Wednesday, November 24, 2004

New Search Engine: Creative Commons


“The Creative Commons search engine helps companies, educators, and artists find content they can re-use without having to call a lawyer, and it offers authors and artists who want to share their work a competitive advantage toward having their work discovered online,” said Neeru Paharia, assistant director of Creative Commons and the search engine’s product manager.

For example, a documentary filmmaker could use the Creative Commons engine to search for “images of the Eiffel Tower free for noncommercial use,” and incorporate any or all of the many photographs indexed. A DJ seeking songs free to remix or mash-up could browse listings of MP3s by their legal terms. An entrepreneur seeking illustrations for her slideshow presentation could reduce costs and liability by using a Creative Commons image-specific search. An educator building course materials could include texts and videos found by the engine.

What distinguishes the Creative Commons engine from other search services is that all of the above are possible without the hassle of rights-clearance, licensing requests, or royalty payments.

At the core of the Creative Commons search engine are two key innovations, one legal and one technological. First, Creative Commons offers authors and artists a simple, standardized way to mark their work as free to share or transform, on certain conditions. By applying a Creative Commons copyright license and (cc) notice to her work, an author invites the world to make certain uses of it without giving up her copyright. Rather than the traditional “all rights reserved,” a Creative Commons license declares “some rights reserved.”

Second, and complimentary to this free legal tool, is Creative Commons machine-readable translation of the copyright licenses. When an author affixes the (cc) copyright notice to her webpage or MP3 or image file, it is automatically marked with Creative Commons “metadata” as well. It is this metadata -- akin to a library catalog card describing a particular book -- that the Creative Commons search engine then reads, processes, and presents to users as it crawls the web for their search requests.