These FAQs are designed to provide a better understanding of Creative Commons, our licenses and our other legal and technical tools. They provide basic information, sometimes about fairly complex topics. These FAQs will often link to more detailed information. Please note that several of our tools have their own in-depth FAQs, including our CC0 Public Domain Dedication and Public Domain Mark. If you have any questions about CC that are not covered here or elsewhere on our website, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Regarding terminology used in these FAQs, Creative Commons designs and stewards licenses and legal tools that allow copyright holders to offer their works to the public on conditions expressed in the selected license or tool. The holder of the copyright may be referred to in these FAQs as the licensor, rightsholder, owner or creator. All of those terms are used interchangeably to refer to the person or entity that at the time the CC license or tool is applied has the right to do so. Additionally, unless otherwise specified, information about our licenses provided below is made with reference to the version 3.0 license suite, and is not necessarily the same for earlier license versions.
Please Note: Creative Commons does not provide legal advice. This FAQ is designed to be helpful in raising awareness about Creative Commons and the use of our licenses and other tools. It is not a substitute for legal advice. It may not cover important issues that affect you. You should consult with your own lawyer if you have questions.
NB: You should never apply a CC license to a work unless you have all the permissions you need to do so.
Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through the provision of free legal tools. CC has affiliates all over the world who help ensure our licenses work internationally and who raise awareness about our work. Our legal tools help those who want to encourage reuse of their works by offering them for use under generous, standardized terms, those who want to make creative uses of works, and those who want to benefit from this symbiosis. Our vision is to help others realize the full potential of the internet.
Although Creative Commons is best known for licenses, our work extends beyond just providing copyright licenses. CC offers a number of other legal and technical tools that also facilitate sharing and discovery of creative works. Unlike other public legal tools, Creative Commons' licenses and tools were designed specifically to work with the web, which makes content that is offered under their terms easy to search for, discover and use. CC also offers other legal tools, such as CC0, a public domain dedication for rightsholders who wish to put their work into the public domain in advance of the expiration of applicable copyright, and the Public Domain Mark, a tool for marking a work that is in the worldwide public domain. Additionally, Creative Commons makes available tools used by scientific communities, such as standard materials transfer agreements.
For more information about CC, our main website contains in-depth information about the organization, its staff and board of directors, its history and its supporters. You can also read CC case studies to learn about some of the inspiring ways CC licenses and tools have been used to share works and support innovative business models. You can also find up-to-the-minute information about CC by visiting the blog.
Absolutely not. CC has responded to claims to the contrary. CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rightsholders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Those who want to make their work available to the public for limited kinds of uses while preserving their copyright may want to consider using CC licenses. Others who want to reserve all of their rights under copyright law should not use CC licenses.
No. Creative Commons is not a law firm and does not provide legal advice or legal services. CC is similar to a self-help service that offers free, form-based legal documents for others to use. CC also provides a jurisdiction database where you can compare the international licenses (formerly known at the "unported licenses") and ports (adaptations of the international licenses for particular jurisdictions), and a license versions page where you can compare the differences between license versions.
The CC wiki has a list of lawyers and organizations who have identified themselves as willing to provide information to others about CC licensing issues. However, please note that CC does not provide referral services, and does not endorse or recommend any person on that list. CC's Affiliate Network may also be a good resource for information about the licenses in a particular jurisdiction, though they should not be contacted for legal advice, at least in their capacity as a member of our CC Affiliate Network.
Our licenses and legal tools are intended for use by anyone who holds copyright to the work. This is often, but not always, the creator or author. Creative Commons has no authority to grant permission on behalf of those persons, nor does CC manage those rights on behalf of others. CC offers licenses and tools to the public free of charge and does not require that creators or other rightsholders register with CC in order to apply a CC license to a work. This means that CC does not have special knowledge of who uses the licenses and for what purposes, nor does CC have a way to contact authors beyond means generally available to the public.
If you would like to obtain additional permissions to use the work beyond those granted by the license that has been applied, you should contact the rightsholder.
CC does not collect content or track works except by way of example. CC builds technical tools that help the public search for and use works licensed under our licenses and other legal tools. For instance, the CC Network allows creators and users to express their support for Creative Commons, and also provides a tool for creators to authenticate ownership of their works. CC also offers tools like CC Search to help the public discover works offered under Creative Commons licenses on the Internet via CC-aware search engines and repositories.
You may download high resolution versions of the Creative Commons logos and use them in connection with your work or your website, provided you comply with our policies. Among other things, if you use the logos on a website or on your work, you may not alter the logos in any respect -- such as by changing the font, the proportions or the colors. CC's buttons, name and corporate logo (the “CC” in a circle) are trademarks of Creative Commons. You cannot use them in ways not permitted by our policies unless you first receive express, written permission. This means, for example, that you cannot (without our permission) print your own buttons and t-shirts using CC logos, although you can purchase them in CC’s store.
Please support CC by making a donation through our support page. You can choose to receive a variety of cool merchandise in exchange for your donation, depending on the amount donated. Donations and shipping information can be handled through Google Checkout or PayPal. You can also support CC by visiting our store.
CC always welcomes your feedback, which you can provide by emailing email@example.com. Alternately, you can participate in CC's email discussion lists and share feedback and ideas in one of those forums.
Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization that enables sharing and reuse of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools, with affiliates all over the world who help ensure our licenses work internationally and raise awareness about our work. Our tools are free and our reach is wide. In order to:
Creative Commons has always relied on the generosity of both individuals and organizations to fund its ongoing operations. It is essential we have the public’s support because it is the creators and users, neither mutually exclusive, that make our tools relevant in this digital age. They depend on the tools and services CC provides through their reuse and remix of the rich and open resources available on Wikipedia, Flickr, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Europeana, MIT OpenCourseWare, the Public Library of Science, Al Jazeera, and YouTube--just to name a few. Many of these people donate $10, $25 or $50 to CC, to help keep it up and running so we can continue to provide our tools and services for free, as a nonprofit organization. The more people who donate to CC, the more independent it will remain.
Creative Commons licenses provide an easy way to manage the copyright terms that attach automatically to all creative works under copyright. Our licenses allow those works to be shared and re-used under terms that are flexible and legally sound. Creative Commons offers a core suite of six copyright licenses. Because there is no single "Creative Commons license," it is important to identify which of the six licenses you are applying to your work, and which of the six licenses has been applied to a work you intend to use.
All of our licenses require that users provide attribution (BY) to the original creator and licensor (where those are different) when the content is used and shared. Some licensors choose the BY license, which conditions reuse only on that condition. The other five licenses combine BY with one or more of three additional conditions: NonCommercial (NC), which prohibits commercial use of the work; NoDerivatives (ND), which permits reuse provided the work is not modified; and if modifications are allowed, ShareAlike (SA), which requires modified works be released under the same license.
CC licenses may be applied to any type of work, including educational resources, music, photographs, databases, government and public sector information and many other types of creative content. The only categories of works for which CC does not recommend its licenses are computer software and works that are no longer protected by copyright or are otherwise in the public domain.
CC licenses take effect and are operative only when applied to a work in which a copyright exists, and even then only when a particular use of the work is prohibited by copyright. This means that CC license terms and conditions are not triggered by a use permitted under any applicable exceptions and limitations to copyright, nor do license terms and conditions apply to elements of a licensed work that are in the public domain. This also means that CC licenses do not contractually impose restrictions on uses of a work where there is no underlying copyright. This feature (and others) distinguish CC licenses from some other open licenses like the ODbL and ODC-BY, both of which are intended to impose contractual conditions and restrictions on the reuse of databases in jurisdictions where there is no underlying copyright or sui generis database right.
All CC licenses are non-exclusive -- creators and owners can enter into additional, different licensing arrangements for the same work at any time, a practice known as dual-licensing. Note, however, that once granted, CC licenses are not revocable in the absence of a breach, and even then the license is terminated only as to the particular licensee.
There are videos and comics that offer visual descriptions of how CC licenses work.
In 2007, Creative Commons published the version 3.0 license suite. These licenses are the most up-to-date licenses offered by CC, and are recommended over all prior versions. You can see how the licenses have been improved over time on the license versions page. The process of porting the 3.0 international licenses to individual jurisdictions started in 2007. As of 2011, CC is no longer approving new porting projects while preparations are made for beginning version 4.0.
If CC offers only a pre-version 3.0 ported license for your jurisdiction, or has never offered a ported license for your jurisdiction, consider using a 3.0 international (unported) license, all of which are intended to operate around the world.
You should always use the latest version of the Creative Commons licenses in order to take advantage of the improvements described on the license versions page. In addition, version 3.0 ShareAlike licenses are not backwards compatible, so users cannot license a work that incorporates or remixes a work offered under a BY-SA 3.0 license (like Wikipedia articles) under an earlier version of BY-SA.
No. All of CC's licenses include language that accounts for exceptions and limitations, similar to the following: “Nothing in this license is intended to reduce, limit, or restrict any rights arising from fair use, first sale or other limitations on the exclusive rights of the copyright owner under copyright law or other applicable laws.”
The laws of all jurisdictions allow at least some uses of copyrighted material without permission of the creator, and may include uses such as quotation, current-affairs reporting, or parody in some jurisdictions. These exceptions vary depending on the jurisdiction. Fair use and fair dealing are two exceptions to copyright that may be relevant to your use of a CC licensed work depending on your jurisdiction.
Copyright grants to creators a bundle of exclusive rights over their creative works, which generally include the right to reproduce, distribute, display, make adaptations, perform, sell and so on. The phrase “All Rights Reserved” is often used by owners to indicate that they reserve all of the rights granted to them under the law. When copyright expires, the work enters the public domain, and the rightsholder can no longer stop others from engaging in those activities under copyright, with the exception of moral rights reserved to creators in some jurisdictions. Creative Commons licenses offer creators a spectrum of choices between retaining all rights and relinquishing all rights (public domain), an approach we call "Some Rights Reserved."
Creative Commons licenses are drafted to be enforceable around the world, and have been enforced in court in various jurisdictions. To CC's knowledge, the licenses have never been held unenforceable or invalid.
Please note that CC licenses contain a “severability” clause. This allows a court to eliminate any provision determined to be unenforceable, and enforce the remaining provisions of the license in question.
CC alerts prospective licensors they need to have all necessary rights before applying a CC license to a work. If that is not the case and someone has marked your work with a CC license without your authorization, you should contact that person and tell them to remove the license from your work. You may also wish to contact a lawyer. Creative Commons is not a law firm and cannot represent you or give you legal advice, but there are lawyers who have identified themselves as interested in representing people in CC-related matters.
