The M/AV-SIS inquiry into how electronic licensing impacts the use and availability of AV materials began with asking a question out of simple intellectual curiosity. Is the "home distribution" notice that accompanies DVD's sufficient to create a license independent of copyright? Though the notice has never been litigated, the short answer is "probably not, it just restates copyright" and said notice has no impact on M/AV-SIS members' ability to use and provide AV materials.
In other contexts (e.g., streaming video), however, licenses narrow or at least purport to narrow limits that would otherwise apply to the copyright owner, particularly the fair use limitation. Fair use is a defense to copyright infringement, not a defense to a breach of contract claim. That a particular use would otherwise be "fair" is irrelevant if the scope can be limited by contract. It is currently unclear to what extent fair use can be bargained away.
Creative Commons Licensing
A Creative Commons license encourages content sharing, but it works within the boundaries of copyright law. It is an agreement between the copyright holder and the user to affirmatively permit certain kinds of uses. There are several different types of licenses. The Creative Commons "License Deed" is a "human-readable summary"¹ while the "Legal Code" is the full text of the license.
Choosing the right Creative Commons license for your own use
Creative Commons License Chooser
Crediting Creative Commons materials created by others
Best Practices for Creative Commons Attribution
Common sources for downloading Creative Commons material
¹ Attribution 4.0 Unported (CC BY 4.0) License Deed, CC-BY-4.0
Last updated June 17th, 2015