Use and share: We are now open
26. October 2017
Creative Commons licences are a new strategic tool for the Danish Design Centre.
Creative Commons
Creative Commons

The Danish Design Centre introduces the use of Creative Commons licences as a new strategic tool in our daily work. Going forward, all our materials – and the knowledge we generate and disseminate as part of our work – now actively invite free usage and further development and adaptation: we encourage everyone to remix, sample, tweak and, not least, spread the value we generate.

The Danish Design Centre seeks to promote the use of design in business and industry, in part with a view to promoting sustainable economic growth and creating jobs. As a public-sector organisation, naturally, we want to make everything we produce freely available to anyone wishing to follow our work and apply the knowledge, insights and results we produce. With this transparency we aim to generate as much value for money as possible in the ecosystems and networks where we operate. We call this ‘Open by Default’ – reflecting our determination always to be as transparent, curious and open to learning as possible.

There is nothing inherently new in this policy, which also shapes our interactions with the many project partners and other stakeholders we engage with on a daily basis, and who use our knowledge to generate growth via design. However, in today’s complicated copyright landscape, it can often be difficult to know what can be shared, and what not, and perhaps our policy has not always been as clear to everyone as we would hope. That is why we have now, in a natural and concrete step, decided to follow a growing global trend and introduce Creative Commons licences as a strategic tool and a standard for all our published materials. Going forward, all output from the Danish Design Centre will be made available under a so-called open licence from Creative Commons.

What is a licence?
But what does that mean in plain language? A licence is a permit that anyone who creates creative content – text, photos, video, audio, design models and many other formats – can apply to their work to specify the ‘ground rules’ for how others are allowed to use the work.

Danish copyright law (which is not dissimilar to copyright law in most countries) automatically provides full protection of any creative content we create, and it ensures that anyone wishing to use our work must first ask our permission. That can be tricky, however, especially in the Internet age, as content flows rapidly across national borders and between continents in digital networks and is shared over and over again, far away from the creator who originally put it online.

This makes it difficult for receivers and consumers to know what usage of the content is legitimate. For example, can you legitimately download a video that someone shared with you in a social network and use a segment of it in your own project or include it in a presentation? Sometimes you can, sometimes you cannot. But it is up to the consumer to figure out, and the regulations can be very complex.

Copyright made easy: Creative Commons licences
This is where a tool such as Creative Commons licences come into play. A Creative Commons licence is a label that the creator can attach to their work – in a physical form or as a digital watermark – to convey a specific set of permissions and restrictions to anyone who encounters the piece, regardless how many times it has been shared.

The Creative Commons label can be customised to provide exactly the permissions the creator wants, and all the variations are acknowledged as global standards. More than one billion works around the world carry a Creative Commons licence – for example on YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr and many other platforms.

Use, share and remix: Copyright made easy with Creative Commons.

The licences can be used free of charge, and any creator can begin to use them immediately without asking permission or registering anywhere. The licences were developed by the non-profit American organisation Creative Commons and have been translated into more than 100 languages – including a Danish version that was translated by Danish volunteer legal professionals.

A Creative Commons licence does not replace the traditional copyright that we all have to all our creative works. Instead, it is added on top to allow us to tailor this copyright in a way where the creator determines the usage restrictions. That makes it much easier to give the world permission to use one’s creative works.

Why is it important for the DDC to be Open by Default?
Knowledge sharing is the key to increased prosperity in today’s information-driven society – not only in Denmark but also on an international level. Increasingly, value is generated in processes that run across sectors, industries and, not least, national borders, and by learning from each other we accelerate innovation and stand on each other’s shoulders. Concepts such as co-creation and remixing have become important growth engines. By promoting this development we aim to help Danish design reach the widest possible audience.

Introducing Creative Commons licences as the default for all our future materials also ensures that the Danish Design Centre’s output lives up to some of the most powerful and widely recognised international standards for knowledge sharing. With this move, we join internationally recognised organisations, such as the Hewlett Foundation and Melinda & Bill Gates Foundation, which have also implemented Creative Commons licences as the default for all their works.

With the Creative Commons label, we are telling the global audience that Danish design is a universal tool, that by joint effort and knowledge sharing we can build a better society and, not least, that we at the Danish Design Centre aim to take the lead in finding solutions that let us create a better future with prosperity and sustainable growth.

Our choice of Creative Commons licence: share and use freely – including commercial use
As mentioned above, you can customise your Creative Commons licence by combining four different icons, each of which affects the permitted usage of the labelled work. There are six possible combinations; you can read more about these options at the Danish Creative Commons website.

At the Danish Design Centre we have opted for the most open version of the six combinations: ‘CC Attribution’, which lets anyone use our materials as freely as possible, even for commercial purposes. The only two conditions for using and sharing the material is that the user must declare the source – in this case, the Danish Design Centre – and the licence that applies to the material: ‘CC Attribution’, often abbreviated to ‘CC BY’.

To make things easier, we state on our website that all material that is not otherwise labelled is accessible under the Creative Commons licence. You can read more about the practicalities of our use of the licence here.

Naturally, our use of the open licence does not affect our collaboration with external partners who do not wish to have their creative content shared under an open licence. In these cases, the materials we create together can simply be published with traditional copyright protection and will be appropriately labelled at the and elsewhere.

You can read more about the Creative Commons tools or visit Creative Commons Danmark, which is the Danish branch of the global network. If you have any questions about the DDC’s Open by Default policy and use of Creative Commons licences that have not been addressed, you are very welcome to contact us at