Version 1.0 of the CC licenses containing the ShareAlike provision are not compatible with later versions of the ShareAlike licenses. If you wish to make an adaptation of a work licensed under BY-SA 1.0, for example, then the resulting adaptation must also be licensed under BY-SA 1.0.
All of the ShareAlike licenses starting from version 2.0 are compatible with future versions of the ShareAlike licenses. If you want to make an adaptation using a photograph that is licensed under a BY-SA 2.0 license, you can apply BY-SA 3.0 to the adaptation. The licenses are not backward compatible, however. You cannot create an adaptation of a work licensed under BY-SA 3.0 and license the derivative under BY-SA 2.0.
Visit the license versions page to compare the versions of the licenses on this point and others.
One of Creative Commons’ goals is ensuring that all of its legal tools work globally. To this end, CC offers a core suite of six international copyright licenses (formerly called the "unported") that are drafted based on various international treaties governing copyright. CC offers these international licenses so that anyone, anywhere in the world can share their work on globally standard terms.
Creative Commons also offers ported versions of its six, core licenses for many jurisdictions (usually jurisdiction = country, but not always). These ported licenses are based on the international license suite but have been modified to reflect any local nuances in the expression of legal terms and conditions, drafting protocols and, of course, language. The ported licenses and the international licenses are all intended to be legally effective everywhere. However, if the ported licenses in your jurisdiction have not yet been versioned to 3.0 (launched in 2007), CC recommends that you consider using the equivalent international license instead and take advantage of the improvements in the 3.0 suite explained on the license versions page.
There are considerations you may wish to take into account before choosing an international or a ported license.
All CC licenses are intended to work worldwide. If the licenses have not yet been ported to your jursidiction, or if your jurisdiction's ported licenses have not yet been versioned to 3.0, we suggest you consider using one of the international licenses.
Please note that as of 2011 CC no longer approves new license porting projects -- though we very much continue to encourage new jurisdiction projects! We are dedicating resources to preparing for version 4.0. Porting is a demanding process that requires a lot of resources and time by both CC and the porting team, and we need those resources and time for the 4.0 process.
The CC buttons are a shorthand way to convey the basic permissions associated with works offered under CC licenses. Creators and owners who apply CC licenses to their works can download and apply those buttons to communicate to users the permissions granted in advance. When the work is offered online, the buttons should usually link out to the human-readable license deeds (that are in turn linked to the license itself).
Yes. Works licensed under CC BY may be incorporated into works that are licensed under CC BY-SA. For example, you may incorporate a CC BY photograph into a Wikipedia article so long as you keep all copyright notices intact, provide proper attribution and otherwise comply with the terms of CC BY. Learn more about the licenses.
Anyone may use CC licenses for works they own, including governments and IGOs, and are frequently used to license copyrightable works. The reasons for doing so vary, and often include a desire to maximize the impact and utility of works for educational and informational purposes, and to enhance transparency.
Creative Commons licenses have desirable features that make them the preferred choice over custom licenses. CC licenses are standard and interoperable, which means works published by different authors using the same type of CC license can be translated, modified, compiled and/or remixed depending on the particular license applied. Creative Commons licenses are also machine-readable, allowing CC-licensed works to be easily discovered via search engines such as Google. These features maximize distribution, reuse and impact of works published by governments and IGOs.
Applying a Creative Commons license to your work is a serious decision. When you apply a CC license to your work, you give permission to anyone to use the work for the full duration of applicable copyright, absent a violation of the license.
CC has identified some things that you should consider before you apply a CC license to your work, some of which relate to your ability to apply a license at all. Here are some highlights:
There are plenty of resources to help rightsholders choose the right CC license. CC Australia has developed a flow chart that may be useful in helping you settle on the right license for your work.
If you are unsure which license best suits your needs, Creative Commons offers several other tools that may help. Our case studies offer great examples of how CC licenses have been applied to text, audio, images, video and educational works. The CC community can also respond to any questions, and may have already addressed issues you raise. The CC community email discussion lists and discussion archives may be useful resources.
Finally, you may also want to consult with a lawyer to obtain advice on the best license for your needs.
That depends. There are several reasons why the international licenses may be preferable for a rightsholder, even if the licenses have been ported to his or her jurisdiction. For example, CC licenses all of its own content under an international license because, among other reasons, the international licenses are essentially jurisdiction-neutral while remaining effective globally. The neutral nature of the international licenses appeals to many people and organizations, particularly for use in connection with global projects that transcend political borders, a common characteristic of digital culture today.
In addition, the ported licenses for some jurisdictions have not yet been versioned to 3.0, which means licensors using those licenses do not have the benefit of the improvements made in the 3.0 license suite. Moreover, the 3.0 ShareAlike licenses are not backwards compatible, so a user cannot create adaptations of works offered under 3.0 ShareAlike licenses (like Wikipedia pages) and offer the new works under earlier license versions. Finally, it is important to know that some of the ported licenses contain a choice of law provision, which may be undesirable for your licensing needs.
