Abbreviated FAQ (a.k.a. Frequently Frequently Asked Questions)
NOTE: this is not the entire FAQ, but rather a condensed version that aims to answer in a very clear and concise manner the most common questions people have about Creative Commons. If you don't find the answer to your question here, please see the full FAQ. For a list of frequently used terms related to CC and/or found on the CC site, you should take a look at the glossary found in this wiki.
Can CC give legal advice about its licenses or help with CC license enforcement?
No. We are not permitted to provide legal advice or legal services to assist anyone with enforcing Creative Commons licenses. We are not a law firm. We're much like a legal self-help site that offers free form-based legal documents for you to use however you see fit.
However, we do maintain a list of lawyers and organizations who have identified themselves as being willing to advise clients about CC licensing issues. Please note that CC does not provide referral services, and that we do not necessarily endorse or recommend anyone on this list for any particular client or circumstance. Our international network of CC affiliates may also be a good resource for further information (but not legal advice) about CC licenses in a particular jurisdiction. Contact information of our affiliates is located on each jurisdiction's page.
Is use X a violation of the Noncommercial clause of the licenses?
Our noncommercial licenses (BY-NC, BY-NC-SA, BY-NC-ND) prohibit uses that are "primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation." Whether or not a use is or is not commercial will depend on the specifics of the situation and the intentions of the user, as stated in the definition. In our experience, most of the time whether a use is permitted is pretty clear, and known conflicts are relatively few considering the popularity of the NC licenses. As with all license terms, however, there will always be use cases that are challenging to categorize as commercial or noncommercial. CC cannot help you determine what is and is not commercial use. If you are unsure, we suggest that you either contact the licensor for clarification or search for works licensed under a CC license that permits commercial uses (BY, BY-SA, BY-ND).
Does my use constitute a derivative work or an adaptation?
It depends. A derivative work is a work that is based on another work but is not an exact, verbatim copy. What this precisely means is a difficult legal question. In general, a translation from one language to another or a film version of a book are examples of derivative works. Under Creative Commons’ core licenses, syncing music in timed-relation with a moving image is also considered to be a derivative work.
All Creative Commons licenses allow the user to exercise the rights permitted under the license in any format or media. This means, for example, that under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 Unported license you can copy the work from a digital file to a print file, as long as you do so in a manner that is consistent with the terms of that license.
Can CC give me permission to use a CC-licensed work that I found?
No. Creative Commons licenses are offered free of charge to the public. There is no registration required to use a CC license, nor do we attempt to maintain any type of registry. We generally have no direct knowledge of who is using the licenses or even for what (though we do have some indirect knowledge of usage via various search engines). We have no way of contacting the authors of CC-licensed works, nor do we offer any rights clearing services.
CC licenses haven't been ported to my jurisdiction (country). What can I do?
Every CC license is intended to be effective on a worldwide basis, whether "ported" to a specific jurisdiction or not. If the licenses have not yet been ported to your jurisdiction, we recommend that you simply use the Unported versions of our licenses. CC's Unported licenses were created using standard terms from the Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works and other international treaties related to copyright and intellectual property.
If you would like to help adapt the licenses to your jurisdiction, you might consider collaborating with us on the license porting process: International Overview The Porting Process. If you would like to contribute to this project, please contact Creative Commons International: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I license software using CC licenses?
We do not recommend it. Creative Commons licenses should not be used for software. We strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses made available by the Free Software Foundation or listed at the Open Source Initiative. Unlike our licenses, which do not make mention of source or object code, these existing licenses were designed specifically for use with software.
Creative Commons has “wrapped” some free software/open source licenses with a human-readable "Commons Deed" and machine-readable metadata. You may use these "wrapped" software licenses to take advantage of the Creative Commons human-readable document as well as the machine-readable metadata while still licensing your work under an established software license. It is important to note that CC has not altered these software licenses in any way, but has simply bundled human- and machine-readable explanations of the licenses along with the original license text. Examples: GNU GPL, GNU LGPL, BSD.
How do I change/remove the CC search option built into the Firefox browser?
Mozilla has included Creative Commons in Firefox's search function along with search options for Google, Amazon, and other popular sites. See Mozilla features.
If you want to remove a particular search option, click on the logo that appears in the search box (the CC logo, or the Google logo, for example). You will see a pull down menu that allows you to use your mouse to select a different search provider. Choosing "Manage search engines" allows you to add or remove search engines of your choice, such as Flickr and Wikipedia.
To switch between search providers through the keyboard, start by clicking inside the search box, then hold down the Ctrl key (or the Apple/Command key on a Mac) and press the up arrow a few times. You should see the Google logo. To change to other providers, you can press Ctrl (or Apple) + down. More information on the Firefox search is available on our wiki.
How do I properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work?
All current CC licenses require that you attribute the original author(s). If the copyright holder has not specified any particular way to attribute them, this does not mean that you do not have to give attribution. It simply means that you will have to give attribution to the best of your ability with the information you do have. Generally speaking, this implies five things:
- If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, you must leave those notices in tact, or reproduce them in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which you are re-publishing the work.
- Cite the author's name, screen name, user identification, etc. If you are publishing 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 such a thing exists. If you are publishing 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 you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website.
- If you are making a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work i.e., “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”
In the case where a copyright holder does choose to specify the manner of attribution, in addition to the requirement of leaving in tact existing copyright notices, they are only able to require certain things. Namely:
- They may require that you attribute the work to a certain name, pseudonym or even an organization of some sort.
- They may require you to associate/provide a certain URL (web address) for the work.
If you are interested to see what an actual license ("legalcode") has to say about attribution, you can use the CC Attribution 3.0 Unported license as an example. Please note that this is only an example, and you should always read the appropriate section of the specific license in question ... usually, but perhaps not always, section 4(b) or 4(c):