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Creative Commons licenses

Creative Commons licenses

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Creative Commons licenses are several copyright
Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

 licenses that allow the distribution of copyrighted works. The licenses differ by several combinations that condition the terms of distribution. They were initially released on December 16, 2002 by Creative Commons
Creative Commons
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons...

, a U.S.
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

Non-profit organization
Nonprofit organization is neither a legal nor technical definition but generally refers to an organization that uses surplus revenues to achieve its goals, rather than distributing them as profit or dividends...

 corporation founded in 2001.

As of July, 2011, Creative Commons licenses have been "ported" over 50 different jurisdictions worldwide. No new ports are being started as preparations for version 4.0 of the license suite begin.

Original licenses

The original set of licenses all grant the "baseline rights", such as the right to distribute the copyrighted work worldwide, without changes, at no charge. The details of each of these licenses depends on the version, and comprises a selection of four conditions:
Attribution (by) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.
Noncommercial (nc) Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial
Non-commercial refers to an activity or entity that does not in some sense involve commerce, at least relative to similar activities that do have a commercial objective or emphasis...

No Derivative Works (nd) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative work
Derivative work
In United States copyright law, a derivative work is an expressive creation that includes major, copyright-protected elements of an original, previously created first work .-Definition:...

s based on it.
Share-Alike is a descriptive term used in the Creative Commons project for copyright licenses which include certain copyleft provisions. The Share-Alike license comes in two varieties, CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-NC-SA.-Share-alike license types:...

Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. (See also copyleft
Copyleft is a play on the word copyright to describe the practice of using copyright law to offer the right to distribute copies and modified versions of a work and requiring that the same rights be preserved in modified versions of the work...



Mixing and matching these conditions produces sixteen possible combinations, of which eleven are valid Creative Commons licenses and five are not. Of the five invalid combinations, four include both the "nd" and "sa" clauses, which are mutually exclusive; and one includes none of the clauses. Of the eleven valid combinations, the five that lack the "by" clause have been retired because 98% of licensors requested attribution, though they do remain available for reference on the website. This leaves six regularly used licenses:
  • Attribution alone (by)
  • Attribution + NoDerivatives (by-nd)
  • Attribution + ShareAlike (by-sa)
  • Attribution + Noncommercial (by-nc)
  • Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives (by-nc-nd)
  • Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike (by-nc-sa)

For example, the Creative Commons Attribution (BY) license allows one to share and remix (create derivative works), even for commercial use, so long as attribution is given.


Since 2004, all current licenses require attribution of the original author. The attribution must be given to "the best of [one's] ability using the information available". Generally this implies the following:
  • Include any copyright notices (if applicable). If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, those notices must be left intact, or reproduced in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which the work is being re-published.
  • Cite the author's name, screen name, or user ID, etc. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice to link that name to the person's profile page, if such a page exists.
  • Cite the work's title or name (if applicable), if such a thing exists. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.
  • Cite the specific CC license the work is under. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website.
  • Mention if the work is a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, one needs to identify that their work is a derivative work i.e., “This is a Finnish translation of [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

Applicable works

Work licensed under a Creative Commons License is governed by applicable copyright law. This allows Creative Commons licenses to be applied to all work falling under copyright, including: books, plays, movies, music, articles, photographs, blogs, and websites. Creative Commons does not recommend the use of Creative Commons licenses for software.

However, application of a Creative Commons license may not modify the rights allowed by fair use or fair dealing or exert restrictions which violate copyright exceptions. Furthermore, Creative Commons Licenses are non-exclusive and non-revocable. Any work or copies of the work obtained under a Creative Commons license may continue to be used under that license.

In the case of works protected by multiple Creative Common Licenses, the user may choose either.

Other licenses

A number of additional licenses have been introduced, which are more specialized:
  • Sampling
    Sampling (music)
    In music, sampling is the act of taking a portion, or sample, of one sound recording and reusing it as an instrument or a different sound recording of a song or piece. Sampling was originally developed by experimental musicians working with musique concrète and electroacoustic music, who physically...

     licenses, with two options:
    • Sampling Plus: parts of the work can be copied and modified for any purpose other than advertising, and the entire work can be copied for noncommercial purposes
    • Noncommercial Sampling Plus: the whole work or parts of the work can be copied and modified for noncommercial purposes

Retired licenses

Due to either disuse or criticism, a number of previously offered Creative Commons licenses have since been retired, and are no longer recommended for new works. The retired licenses include all licenses lacking the Attribution element other than CC0, as well as two licenses not allowing at least non-commercial verbatim distribution worldwide:
  • Sampling: parts of the work can be used for any purpose other than advertising, but the whole work cannot be copied or modified
  • DevNations: a Developing Nations license, which only applies to countries deemed by the World Bank
    World Bank
    The World Bank is an international financial institution that provides loans to developing countries for capital programmes.The World Bank's official goal is the reduction of poverty...

     as a "non-high-income economy". Full copyright restrictions apply to people in other countries.
  • Sampling Plus

Public domain tools

Besides licenses, Creative Commons also offers a way to release material into the public domain
Public domain
Works are in the public domain if the intellectual property rights have expired, if the intellectual property rights are forfeited, or if they are not covered by intellectual property rights at all...

 through CC0, a legal tool for waiving as many rights as legally possible, worldwide. Development of CC0 began in 2007 and the tool was released in 2009.