Notwithstanding these benefits, some rightsholders still choose a license ported to their local jurisdiction because there are nuances in local law that are not explicitly addressed by the international licenses. For example, in the European Union, some licensors prefer to use ported licenses because all version 3.0 EU licenses account for the European Database Directive as implemented in national laws. The international licenses do not. If the licenses have been ported to your jurisdiction and you feel that your jurisdiction's ported licenses better account for some aspect of local legislation, then you may want to consider a ported license.
Use our jurisdiction database to compare international licenses and ports on these issues and others, such as whether a ported license contains a choice of law or forum selection clause.
CC licenses are not revocable. Once a work is published under a CC license, licensees may continue using the work according to the license terms for the duration of copyright protection. Notwithstanding, CC licenses do not prohibit licensors from ceasing distribution of their works at any time. Additionally, CC licenses provide a mechanism for licensors and authors to ask that others using their work remove the credit to them that is otherwise required by the license. You should think carefully before choosing a Creative Commons license.
Creators and other rightsholders may wish to check with their collecting society before applying a CC license to their work. Many rightsholders who are members of a collecting society can waive the right to collect royalties for uses allowed under the license, but only to the extent that their societies allow.
Collecting societies in Australia, Finland, France, Germany, Luxembourg, Spain, Taiwan and The Netherlands take an assignment of rights (in France it is called a “mandate” of rights but has similar practical effect) from creators in present and future works and manage them, so that the societies effectively become the owner of these rights. Creators in these jurisdictions who belong to collecting societies may not be able to license their works under a CC license because the collecting societies own the necessary rights, not them. CC is working with several collecting societies and running pilot programs that allow creators to use CC licenses for their works in some circumstances.
If you are already a member of a collecting society and want to use CC licenses, feel free to encourage your collecting society to give you the option of Creative Commons licensing.
Absolutely. One of our goals is to encourage creators and rightsholders to experiment with new ways to promote and market their work. CC's NonCommercial (NC) licenses allow rightsholders to maximize distribution while maintaining control of the commercialization of their copyrighted works. Choose a license with the NC condition if you want to reserve the right to commercialize your work. The NC license condition only applies to users, not the owner of the work. As the rightsholder, you may still commercially exploit your work. If someone else wants to use your work commercially and you have applied an NC license to your work, they must first get your permission.
The international licenses provide that licensees “must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author's honor or reputation.” This prohibits licensees from making uses that would otherwise violate authors’ moral rights of integrity where that right exists. The attribution requirement contained in all of our licenses is intended to satisfy the moral right of attribution.
The ported versions of the licenses often contain an adjusted version of this language, in part to account for moral rights legislation in a particular jurisdiction. As a general matter, all CC licenses preserve moral rights to the extent they exist (they do not exist everywhere), but allow uses of the work in ways contemplated by the license that might otherwise violate moral rights through a limited waiver or license of the moral rights where that is possible. If you are applying a ported license to your work, you may wish to review the moral rights language in the particular license. You can also compare how different jurisdictions have implemented this provision, or browse the license versions page to compare the treatment of this issue across the different versions of the CC licenses.
CC does not assert copyright in the texts of its licenses, so you may modify the license text as you wish. Be aware that if you change the text of any Creative Commons license, however, you must no longer call, label or describe the license a “Creative Commons” or “CC” license. Nor can you use the Creative Commons logos, buttons or other trademarks in connection with the modified license or your work.
We advise against modifying our licenses or the terms that apply to reuse, whether by altering the text itself or indirectly through other means, such as in your terms of service. A modified license very likely will not be compatible with the same CC license (unmodified) applied to other works. This would prevent licensees from using, combining or remixing content under your customized license with content under the same or compatible CC licenses.
Worse, doing so creates friction that confuses users and undermines the key benefits of public, standardized licenses. Central to our licenses is the grant of a standard set of permissions in advance, without requiring users to ask for permission or seek clarification before using the work. This encourages sharing and facilitates reuse, since everyone knows what to expect and the burden of negotiating permissions on a case by case basis is eliminated.
Keep in mind that altering terms is distinct from waiving existing conditions or granting additional permissions than those in the licenses. Licensors may always do so, and many choose to do so using the CC+ protocol to readily signal that waiver or additional permissions on the CC license deed.
Yes. You may choose to waive some license terms or conditions. Works licensed using CC but with additional permissions granted or conditions waived may be compatibly licensed with other works under the same license. The 3.0 licenses specifically permit this, and our CC+ protocol provides a mechanism for facilitating that grant.
Yes. CC licenses are nonexclusive. Licensors always have the option of entering into different, separate arrangements for the sharing of their works in addition to applying a CC license. However, those different arrangements are not “CC” or “Creative Commons” licenses. Problems arise when licensors design those terms or arrangements to serve not as separate, alternative licensing arrangements but as supplemental terms having the effect of changing the standard terms within the CC license. Except in the limited situation where more permissions are being granted, if the additional arrangement modifies or conflicts with the CC license terms then the resulting licensing arrangement is no longer a CC licensing arrangement. In those instances, to avoid confusion by those who may mistakenly believe the work is licensed under standard CC terms, we must insist licensors not use our trademarks, names and logos in connection with their custom licensing arrangement.
A CC license terminates automatically upon a violation of its conditions. For example, if a user of a work distributed under a Creative Commons license fails to attribute the creator as required, then the user no longer has the right to continue using the work and may be liable for copyright infringement. The license terminates with respect to the user who violated the license, but it remains in effect for all other users so long as they are in compliance.
