Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that created a set of simple, easy-to-understand copyright licenses.

These are legally enforceable licenses that allow creators to mark a work with permission to make a variety of uses, with the aim of expanding the range of things available for others to share, quote, adapt, and build upon.

Creative Commons licenses do two things:

  • They allow creators to share their work easily.
  • They allow everyone to find work that is free to use without permission.

As long as you obey the terms of the license attached to the work, you can use Creative Commons licensed material without fear of accidentally infringing someone’s copyright.

It is easy to find Creative Commons licensed material through search engines like Google's Advanced Search and Creative Commons' own search engine

What do the Creative Commons licenses mean?

When you apply a Creative Commons license to your work, you are telling the world as the copyright holder what uses you are willing to permit – and which you aren’t. The licenses can be applied to any work that is covered by copyright law including books, scholarly articles, movies, musical arrangements, and artwork.

What are the types of licenses?

There are six main Creative Commons licenses to choose from; these vary in the amount of freedom users have with respect to a work. The licenses can be applied to any work that is covered by copyright law including books, scholarly articles, movies, musical arrangements, and artwork. However, please note that Creative Commons licenses are not to be used with computer software.

The six Creative Commons licenses vary in openness or restrictiveness. They are (in order of increasing restrictiveness):

 Attribution - "CC BY"

This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as they credit the original author for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with a work licensed under Attribution.

Attribution Share Alike - "CC BY-SA"

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit the original author and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on a work licensed this way will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution Non-Commercial - "CC BY-NC"

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge the original author and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.

Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike - "CC BY-NC-SA"

This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work non-commercially, as long as they credit the original author and license their new creations under the identical terms. Others can download and redistribute this work just like the by-nc-nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on the work. All new work based on the original will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non-commercial in nature.

Attribution No Derivatives - "CC BY-ND"

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the original author.

 Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives - "CC BY-NC-ND"

This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, allowing redistribution. This license is often called the “free advertising” license because it allows others to download works and share them with others as long as they mention the original author and link back to them, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

 

*This web site presents information about copyright law. UCR Library make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation