Designers, photographers and artists seeking to release works under a Creative Commons licence now have more flexibility and choice when they want to share their works, Creative Commons said Thursday.

Creative Commons licences allow copyright holders to easily grant permission to use their works in certain manners. Version 4.0 of the licenses were introduced Tuesday after a two-year development period in which legal experts around the world collaborated to renew and refine the licence, the organisation announced in a blog post.

While most of the dozens of improvements will go unnoticed by Creative Commons licencors and licencees, the new licences are more user-friendly and more internationally robust than ever before, the organisation said.

Copyright management

Creative Commons offers six standard licences with which photographers, designes, authors, artists, scientists, teachers and other creatives can manage their copyrights flexibly. With the standard licences the users decide to what extent their work is allowed to be spread and edited, and under which conditions. The user does not entirely give up the copyright but rather grants certain user rights in advance so third parties do not explicitly need to ask for permission for using or adapting the work.

One of the main improvements for users is that the 4.0 licence allows them to enable more anonymity, said Lisette Kalshoven, advisor for copyright and heritage at the Dutch organization Kennisland (Knowledgeland). Kennisland is the public project lead for Creative Commons Netherlands and coordinates the public activities of Creative Commons in the Netherlands.

Version 3.0 of the licence allowed a licencor to request a licencee to remove attribution from an adaptation of the work. That provision is expanded in the new licence and now applies not just to adaptations but also to reproductions.

This means that licencors can choose when they want attribution for their work, said Kalshoven. The licences now account for situations where licensors wish to disassociate themselves from uses of their works they object to, even if their work hasn't been modified or published in a collection with other works.

Licence violation corrections

Another important change is the introduction of a 30-day window in which licence violations can be corrected, Kalshoven said. All Creative Commons licenses are terminated when a licencee breaks the terms, but under the new licences, licencees' rights are reinstated automatically if they correct a breach within 30 days of discovering it. This assures accidental violators they can keep using the work without having to worry they might lose the rights to do so permanently.

Granting a violator of the terms some leeway already happened in practice, for instance when somebodies name was spelled wrong in the attribution, said Kalshoven.

Another change that might be welcomed by users is that the text of the licences has become much more readable, Kalshoven said. "In the new version the licence text is completely restructured and rewritten in such a way that it is readable for people who are not lawyers," said Kalshoven.

The licence also has become more global. This means that the licences can be used around the world without the need to having to translate and adapt them to local laws. Creative Commons also introduced official translations of the licences, so that users of CC-licenced material around the world can read and understand the complete licences in their local languages, Creative Commons said.

Older licences will remain valid and users who don't like the new 4.0 licences can choose to use an older one, said Kalshoven. However, works licenced under an old licence do not automatically update to the new licence, and anyone who wants to license an already CC-licenced work under the new 4.0 licence needs to relicence it, she added.