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Copyright: Creative Commons

An overview of copyright and how it affects education and research.

Creative Commons Licenses

What Are They?

Some copyright owners are OK with other people reusing their work and want a way to easily tell people this. A group led by Harvard Professor Lawrence Lessig came up with the Creative Commons licenses to do this.

Creative Commons licenses have several benefits:

  • They provide copyright owners with several options in what rights they grant to others
  • They include easy-to-understand language
  • They also include legal language that have stood up in court
  • They also include machine-readable language, meaning you can search for Creative Commons licenses in search engines like Google, YouTube and Flickr
  • They are free to  use
  • Creative Commons provides an easy tool to help authors select the right license for their works

Creative Commons  licenses work with copyright law, not against it.

What They Mean

Creative Commons uses a mix of four rules in their licenses that are often represented by icons and abbreviations.

Creative Commons icon for attribution.

BY

Anyone who uses your work must give you attribution in the way you request but not in such a way to suggest endorsement.

Creative Commons icon for non-commercial.

NC

People are allowed to copy, distribute, display, perform and modify your work in any way except for commercial profit.

Creative Commons icon for share alike.

SA

People are allowed to copy, distribute, display, perform and modify your work so long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms you've licensed your work under.

Creative Commons icon for no derivatives.

 ND

People are allowed to copy, distribute, display and perform your work but are not allowed to modify it.

By mixing these options, users can choose from six different Creative Commons licenses.

 

Creative Commons Attribution license           Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike license

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial License          Creative Commons Attribution No Derivatives license

Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike license          Creative Commons Non Commercial No Derivatives license

Each license is the sum of its parts. For instance, the Creative Commons Attribution license (also known as CC BY) means that users may copy, distribute and modify the work as long as they credit the author. The Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial No Derivatives license (also known as CC BY-NC-ND), on the other hand, means that you may copy and distribute the work as long as you credit the author and do not use the work for commercial purposes, but you are not allowed to modify the work.

How to Find

Several search engines allow you to look specifically for works with a Creative Commons license. 

Google Images

On the results page at the top, select Tools, and then select the drop-down menu Labeled for Reuse. Choose the option that best fits your need.

YouTube

At the top of the results page, select Filter. On the menu that opens up, under Features select Creative Commons. YouTube only allows users to embed a CC BY license. Some users will put in the description that they license the video with another CC license - in those cases, you might include the type of license you're interested in in your search term.

Flickr

On the top left corner of the results page, select the Any License drop down menu and select the option that best fits your needs.