CC-BY-SA is a open licensing standard which stands for Creative-Commons-Attribution-Share-Alike. You can read the license terms on the Creative Commons website. Simply put, anything published under a CC-BY-SA license is shareable and remixable as long as the original creator is credited and the new work stays under that same license. We think this is a great idea for a lot of reasons. Here’s an excerpt from Community Media, our how-to guide on creating and distributing your own media:

Today, we have a slightly more powerful legal tool in the Creative-Commons-Attribution-Share-Alike license. This legal tool can be applied by an author to new creative works, making it legal for other people to redistribute and share them (a core principle of DIY TV) and to incorporate them in to new works (a core facet of folklore), but it carries the requirements that 1) the original author must always be credited, 2) any new works that incorporate bits of this original work must be distributed under the same terms.

CC-BY-SA means that Anyone can remix or re-write a work, including people that we’d rather did not. That hasn’t been much of a problem so far because anyone who produces a derivative work must also release that derivative work under the same terms. Disney probably won’t sign up for that, and if they do it means that we get to liberate something they produced for the commons.

CC-BY-SA does allow for redistribution. This scares some people off. I like to share this quote from Cory Doctorow, specifically from the introduction to the eBook edition of his novel Little Brother:

“Giving away ebooks gives me artistic, moral and commercial satisfaction. The commercial question is the one that comes up most often: how can you give away free ebooks and still make money?

For me – for pretty much every writer – the big problem isn’t piracy, it’s
obscurity (thanks to Tim O’Reilly for this great aphorism). Of all the people who failed to buy this book today, the majority did so because they never heard of it, not because someone gave them a free copy. […] I’m more interested in getting more of that wider audience into the tent than making sure that everyone who’s in the tent bought a ticket to be there.”

CC-BY-SA does not prohibit charging for re-distribution. I think this is an acceptable trade-off. Anyone who is charging to redistribute a CC-BY-SA work has to have that work clearly labeled as CC-BY-SA with credit to the original creator, presumably the work would be freely available from that creator (or elsewhere on the internet, able to be searched through the name of the work and the name of the creator.) If someone is willing to pay for it anyway, it’s likely as the result of some manner of transformation (did you make a physical copy? Great! You should be paid for that. Did the original disappear, and now your archival copy is the only one that’s left? Thank you for your service, I’m glad to help cover your bandwidth costs.) If it’s not the result of some transformation, and someone is still willing to pay for something they could get for free elsewhere, at least they will still get the work and a link back to the original source.


Basically, we think any potential drawbacks to this license are far outweighed by the benefit to the creative community as a whole. Derivative works will always point back to the original creator(s), and remixability opens new pathways for future creative work.