Column Editor: Laura N. Gasaway (Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill School of Law, Chapel Hill, NC 27599; Phone: 919-962-2295; Fax: 919-962-1193)

QUESTION:  May public libraries use tutorials created under a Creative Commons license on their library Websites without worry about infringement?  What would happen if the owner decided to sue for infringement?

ANSWER:  The Creative Commons (CC) offers a variety of voluntary licenses that a copyright owner may adopt which work along with copyright.  So, the answer to the question depends on the type of CC license and the rights that it grants to users.  For example, if the CC license for the tutorial is an attribution license, then the library may post the tutorial on its Website but must give credit to the owner of the tutorial.  The licenses are detailed on the CC Website at:

Should a copyright owner wish to sue someone who violates the terms of CC license, it would be filed in state court since it is a contract matter rather than a copyright one.  However, the owner still has a U.S. copyright and could withdraw the CC license at anytime and then sue anyone who subsequently infringes the copyright, even if the defendant is doing something that would have been permitted under the prior CC license.  Copyright infringement is a federal matter.

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