If you adopt a Creative Commons license and a user violates the license conditions, you have options for addressing the situation, from contacting the person and asking them to rectify the situation to consulting a lawyer to act on your behalf.
Creative Commons licenses do not allow licensors to control how their works can be used except as limited by the license terms they select (i.e., NonCommercial, NoDerivatives, and ShareAlike (if modifications are allowed)). As long as users abide by the selected license conditions, licensors cannot control how the work is used.
That said, CC licenses do provide several mechanisms that allow licensors and authors to choose not to be associated with their works or uses with which they disagree. First, all CC licenses prohibit using the attribution requirement to suggest that the original author or licensor endorses or supports a particular use of a work. This "No Endorsement" provision protects reputation, and its violation constitutes a violation of the license and results in automatic termination. Second, licensors may waive the attribution requirement -- choose not to be identified as the author or licensor of the work -- if they wish. Third, if a work is modified or incorporated into a collection, and the original author or licensor does not like the how the work has been modified or used in the collection, CC licenses require that the person modifying the work or incorporating the work into a collection remove reference to the original author or licensor upon notice. Finally, if the selected CC license permits modifications and adaptations of the original work, then the person modifying the work must indicate that the original has been modified. This ensures that changes made to the original work -- whether or not acceptable to the original author or licensor -- are not attributed back to the licensor.
The use of DRM tools or any technical protection measures by licensees to prevent others from exercising the rights granted by the license is prohibited. All of CC's licenses prohibit users from "impos(ing) any effective technological measures on the Work that restrict the ability of a recipient of the Work from You to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License."
Not all encryption or access limitations are necessarily prohibited by the licenses. For example, content sent via email and encrypted with the recipient's public key does not restrict use of the work by the recipient. Likewise, limiting recipients to a set of users (e.g., with a username and password) does not restrict use of the work by the recipients. These examples are not incompatible with the prohibition on DRM because the recipient is not prevented from exercising all rights granted by the license (including rights of further redistribution).
If you become aware of someone using technical protection measures with your CC-licensed work, you may wish to contact them directly to obtain compliance or hire a lawyer to represent you.
No. CC offers the licenses, code and tools to the public free of charge, without obligation. CC does not require or provide any means for creators or rightsholders to register their use of a CC license, nor does CC maintain a database of works distributed under Creative Commons licenses. CC also does not require registration of the work with a national copyright agency.
For online works: Select the license that is appropriate for your work from the CC license chooser and then follow the instructions to include the html code in your work. The code will automatically generate a license button and a statement that your work is licensed under a CC license. The html code will also include metadata, which allows the work to be discovered via Creative Commons-enabled search engines.
For offline works: Identify which license you wish to apply to your work and either (a) mark your work with a statement such as, “This work is licensed under the Creative Commons [insert description] License. To view a copy of the license, visit [insert url]; or (b) insert the applicable license buttons with the same statement and URL link.
To clarify, the only difference between applying a CC license to an offline rather than an online work is that the offline work will not include metadata, so users will be unable to find it through the CC-enabled search engines.
Licensors are not required to use the CC license chooser or provide any information about themselves or their works when applying a CC license to their works. Doing so, however, allows licensors to take advantage of the "machine readable" layer of CC licenses. Our machine readable code enhances the discoverability of your work because that code allows software, search engines and other technologies to recognize when a work is licensed under a CC license. The code also facilitates attribution -- users of your work can click on the CC badge placed on your site and link directly to html code that they can cut and paste to provide attribution.
That depends. CC licenses should not be applied to works in the worldwide public domain. All CC license deeds state unambiguously: "Public Domain -- where the work or any of its elements is in the public domain under applicable law, that status is in no way affected by the license."
In some cases, a work may be in the public domain under the copyright laws of some jurisdictions but not others. For example, U.S. government works are in the public domain under the copyright law of the United States, but may be protected by copyright laws in other jurisdictions. A CC license applied to such a work would be effective (and the license restrictions enforceable) in jurisdictions where copyright protection exists, but would not be operative if U.S. copyright law is determined to be the applicable law.
A creator may also apply a Creative Commons license to an adaptation of a public domain work as long as he or she holds the copyright to the adaptation. The owner of copyright in a collection of works can apply a Creative Commons license to the collection even if it contains a work from the public domain. And publishers of databases and other works that are protected by copyright (or, in the case of databases, sui generis database rights) may use a CC license even if parts of the work or content in the database is in the public domain. However, in each of these instances, the license does not affect parts of the work that are unrestricted by copyright.
If you want to dedicate your work to the public domain before the expiration of copyright or sui generis database rights, use CC's legally robust CC0 public domain dedication. If you want to mark a work that is already in the worldwide public domain, use CC's Public Domain Mark.
That depends. You can apply a CC license to your photograph if your photograph constitutes a work of original authorship, a question that varies by jurisdiction. As a general matter, your photograph must involve some creative choices, such as background setting, lighting, angle or other mark of creativity. In the United States, an exact photographic copy of a public domain work is not subject to copyright because there is no originality (even if there is effort or “sweat” exerted in its creation).
