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Creative Commons and The Rapidian: Choose Your Own Adventure

"Creative Commons"

"Creative Commons" /A. Diaz Herroro

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From The Rapidian Staff

Each week, a Rapidian staffer will publish a piece related to goings-on at The Rapidian, developments in the world of citizen journalism and tips for making the most of the site. Click here for past editorials.


Previously, The Rapidian's Citizen Journalism Coordinater Denise Cheng has written about Creative Commons media tools for reporting. It's worth a look.

From The Rapidian Staff: One of the core foundational values of The Rapidian is cooperative distribution. We launched this project not with the intention of replacing or competing with existing local news outlets but to augment the overall availability of local news and information. Along with providing an open platform for regular Grand Rapidians to actively participate in the creation of local news coverage, The Rapidian acts as a resource for other content distributors, including more traditional news agencies, who have seen their ability to provide local thorough coverage dwindle over the past couple of years.

To help facilitate these goals, we have embraced the Creative Commons (CC) licensing structure. CC is a California-based nonprofit organization that has developed several alternative copyright licenses to expand the way intellectual property can be legally used and shared. The six licenses provided by CC create a delightfully nuanced middle ground between the “all rights reserved” of traditional copyright and pure free-for-all public domain.

In this spirit of openness, all content on The Rapidian is published in one of two very similar CC licenses. Let’s talk about them:

What this means for Rapidian reporters
As of last week, Rapidian contributors have the option of choosing either of the two CC licenses listed above for their content. This feature is of particular relevance now as content distribution collaborations between The Rapidian and other local news agencies seem more likely than ever. In the interest of broadening distribution, BY-ND is the default option for content, and all past articles have been automatically set to this license. However, we recognize that some contributors to The Rapidian would prefer not to have their work redistributed by an agency or organization operating on a for-profit model, and we respect that. That is why we offer the secondary BY-NC-ND license, which protects work with this license from being republished by for-profit agencies. Reporters who would like to change the license of past articles can do so simply by editing the article and selecting the appropriate CC licensing option, like so:

 Creative Commons chooser

This option provides a choice on how they wish to balance distribution with control. Recently, an article was republished in full by the Grand Rapids Press and The Rapidian was the source. There is no doubt that this reprint increased the number of residents who read it. At the same time, some reporters may prefer to forgo additional distribution in favor of keeping their materials in the not-for-profit arena. As opportunties arise for Rapidian staff to promote redistribution of content with other media providers, we will work primarily with content licensed under the less restrictive BY-ND Creative Commons license.

What this means for general users of The Rapidian
By actively using CC licenses, The Rapidian hopes to clarify and simplify the process of broadening content distribution that can benefit our community. As we have seen, Rapidian content reaches audiences in a variety of ways, from RSS feeds to social media sharing; direct site visits to reprints in other media outlets. These licenses provide a streamlined method intended to balance valuable distribution with appropriate credit and attribution. For readers and viewers, we believe this means that Rapidian content will be available in more places, increasing the liklihood that local information will connect with local audiences.

What this means for local media agencies
As mentioned above, The Rapidian was developed in the spirit of cooperation. Local news agencies who operate under a for-profit model are free to redistribute content found on this site to help expand availability of local news and information, as long as the desired content is licensed under the less restrictive CC BY-ND. 

If a for-profit news agency would like to redistribute a piece that is licensed at CC BY-NC-ND, it is still possible that the original author may allow it on a case-by-case basis. Those agencies are encouraged to contact both the author and The Rapidian ([email protected]) for more information.

For everyone
You can find an article's individual CC license in the "meta box" in the top right of the article. It's between the tags and the geographical metadata, like so:


Although not stipulated by the license itself, we would really appreciate notification of when and where article reprints are planned. Please drop us a line at [email protected].

The Rapidian, a program of the 501(c)3 nonprofit Community Media Center, relies on the community’s support to help cover the cost of training reporters and publishing content.

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If each of our readers and content creators who values this community platform help support its creation and maintenance, The Rapidian can continue to educate and facilitate a conversation around issues for years to come.

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Comments, like all content, are held to The Rapidian standards of civility and open identity as outlined in our Terms of Use and Values Statement. We reserve the right to remove any content that does not hold to these standards.


thanks George,


another fine example of the benefits of working with on content,