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7.3: Creative Commons

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    Creative Commons is the most commonly used license for making resources open. "Creative Commons licenses give everyone from individual creators to large institutions a standardized way to grant the public permission to use their creative work under copyright law."1 Creative Commons actually includes six different licenses that vary in the amount of permissions that they grant to other people for using and/or editing that resource.

    In these different licenses CC refers to Creative Commons, which is then followed by other acronyms that have different meanings. These acronyms are SA (Share Alike), NC (Non Commercial), and ND (No Derivatives).

    What is a Derivative?

    A derivative is something created using another work. This goes beyond simple quoting or paraphrasing some information from that work, but means you are taking the original work and transforming it into something else. It implies that you are using a substantial amount of the original work.

    CC Licenses

    • CC BY allows any use but requires that you provide attribution (usually as a citation) if creating a new version of their work.
    • CC BY-SA allows any use but requires that you provide attribution AND use the CC BY-SA license if creating a new version of their work.
    • CC BY-NC allows any use to create a new (derivative) work so long as it is non-commercial, meaning that you will not make a profit off of it. You must also provide attribution to the original author.
    • CC BY-NC-SA has the same allowances and conditions of CC BY-NC but also requires that any derivative works use the CC BY-NC-SA license.
    • CC BY-ND allows people to read and copy the work but not to create any derivatives from it. It cannot be edited or transformed.
    • CC BY-NC-ND is the same as CC-BY-ND except it also prevents any use that would generate a profit for people other than the original creator.1

    There is also a special CC0 license, which means that the creator gives up any rights to the work. Anyone may do anything they like with it.

    chart listing Creative Commons licenses from most to least free. Description text below image.

    (Image source: in new window), CC BY-SA).

    Note: This image displays Creative Commons licenses from most to least free, with CC BY being the most free and CC BY-NC-ND being the least free. It is the least free because the Non-Commercial term is limiting and the No Derivatives term is very limiting. It also describes the allowances for each license, already described above under CC Licenses.


    1. Creative Commons. (2019). About CC licenses. in new window)

    This page titled 7.3: Creative Commons is shared under a not declared license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Daniel Wilson.

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