In practice, if your photograph is sufficiently creative to attract copyright protection, people will likely have to comply with the license conditions if they reproduce your entire photograph in verbatim form, absent some applicable exception or limitation. However, they would not have to comply with the license conditions if they reproduce only those parts of the work in the public domain. This is because your copyright in the adaptation only extends to the material you contributed, not to the underlying work.
No. CC licenses allow for flexibility in the way credit is provided depending on the means used by a licensee to re-distribute the work. There may be differences based on the format in which the content is re-used. For example, providing attribution to the author when re-distributing information via a blog post may be different than how credit is provided to an author in a video remix. All CC licenses provide that attribution is to be provided in a manner “reasonable to the medium or means” used by the licensee, and for credit to be provided in a “reasonable manner.” This flexibility facilitates compliance by licensees – minimizing the risk that overly onerous and inflexible attribution requirements are simply disregarded.
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. Furthermore, our licenses are not compatible with the GPL, the most frequently used free software license.
Note that the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is GPL-compatible and acceptable for software. For details, see the relevant CC0 FAQ entry.
Yes, CC licenses can be used on anything that is restricted by copyright, including data and databases that are under copyright.
Note that in the version 3.0 ported licenses developed for jurisdictions where sui generis database rights exist, the license conditions are waived for uses that implicate only sui generis rights (as opposed to copyright), provided the licensee is otherwise in compliance with the license. For all of our 3.0 licenses (international or ported), the result is the same: if a particular use of a database implicates sui generis database rights (rights that exist independent of copyright law in the European Union and a few other countries and restrict the extraction of a substantial amount of data from databases) but not copyright law, the license conditions are not triggered by that particular use. Users in those situations do not need to provide attribution or comply with other relevant conditions such as NonCommercial, ShareAlike, or NoDerivatives where those apply. Many governments and others use CC licenses for data and databases.
For more detailed information about how CC licenses apply to data and databases, visit our detailed frequently asked questions about data.
Creative Commons is reconsidering how sui generis database rights (and other similarly-situated rights) will be treated in version 4.0. Watch this page to stay updated on the 4.0 conversation.
Creative Commons does not recommend using a CC license on a logo or trademark. While a logo or trademark can be covered by copyright laws in addition to trademark laws, the special purposes of trademarks make CC licenses an unsuitable mechanism for sharing them in most cases. Generally, logos and trademarks are used to identify the origin of a product (or similar), or to indicate that it meets a specific standard or quality. Allowing anyone to reuse or modify your logo or trademark as a matter of copyright could result in your inability to limit use of your logo or trademark selectively to accomplish those purposes. Applying a CC license to your trademarks and logos could result in a loss of your trademark rights altogether.
There are other ways to share your logos and trademarks widely while preserving your trademark rights. Establishing a trademark policy that grants permissions in advance for limited uses is one common alternative. Mozilla, Wikimedia and Creative Commons have each published policies that accomplish the dual objectives of encouraging reuse and preserving trademark rights.
Yes, you may offer a work for use under a Creative Commons license that includes a trademark indicating the source of the work without affecting rights in the trademark. However, applying a CC license to such a work may create an implied license to use the trademark or otherwise suggest to licensees that use is permissible. Creative Commons recommends that licensors who wish to mark works with trademarks or other branding materials give notice to licensors expressly disclaiming application of the license to those elements of the work. This can be done in the copyright notice, but could also be noted on the website where the work is published.
The following is an example notice:
“The text of and illustrations in this document are licensed by Red Hat under a Creative Commons Attribution–Share Alike 3.0 Unported license ("CC-BY-SA"). . . . Red Hat, Red Hat Enterprise Linux, the Shadowman logo, JBoss, MetaMatrix, Fedora, the Infinity Logo, and RHCE are trademarks of Red Hat, Inc., registered in the United States and other countries. For guidelines on the permitted uses of the Fedora trademarks, refer to https://fedoraproject.org/wiki/Legal:Trademark_guidelines.”
CC offers six core licenses, each of which grants different sets of permissions. Before you use a CC-licensed work, you should review the terms of the particular license to be sure your anticipated use is permitted. If you wish to use the work in a manner that is not permitted by the license, you should contact the rightsholder (often the creator) to get permission first, or look for an alternative work that is licensed in a way that permits your anticipated use. Note that if you use a work in way that is not permitted by the applicable license and your use is not otherwise permitted by an applicable copyright exception or limitation, the license is automatically terminated and you may be liable for copyright infringement.
Before using a work offered under a Creative Commons license, you should know that CC licenses only grant permissions needed under copyright law, there may be additional rights you need to use the work as intended. You should also understand that licensors do not offer warranties or guarantees about the work they are licensing. All works are licensed "AS IS" and a disclaimer of warranties applies. If you want to ask for a warranty or guarantee about rights to use the work, you should talk with the licensor before using it.
As a licensee, you should always read and understand the relevant license legal code before using a CC-licensed work, particularly if you are using a work that is licensed using a ported license with which you are unfamiliar. Our porting process involves adapting the international licenses to the legal framework of different jurisdictions, and in that process slight adjustments may have been made that you should make yourself aware of in advance of using the work.
For example, a handful of the 3.0 ported licenses (as well as of the pre-3.0 ported licenses) contain provisions specifying which laws will apply in the event the licensor chooses to enforce the license, and one 3.0 ported license suite (the Hong Kong license suite) and a few of the ported pre-3.0 ported licenses contain forum selection clauses.
