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What is Creative Commons Licenses?

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that facilitates everyone, from individual creators to large companies and institutions, a simple, standardized way to grant copyright permissions to their creative work. From the reuser’s perspective, the presence of a Creative Commons license on a copyrighted work answers the question, “What can I do with this work?”

 

The Creative Commons License Options

There are six different license types, listed from most to least permissive here:

  Descriptions Element includes
CC BY
CC BY
This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
  • BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
CC BY-SA
CC BY-SA
This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
  • BY – Credit must be given to the creator
  • SA – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms
CC BY-NC
CC BY-NC
This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
  • BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
  • NC – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
CC BY-NC-SA
CC BY-NC-SA
This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.
  • BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
  • NC – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
  • SA - Adaptations must be shared under the same terms
CC BY-ND
CC BY-ND
This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.
  • BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
  • ND - No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted
CC BY-NC-ND
CC BY-NC-ND
This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.
  • BY  – Credit must be given to the creator
  • NC - Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted
  • ND - No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted

 

The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication

CC0
CC0
CC0 (aka CC Zero) is a public dedication tool, which allows creators to give up their copyright and put their works into the worldwide public domain. CC0 allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, with no conditions.

The six licenses and the public domain dedication tool give creators a range of options. The best way to decide which is appropriate for you is to think about why you want to share your work, and how you hope others will use that work.

 

Pre-licensing considerations

Before you apply a CC license or CC0 to your work, there are some important things to consider: The licenses and CC0 cannot be revoked. This means once you apply a CC license to your material, anyone who receives it may rely on that license for as long as the material is protected by copyright, even if you later stop distributing it.
You must own or control copyright in the work. Only the copyright holder or someone with express permission from the copyright holder can apply a CC license or CC0 to a copyrighted work. If you created a work in the scope of your job, you may not be the holder of the copyright.

 

How to apply a CC license or CC0 to your work

CC-licensing your work is simple. All you have to do is choose the CC license that suits your needs and then communicate this choice in a way that will be clear to people who come across your work. As part of this communication, you should include a link to the license you’ve chosen.
This can be as simple as a bit of text stating and linking to the license in a copyright notice, like this:
© 2019. This work is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license.
…or as complex as embedding the license information on your website using the HTML code associated with the particular license. Use the Creative Commons License Chooser to get the relevant HTML code.