Yahoo adds search for 'flexible' copyright content

Search giant teams with Creative Commons to help air works with unconventional copyright arrangements.

Matt Hines Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Matt Hines
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Matt Hines
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Yahoo has added a feature that lets people search content that's been licensed through Creative Commons, a nonprofit group that specializes in copyrighting material so that it's available for some reuse.

The search giant launched a beta, or test version, of the function on Thursday.

Yahoo said the search tool links to millions of Web pages featuring Creative Commons' unconventional content-licensing agreements. Most of the content available through the search feature can be licensed for free under noncommercial-usage or other guidelines, Yahoo said.

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Creative Commons says its mission is to carve out new ways to share creative works. For example, one alternative the group offers is "attribition only" distribution--the copyright holder lets others copy, distribute, display and perform his works, but only if users give the author credit. The organization lists the different licenses and details on its Web site.

Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford Law professor who serves as Creative Commons' chairman, said the new exposure offered by Yahoo's search should help attract significantly more attention to the group's efforts.

"Yahoo has always been about adding human brains to computer algorithms, to create something more than either alone. This innovation is in that line," Lessig said in a statement. "By giving users an easy way to find content based on the freedoms the author intends, Yahoo is encouraging the use and spread of technology that will enable creators to build upon the creativity of others, legally."

In a recent posting to Yahoo's own blog pages, Lessig described how the Yahoo deal will help the group establish its legitimacy outside the United States, where he has been traveling in order to expand Creative Commons' presence.

Yahoo said it, too, is dedicated to promoting a "more flexible set of copyright laws." The company also says it hopes that more flexible agreements will create a "remix culture" that reflects a new generation of creative works.

Creative Commons has also been delving into the patent arena, calling for more flexibility in sharing scientific data and discoveries. The group says the current patent process has become too inflexible and often awards too much protection to ideas that aren't genuinely unique.