Before using a work licensed under a ported license, you are encouraged to review the legal code carefully to identify unique provisions they may contain.
It depends. All CC licenses contain a disclaimer of warranties, meaning that the licensor is not guaranteeing anything about the work, including whether she owns the copyright, has received permission to include third-party works within her work, or secured other rights such as through the use of model releases if a person's image is used in the work.
CC licenses do not directly affect rights other than copyright, such as the trademark or patent rights or the publicity and privacy rights of third parties; however, our licenses do not expressly reserve those rights and as between licensor and the public implied licenses may exist.
These and other rights may require clearance (i.e., permission) in order to use the work as you would like. Additionally, creative works sometimes incorporate other peoples' works (known as "third party content"). You may want to be sure that permission was obtained to use any third party content contained in the CC licensed work you want to use.
You may wish to obtain legal advice before using a CC licensed work if you are not sure whether you have all the rights you need.
All CC licenses require users to attribute the original creator(s) of a work, unless the creator has waived that requirement or asked that her name be removed from an adaptation or collection. CC licenses have a sophisticated and flexible attribution requirement, so there is not necessarily one correct way to provide attribution. The proper method for giving credit will depend on the medium and means you are using, and may be implemented in any reasonable manner, although in the case of an adaptation or collection the credit needs to be as prominent as credits for other contributors. The CC website offers some best practices to help you attribute works, and the CC Australia team has developed a helpful guide to attributing works in different formats.
Yes, you need to be careful not to imply any sponsorship, endorsement or connection with an author or attribution party without their permission. Wrongfully implying that an author, publisher or anyone else endorses you or your use of a work may be unlawful. Creative Commons makes the obligation not to imply endorsement explicit in all of the licenses. In addition, if the licensor of a work that you incorporate in an adaptation or collection so requests, you must remove the identifying credit if practical.
Additionally, if you are using a work that is an adaptation of one or more pre-existing works, you may need to give credit to the author(s) of the pre-existing work(s) in addition to giving credit to the author of the adaptation. Those who create adaptations are required to "clearly label, demarcate or otherwise identify that changes were made to the original." You can often find this information as well as the URI for the underlying original work(s) where attribution is specified in the copyright notice accompanying the adaptation.
Contact the rightsholder to ask for their permission. Otherwise, unless a exception or limitation to copyright exists, your use of the work may violate the Creative Commons license, your rights to use the work will be automatically terminated, and you may be liable for copyright infringement.
CC's NonCommercial (NC) licenses prohibit uses that are "primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation." Whether a use is commercial will depend on the specifics of the situation and the intentions of the user. In CC's experience, whether a use is permitted is usually pretty clear, and known conflicts are relatively few considering the popularity of the NC licenses. However, there will always be uses that are challenging to categorize as commercial or noncommercial. CC cannot advise you on what is and is not commercial use. If you are unsure, you should either contact the creator or rightsholder for clarification, or search for works that permit commercial uses. Please note that CC's definition does not turn on the type of user: if you are a non profit or charitable organization, your use of an NC-licensed work could run afoul of the NC restriction; and if you are a for-profit entity, your use of an NC-licensed work does not necessarily mean you have violated the term.
Creative Commons published results from a survey on meanings of commercial and noncommercial use generally. Note that the results of the study are not intended to serve as CC's official interpretation of what is and is not commercial use under our licenses, and the results should not be relied upon as such.
CC licenses define the term “Adaptation” as a “work based on the [original] Work.” Pre-v3.0 license suites used the term "Derivative Work" in the international (unported) licenses. In CC licenses, the term is tied to the corresponding definition under applicable copyright law. Copyright law reserves to an original creator the right to create adaptations of her original work. CC licenses that allow for adaptations grant permission to others to create adaptations when doing so would otherwise constitute a violation of applicable copyright law.
Whether a modification is considered an adaptation for the purpose of CC licenses depends on the applicable law. Generally, a modification rises to the level of an adaptation when the modified work is based on the prior work but manifests sufficient new creativity to be copyrightable, such as a translation of a novel from one language to another, or the creation of a screenplay based on a novel. Under CC licenses, syncing music in timed-relation with a moving image is always considered an adaptation.
Note that all CC licenses allow the user to exercise the rights permitted under the license in any format or media. Those changes are not considered adaptations even if applicable law might suggest otherwise. For example, if you are using a work that uses the CC BY-NC-ND license, you may copy a digital file to a print file as long as you do so in compliance with the other terms of the license.
It depends. You may only remix works released under different CC licenses if the terms of the licenses involved permit it. The NoDerivatives licenses do not permit remixing at all. All the other CC licenses allow remixes, but may impose conditions on how the remix may be used. For example, if you create a remix with a work licensed under a ShareAlike license, you need to make sure that the remix is licensed under the same license conditions. Likewise, if you want to use the remixed work for commercial purposes, you cannot incoporate a work released under one of the NonCommercial licenses. Review the charts below for more details on whether and how differently licensed works can be combined and licensed.
