SciCast – Film School

Production — Licensing

As the previous section noted, you retain ownership of films you submit to SciCast. For us to publish them, you have to give us your explicit permission by agreeing to a publication license.

The licenses we’re using are international, widely-used, and intended for exactly this sort of circumstance. They come from the Creative Commons project, and are about as simple as this stuff gets. There are other benefits to using them too, which we’ll come to in a minute.

Also, all the normal protections of UK (or Irish) copyright law apply. You have recourse if your film is used to bring you into disrepute, for example. We can’t quite see how that would happen, but there you go.

OK, hold onto your seats, here come the licenses:

Creative Commons License Terms — Attribution

The simplest form of Creative Commons license is the ‘Attribution’ license, sometimes referred to as ‘BY.’ This stipulates that anyone is free:

  • to Share: to copy, distribute and transmit your work
  • to Remix: to adapt your work (that is: to use parts of your film in other projects)


  • Attribution: the original author must be given credit.

That’s it. Well, there’s a teeny bit more — for the full text, see the following:

We’d like everyone to agree to these terms, because they allow us not only to publish your films, but to distribute them as widely as possible. However, for the first two years of SciCast we used a more restrictive Creative Commons license, Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share-Alike.

When you submit your film, you’ll be asked to choose between the Attribution license, above, and:

Creative Commons License Terms — Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share-Alike

Sometimes referred to as ‘BY-NC-SA’, this is one of the most restrictive licenses Creative Commons offers. Your film is more carefully protected than if it’s published under an Attribution license, but we won’t be able to pass it on to some of our distribution partners, who are technically commercial organisations.

The terms are exactly the same as for Attribution license. Anyone is free:

  • to Share: to copy, distribute and transmit your work
  • to Remix: to adapt your work (that is: to use parts of your film in other projects)

The conditions are a little different, however:

  • Attribution: The original author must be given credit.
  • Non-Commercial: You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share-Alike: If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same license to this one.

Again, there’s a little itsy-bitsy teeny bit more, see the following links for the full text in your region:

Why we’re not just imposing one license for everyone

When we started SciCast, back in 2006, Creative Commons licenses were known mostly in legal and geek circles, and we had huge arguments about whether we should use them at all. It seemed reasonable to pick the most protective license, BY-NC-SA.

We now think we were wrong. For example, all over the country a whole range of organisations present science shows to schools. Several of them want to play SciCast films while the audience is entering the theatre and settling in. Great!

Only… some of those organisations are educational charities (terrific — that’s non-commercial use, so they’re fine), while others are companies. We like these companies, they’re good people, and they charge exactly the same fee as the charities. But they’re commercial businesses, so… oh. Problem.

We’ve come across a bunch of weird cases like this, and here’s what we now think:

The more-restrictive license reduces the risk of commercial exploitation of your work. But it also reduces the potential distribution and impact it might have.

So, starting with the 2010, we asked people submitting films to make a choice:

  1. Would you like your film distributed as widely as possible, so more people see it? If so, pick the Attribution license, but be aware that (in principle) somebody could make money out of your film.
    — or —
  2. Would you like your film protected as much as possible, even if that limits its use to others and the size of the audience that might see it? If so, pick the Attribution/Non-Commercial/Share-Alike license.

There’s no right or wrong answer, and your choice won’t affect your chances in the competition. We’ll also tweak the license if you’ve used material from other people that conflicts with what you picked (we’ll watch your back on that one, and keep you informed if we make any changes)

In the 2010 competition, about 80% of the films we received opted for the more open Attribution license.

Why we’re inflicting this stuff on you at all

We’re insisting on proper licenses partly so we’re on firmer legal ground, but also because, these days, almost all of us are publishers. In a typical classroom around half the students will have a page on one social network or other, or a blog, or will publish their photos or videos via Picasa or Flickr or Youtube. It’s increasingly important that we understand our rights and responsibilities, and getting SciCast licensing right is a small contribution towards that.

Creative Commons is also a widespread global movement that’s collectively building publicly-available, reusable resources. That sounds like a good idea to us, and we’re proud to be contributing so much high-quality science video.

Finally, because Creative Commons resources are reusable, you get to use other peoples’ work in yours, which helps solve another problem: using music and stills. Onward to the next section!