In 2010, Creative Commons announced its Public Domain Mark, a tool for labeling works already in the public domain. Together, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark replace the Public Domain Dedication and Certification,
which took a U.S.-centric approach and co-mingled distinct operations.

In 2011, Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation
The Free Software Foundation is a non-profit corporation founded by Richard Stallman on 4 October 1985 to support the free software movement, a copyleft-based movement which aims to promote the universal freedom to create, distribute and modify computer software...

 added CC0 to its free software licenses, making CC0 a recommended way of dedicating software to the public domain.

Partial list of projects that release contents under Creative Commons licenses

  • Association for Progressive Communications
    Association for Progressive Communications
    The Association for Progressive Communications is an international network of organizations that was founded in 1990 to provide communication infrastructure, including Internet-based applications, to groups and individuals who work for peace, human rights, protection of the environment, and...

  • ccMixter
    ccMixter.org is a community music site that promotes remix culture and makes samples, remixes, and a cappella tracks licensed under Creative Commons available for download and re-use in creative works. Visitors are able to listen to, sample, mash-up, or interact with music in a variety of ways...

     (mostly cc-by-nc)
  • Citizendium
    Citizendium is an English-language wiki-based free encyclopedia project launched by Larry Sanger, who co-founded Wikipedia in 2001....

  • The Freesound Project
    The Freesound Project
    The Freesound Project is a repository of Creative Commons licensed audio samples. Sounds uploaded to the website by its users cover a wide range of subjects, from field recordings to synthesized sound effects. All audio content in the repository is released under the Creative Commons Sampling Plus...

     (Sampling Plus)
  • Identi.ca
    identi.ca is an open source social networking and micro-blogging service. Based on StatusNet, a micro-blogging software package built on the OpenMicroBlogging specification, Identi.ca allows users to send text updates up to 140 characters long...

  • knol
    Knol is a Google project that aims to include user-written articles on a range of topics. The project was led by Udi Manber of Google, announced December 13, 2007, and was opened in beta to the public on July 23, 2008 with a few hundred articles mostly in the health and medical field.Knol has no...

     (mostly, cc-by-sa or cc-by-nc-sa)
  • Mushroom Observer
    Mushroom Observer
    Mushroom Observer is a collaborative amateur mycology website started by Nathan Wilson in 2006. Its purpose is to "record observations about mushrooms, help people identify mushrooms they aren’t familiar with, and expand the community around the scientific exploration of mushrooms".As of 2010, the...

     (cc-by-sa or cc-by-nc-sa)
  • Open Game Art (CC-By and -SA 3.0 without NC, CC0)
  • Wikia
    Wikia is a free web hosting service for wikis . It is normally free of charge for readers and editors, deriving most of its income from advertising, and publishes all user-provided text under copyleft licenses. Wikia hosts several hundred thousand wikis using the open-source wiki software MediaWiki...

     (cc-by-sa, since June 2009)
  • Wikinews
    Wikinews is a free-content news source wiki and a project of the Wikimedia Foundation. The site works through collaborative journalism. Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales has distinguished Wikinews from Wikipedia by saying "on Wikinews, each story is to be written as a news story as opposed to an...

  • Wikipedia
    Wikipedia is a free, web-based, collaborative, multilingual encyclopedia project supported by the non-profit Wikimedia Foundation. Its 20 million articles have been written collaboratively by volunteers around the world. Almost all of its articles can be edited by anyone with access to the site,...

     (cc-by-sa, since June 2009)
  • Wikitravel
    -External links:* *...


See also

  • Creative Commons
    Creative Commons
    Creative Commons is a non-profit organization headquartered in Mountain View, California, United States devoted to expanding the range of creative works available for others to build upon legally and to share. The organization has released several copyright-licenses known as Creative Commons...

  • Creative Commons jurisdiction ports
  • Copyright
    Copyright is a legal concept, enacted by most governments, giving the creator of an original work exclusive rights to it, usually for a limited time...

  • Non-commercial educational
    Non-commercial educational
    The term non-commercial educational applies to a radio station or TV station that does not accept on air advertisements , as defined in the United States by the Federal Communications Commission . NCE stations do not pay broadcast license fees for their non-profit uses of the radio spectrum...

  • Free Software
    Free software
    Free software, software libre or libre software is software that can be used, studied, and modified without restriction, and which can be copied and redistributed in modified or unmodified form either without restriction, or with restrictions that only ensure that further recipients can also do...

  • Free Music
    Free music
    Free music is music that, like free software, can freely be copied, distributed and modified for any purpose. Thus free music is either in the public domain or licensed under a free license by the artist or copyright holder themselves, often as a method of promotion. It does not mean that there...

  • Free Culture
    Free Culture
    Free Culture may refer to:* Free Culture by Lawrence Lessig* Free culture movement, a social movement for free culture...

External links