Tokyo National Museum, Tokyo, Japan. Public Domain, Accessed via Wikimedia Commons.

A book that contains all of Hokusai’s paintings would be a collections of his work. I got a present once that I mentioned in a previous post – a book full of scans of Leonardo Da Vinci’s notebooks along with commentary by the author. You could argue that it’s a collection as well because it kept the original pieces intact, save for some of them being resized so it would fit within a page, but resizing is allowed. However, I’m not going to show you what that book is because it’s under copyright, which sounds like a good transition to the next piece.

How to License a Collection

“Notebooks-of-the-Leonardo-da-Vinci Plate-XLVI Sketches-for-The-Last-Supper”. (2012, uploaded). Da Vinci, Leonardo. Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain.

Collections can have their own license separate from the works that were put together to create the collection to begin with, like that book of Da Vinci scans that I just mentioned. While the scans themselves would be public domain on the virtue of being way past copyright anyway, the rest of the book – including the text that the author wrote, book jacket design, and other materials of bookmaking that I’m not familiar with so will not discuss here – all that would be under copyright.

“Person Wearing a Checkered Shirt in the Record Store.” (2021). cottonbro studio. Pexels License.

Got any CDs of classical music? A lot of the classics – think Brahms, Beethoven, Mozart, Prokofiev’s Dance of the Knights – would be under public domain, so any orchestra is welcome to perform it, and it’s not like they are going to make changes to it, but that compilation album itself would still be under copyright by the record company who pressed it and released it with their trademarks, liner notes, and so on. Got to make money on that after all, how else are you going to pay the musicians?

Anyway, CC – remember, they’re made to work with existing copyright laws – works in a similar manner according to the following chart from Creative Commons. An author could put together a collection that is a combination of different CC licenses like BY, BY-NC, CC0, even BY-ND. Even though the items in the collection keep their individual licenses, which means each will be treated in kind, and even though they may not have been altered in any way, the entire collection could still have its own license, like maybe BY-NC-ND. However, just like the previous examples, it only applies to the author’s original work in the collection. Author’s commentary? Author used their picture? Did their own graphic designs to make the collection look more cohesive? Those would fall under the license that the author used.

“Collection License Chart screenshot.” (2022). Creative Commons, CC-BY-40.

Before moving on though – remember what I said about each item having its own license and treated in kind? That means if even one of those items in the collection has an NC, or Non-Commercial, condition in it, it does would not matter if the collection, as a whole, does not have an NC condition – you cannot use the collection to make money. So that’s one of the biggest lessons about putting together a collection: be mindful of each item that’s in it, especially what each item allows. But what if individual items allow you to actually change things?

Remixing and Adapting

“96-channel Solid State Logic (SSL) Duality at Audio Mix House, Studio A.” (2013). Audio Mix House. Flickr, CC-BY-20.

Since copyright likely will not let you do this without a some kind of contract deal and several lawyers involved, let’s stick to CC-related material. Adapted work, at least according to Creative Commons, is a work based on a previously-created work but has some newly-creative addition to it – this is the adapter’s work. A translation is something that’s usually brought up as an example of an adaptation, and so would, say, taking clips from a movie, a slide show with music in the background, that picture I made in a previous post that has the four elements of a CC license, or perhaps a video clip with new voice-overs. Even something as me taking screenshots of things from the Creative Commons website (like the collection license chart earlier this post) would count as an adaptation because I’m taking pieces of a much larger work and only displaying those. Notice the captions I have for each picture on this post? If I put the text on top of the image instead of under it, that will likely count as an adaption.

By the way, anyone who has at least looked into CC works will see the word ‘remix’ quite a bit – again, Creative Commons considers ‘adapt’ and ‘remix’ legally the same thing when you start looking to the licenses. Also, ‘derivative’ is another word for ‘adapt,’ which itself is another word for ‘remix,’ and I suppose we need a different set of vocabulary for when lawyers get involved.

Before we move on to, and also speaking of, licensing, a funny thing about No Derivatives – you can actually remix material with an ND license. You can’t share them, though, so you can’t legally make memes using CC-licensed images from Flickr or somewhere if their licenses have an ND in it then post it on the internet then claim some kind of copyright or CC license on it. Have fun digging into the public domain, though.

Remixing and Adapting and Licensing

“Adapter’s License Chart screenshot.” (2022). Creative Commons, CC-BY-40.

ust like with licensing a collection, how you license your remix depends on the CC license of the original work. Naturally, ‘PD’ on the chart, which is anything with the CC0 or Public Domain mark, is the most permissive – you can remix public domain material and apply any license to it. As you would expect, anything with an ND is the most restrictive since remember, it means ‘No Derivatives.’ As mentioned earlier, you can remix it. However, once you do, you can’t legally license and share it. SA looks like it has a lot of restrictions on it, but it is in the name – ‘Share Alike.’ You could remix a work with an SA condition in it, you can even share it with whomever you please. However, ‘Share Alike’ means that if you share it, you must use the same license as the original work. Can’t just take something with a BY-SA license, remix it ever so slightly, and make it CC0 for whatever reason.

Another way to read this chart would be to start with the license you want, which would be any column. Then go down the column to see what kind of CC-licensed material that you can remix and apply your license. For example, this video has a CC-BY-NC license (which shows up at the end anyway), which means I can use public domain material, CC-BY, and CC-BY-NC. Everything else is legally off limits. Oh well – there’s a lot of really good material out there with those 3 licenses.

Anything in yellow is technically allowed by each license, but it may require licensing it with different terms. If that sounds like it could be a challenge, play it safe and play in the green zone. This blog was me taking the easy way – notice how everything here is CC-BY or somewhere in the public domain?

The biggest thing about putting things together is know what it is you’re putting together. Got to get the recipe right, right?

Works Cited

“Collections & Adaptations – Creative Commons – Research Guides at Southwest Minnesota State University.” (2020) Southwest Minnesota State University., CC-BY-SA-40.

“Frequently Asked Questions – Creative Commons.” (n.d.), CC-BY-40.

“Remixing CC-Licensed Work.” by Creative Commons, CC-BY-40.

Featured Image credit: “Bookshelves.” (2013). eltpics. (2013). Flickr, CC-BY-NC-20.

This post and all entries in this blog are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC-BY-NC-40) license.


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