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A Guide to Creative Commons

This guide will house content from the Creative Commons Certificate Course completed from June to August, 2020.

CC License Basics

THREE LAYERS

There are three layers that make up the foundations of the Creative Commons Licenses: 

  • Legal Code: The base layer, written so that terms and conditions of licenses are enforceable in court
  • Commons Deeds: The middle layer, summarized versions of the legal code meant to be easily interpreted by laymen
  • Metadata: Machine-readable versions of the licenses written in CC Rights Expression Language (CC REL) that allows software such as search engines to recognize the unique permissions of each license

FOUR ELEMENTS

There are four elements of a Creative Commons license, each has a stylized icon to easily indicate the permissions:

Attribution Attribution (BY) - you must always give attribution to the original creator, all licenses require this

ShareAlike ShareAlike (SA) - adapt and/or share work, adaptations must be licensed under the same license

NonCommercial NonCommercial (NC) - adapt and/or share work for noncommercial use

NoDerivatives NoDerivatives (ND) - users cannot share adaptations of the work

 

LICENSING VERSIONS

Since the Creative Commons licenses were first created, the legal code and deeds have been updated to reflect changes in copyright law, needs of users, and updates in technology. These changes to not alter the effect of the individual licenses, rather they serve to clarify and improve the existing licenses for users. The latest version of the CC license, Version 4.0, was published in 2013. More information about the recent version can be found on the Creative Commons Wiki

ADAPTATIONS

One major difference between licenses is the ability to adapt and share the work. What is considered a true adaptation can depend on the nature of the work and applicable copyright law. For more information on adaptations, visit the Creative Commons FAQ page.

COMMERCIAL VS. NONCOMMERCIAL USE

As with adaptations, another distinguishing feature among the licenses is the ability to use work for commercial purposes. Commercial use is loosely defined as one that is “not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.” This is true whether the user is a nonprofit or private business, as the definition refers to the use and not the user. More information can be found on the Creative Commons Wiki.

The Six CC Licenses

Licenses are listed in order of most open to least open (based on Creative Commons License Spectrum by Shaddim) and include a link to each license deed:

Creative Commons CC BY icon

Attribution license or CC BY - allows use of the work for any purpose (even commercially and even in modified form) as long as attribution is given to the creator.

Creative Commons CC BY-SA icons

Attribution-ShareAlike license or BY-SA - allows use of the work for any purpose (even commercially and even in modified form), as long as attribution is given to the creator and any adaptations shared with others are available under the same or a compatible license. 

Creative Commons CC BY-NC icons

Attribution-NonCommercial license or BY-NC - allows use of the work for non-commercial purposes only, and only as long as attribution is given to the creator.

Creative Commons BY-NC-SA incons

Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license or BY-NC-SA - allows use of the work for non-commercial purposes only, and only as long as attribution is given to the creator and any adaptations shared with others are available under the same or a compatible license.

Creative Commons CC BY-ND icons

Attribution-NoDerivatives license or BY-ND - allows use of the unadapted work for any purpose (even commercially), as long as attribution is given to the creator.

Creative Commons BY-NC-ND icons

Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license or BY-NC-ND - the most restrictive license, allows use of the unadapted work for non-commercial purposes only, and only as long as attribution is given to the creator.

"The Six CC Licenses" is a derivative of the June 2020 Creative Commons Certificate for Librarians, by Creative Commons, licensed CC BY 4.0. [Condensed definitions for each license.]

Combining Licenses

The video below goes over how to choose compatible resources and a valid license for your work.

Suppose you are developing an open educational resource (OER), and you want to use some other OER within yours. If you create a derivative work by adapting or combining works offered under Creative Commons licenses, you must not only follow the terms of each of the licenses involved, but also choose a license for your work that is compatible with the other licenses.

"Combining Creative Commons Licenses for OERs" by Process Arts is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Public Domain & Fair Use

Creative Commons licenses do not apply to works already in the public domain. Additionally, creators may choose to add their work to the public domain before their copyright expires. Creative Commons includes two icons in addition to the four elements described above to address public domain works:

Creative Commons Zero icon CC0 (CC Zero)

This tool allows creators to indicate that their work is dedicated to the public domain prior to the work's natural copyright expiration date.

CC Public Domain Icon Public Domain Mark

Separate from CC0, this tool helps indicate that a work is already in the public domain.

FAIR USE & CC LICENSES 

The Creative Commons licenses are legal tools that work on top of and in coordination with already existing copyright laws. This means that, while the licenses allow creators to indicate in what ways they are willing to allow their work to be used, they do not take the place of copyright laws nor do they restrict uses granted by copyright exceptions, such as fair use. More information can be found on the Creative Commons FAQ page.

Licensing Statement

"Anatomy of CC Licenses" by Roxanna Palmer is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 International License unless stated otherwise. Based on 07_2020_CC Certification Certificate for Librarians course under a CC BY 4.0 license.