Motherboard, the science and technology site published by Vice, asked a non-idle copyright question last month: When Elon Musk's SpaceX launches a flight paid for by NASA -- and by us, the Great American Taxpaying Public -- who owns the very cool pictures of the mission?
The company was apparently listening, because over the weekend CEO and founder Elon Musk announced via Twitter that the company would make all its launch photos available via a Creative Commons license. The license would make the images available for virtually all noncommercial uses.
But that wasn't the end of it. The Twittersphere immediately questioned Musk about the license and why he hadn't declared the pictures public domain -- a status that would result in virtually unlimited access for any use whatsoever.
Musk answered 10 minutes later that the photos are available as "full public domain."
What's the difference between those two statuses -- Creative Commons vs. public domain? NPR's Two-Way blog offers an answer via the Stanford University Libraries:
"The term 'public domain' refers to creative materials that are not protected by intellectual property laws such as copyright, trademark, or patent laws. The public owns these works, not an individual author or artist. Anyone can use a public domain work without obtaining permission, but no one can ever own it."
And The Two-Way summarizes the Creative Commons situation this way:
Creative Commons ... allows the distribution of copyrighted work. It offers a range of licenses from CC BY, which allows "others [to] distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation"; to CC BY-NC-ND, which only allows "others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can't change them in any way or use them commercially."