In a world where copyright often runs amok like a hyperactive eight-year-old who has just ingested a giant bag of M&Ms, Creative Commons reclines coolly on a beach chair, sipping a lemonade. The licensing tool gives copyright holders a high degree of flexibility over how their works are used and licensed once they are released.
Microsoft is making the use of Creative Commons licensing easier with a new add-on for Microsoft Office 2003. After installation, an Office menu item allows users to easily incorporate a Creative Commons license into a Word, Excel, or PowerPoint document. It creates a Creative Commons logo, allows users to select from a list of licensing terms, and inserts the license chosen along with a brief summary and link to the Creative Commons site.
The partnership has some high-profile fans, including Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig. "The goal of Creative Commons is to provide authors and artists with simple tools to mark their creative work with the freedom they intend it to carry," said Lessig. "We’re incredibly excited to work with Microsoft to make that ability easily available to the hundreds of millions of users of Microsoft Office."
Although Microsoft and Creative Commons may appear to be strange bedfellows, this is not the first time the two have collaborated. Last year, the software giant released its Simple List Extensions specification under a Creative Commons ShareAlike license. Simple List Extensions allows sites to deliver ordered lists via RSS, and as RSS 2.0 was released under a similar license, Microsoft felt it was appropriate to use a Creative Commons license for its extension.
It’s a nice move by Microsoft, and should help some people to more easily make their works available to others with the kind of copyright flexibility offered by Creative Commons. What would be even cooler is if Microsoft had a similar tool for Windows Media files so that audio and video creations could be easily tagged with the appropriate license. With tools from Microsoft, Apple, and many others making the creation and distribution of music and video easier than it has ever been, the need certainly exists.