Creative Commons is an organization dedicated to sharing knowledge which has created a series of legal tools that can be used by creators to facilitate sharing their work. Creators retain copyright, but may provide permission to others to use their work under a legal license. These Creative Commons licenses are agreements between the creator and user(s), and may be enforceable in a court of law. To benefit from a Creative Commons license (“CC license”) you must understand and follow the requirements and conditions of the license. Failure to follow the license terms can have financial and legal consequences.
Remember that Creative Commons licenses are a copyright tool. There may be other rights attached to a work such as trademark, patent, or publicity and privacy rights that you need to consider when reusing materials as well.
With all Creative Commons licences you must minimally attribute the creator (either under the licence or for ethical reasons), and include the license the work is distributed under with a link back to its text on the Creative Commons Website.
|Copyright in the work is waived to the greatest extent possible. This option can act as either a dedication or a license. The work may be used, remixed, shared, and no attribution is required (but remember attribution is required for ethical reasons and to avoid plagiarism).|
|Remixing, copying, sharing, etc., is allowed, but users must provide attribution to the creator, indicate if changes were made, and provide the license and a link back to the license text (for example: CC BY 4.0)|
|Remixing, copying, sharing, etc. is allowed, but users must provide attribution to the creator for any reuse, indicate if changes were made, and provide the license and a link back to its text on the Creative Commons website. Use is not permitted for commercial gain (for example, in any way that the user may profit from).|
|Work may be remixed, copied, shared, etc., as long as attribution is provided to the creator, and any remixing must be shared with others under a similar or same licence (again linked back to the license text on the Creative Commons website).|
|Work may be remixed, copied, shared, etc., as long as the creator is attributed, any changes are indicated, remixes of the work are shared under a similar or the same licence (which should be linked back to the license text on the Creative Commons website), and the use is not for commercial gain.|
Work may be copied and shared as long as there is attribution to the creator and the license is provided with a link back to its text on the Creative Commons website. You may not share any copies where you have made changes to the work.
Work may be copied and shared with attribution and the license (linked back to its text on the Creative Commons website), but the work may not be used for commercial gain. You may not share any copies where you have made changes to the work.
Creative Commons licenses can only be applied by the creator or copyright owner of a work. If someone without the necessary rights places a Creative Commons license on material, the license will not be valid. When locating Creative Commons licensed materials online, it is important to think critically about the nature and source of the work. It is common to find Creative Commons licenses on Open Educational Resources; it would be a lot less common to find a Creative Commons license on novel on the bestseller list. Take a common sense approach when locating materials with Creative Commons licenses online, and when on doubt, research the source of the work so that you feel confident the Creative Commons license applies.
Not all licenses allow the reuser to make adaptations. In some jurisdictions creators have the exclusive right to create adaptations or derivative works (works based on a pre-existing work, such as the film adaptation of a book).
It can be difficult to determine what is or is not an adaptation, but there are a few considerations that can help make this determination:
The BY-ND and BY-NC-ND licenses prohibit reusers from sharing any adaptions they make of the Creative Commons licensed work. If an adaptation is created, it cannot be shared with others. This permits users to engage in practices like text and data mining without contravening the ND terms as long as they do not share the modified works.
Exercise caution with the ND license. There are varying opinions among Creative Commons licensors about how restrictive the ND license is. If you want to reuse parts of a ND Licensed work, rather than sharing the whole work in its entirety, you may want to consider asking the creator for permission instead of relying on the Creative Commons license in order to avoid differences in interpretation.
The BY-SA and BY-NC-SA licenses require any adaptations to be shared under the same or a compatible ShareAlike license. There aren’t many other licenses that are compatible with ShareAlike: they include other versions of the Creative Commons ShareAlike license and a few other open licenses Creative Commons views as compatible (such as the Free Art License). A fuller discussion of compatible licenses is available here.
Consider the material that you are using in combination with any Share Alike licensed content. Share Alike can be seen as an “infectious” license because when you mix Share Alike content with other content, you make it Share Alike as well. If you are using proprietary content or content that should not otherwise be freely shared or remixed, avoid mixing it with Share Alike content when creating a new work.