The chart below details the CC license(s) you may apply to the resulting work. Please note that this chart is not a substitute for legal advice and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
The green boxes indicate where compatibility exists between licenses. When modifying a work licensed under the license identified in the lefthand column, you may license the adaptation under one of the licenses indicated on the top row if the corresponding box is green. White boxes indicate those licenses that you should not use for the adapted work. In the absence of an applicable copyright exception or limitation, you cannot adapt works that contain the No Derivatives license element.
|Compatibility chart||Terms that may be used for a derivative work or adaptation|
|Status of original work||PD|
All Creative Commons licenses allow the original work to be included in collections such as anthologies, encyclopedias and broadcasts. However, you still must adhere to the license conditions governing your use of the original work. For example, material under any of the Creative Commons NonCommercial licenses cannot be included in a collection that is licensed to permit commercial use. The table below indicates how you may license collections incorporating CC-licensed works.
Note that when you include a Creative Commons licensed work in a collection, you cannot change the license applicable to the original work itself.
|Original Work||Commercial Collection||NonCommercial Collection|
If you are looking for materials offered under a Creative Commons license, CC Search is a good starting point. CC also maintains a directory of organizations and individuals who use CC licenses. Some media sites, such as Flickr, have search filters for material licensed using CC's licenses.
Please note that you should not assume that your search results only contain works available under a CC license. You should verify that the works you intend to use are governed by a CC license.
The Creative Commons licenses have three layers, as does the CC0 public domain dedication: the human-readable deed, the lawyer-readable legal code, and the machine-readable metadata. The Public Domain Mark is not legally operative, and so has only two layers: the human-readable mark and machine-readable metadata.
When a work is licensed using any CC licenses or tools, it is highly recommended that a CC badge, text, or other marker somehow accompany the work. There are many possible modes for marking. For our licenses, most commonly people use the CC license chooser to generate HTML code that can be pasted into the webpage where the licensed work is published. CC0 and the Public Domain Mark have separate choosers. Many platforms and web services such as Flickr and Drupal support CC licensing directly, allowing you to select an appropriate license. The service then properly marks the work for you.
CC has published some best practices for marking your CC-licensed work, and recommends:
See the marking page for more details.
Creative Commons has specified CC REL as a way to associate machine-readable licensing metadata with objects offered under CC licenses.
Before Creative Commons developed this vocabulary, it was difficult for a machine to ascertain whether a work was marked with a CC license. There was also no standard, predictable place to house metadata about that license (for example, the source URL of the work or the required mode of attribution).
Machine-readable metadata based on well-accepted metadata standards creates a platform upon which new services and applications can be built. Software and services can detect CC licenses and the details of that license, as described by the metadata. For example, on many websites and search engines such as Google and Flickr, you can run filtered searches for works offered under specific CC licenses. In addition, CC license deeds can automatically create copy-and-paste attribution code so users may easily comply with the BY condition of the licenses. When you click on a CC license or badge from a page with license metadata, you get copy-and-paste attribution HTML within that license deed page. That HTML is based on available RDFa metadata in the original work.
RDFa is a method for embedding structured data in a web page. For more information about RDFa, see the following resources:
Creative Commons Rights Expression Language (CC REL) renders information about licenses and works machine-readable through standards that define the semantic web. Creative Commons wants to make it easy for creators and scientists to build upon the works of others when they choose; licensing your work for reuse and ﬁnding properly licensed works to reuse should be easy. CC recommends that you mark your licensed works with CC REL. The Creative Commons license chooser provides HTML annotated with CC REL, while the Creative Commons deeds recognize CC REL on web pages with works offered under a CC license, and use this metadata to enhance the deed for properly marked-up works, e.g., by providing copy and paste HTML that includes work attribution.
For more background information on CC REL, please refer to this paper.
Some search engines (like Google) allow people to filter their search results by usage rights so that you can limit your search results according to the particular CC license you seek. For example, if you are looking for a photo to adapt, you can filter your search to return photos that have a CC license that permits creation of adaptations. You can generally find this search feature on the advanced search page of your selected search engine. You can also use CC Search, which offers a convenient interface to search and a list of those content providers that support searches for content based on usage rights.
Please note, however, that you should always double check to make sure that the work you locate through a search is licensed as you wish.
Creative Commons provides tools for integrating license selection with your site. You can find an overview at the Web Integration article on the CC wiki. The Partner Interface is a good way to get started and will always have the most up-to-date license versions and translations. However, there is also an API available if you want more control.
Mozilla has included the Creative Commons search function in many versions of Firefox along with search options for Google, Amazon and other popular sites. Please take a look at the Firefox article on the CC wiki for an explanation of how to change these features.
If you want to add or remove a particular search option, click on the logo in the search box (for example, the CC logo or the Google logo). This will open the pull down menu, which will allow you to select different search providers. If you choose “Manage Search Engines,” you will be able to add or remove search engines. You can also alter the order in which the search providers appear on the pull down menu.
No. CC licenses are a form of digital rights expression, not management. CC provides tools to make it easier for creators and owners to say what rights they reserve and permissions they grant. This is different from digital rights management (or “DRM”), which uses technological protection measures to prevent people from using the work in a way that the owner has not permitted.
CC licenses contain language prohibiting licensees from the use of technological protection measures to prevent access to works: “You may not impose any effective technological measures on the Work that restrict the ability of a recipient of the Work from You to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License.”
Copyright law grants exclusive rights to creators of original works of authorship. National laws usually extend protections to such works automatically once fixed in a tangible medium, prohibiting the making of copies without the rightsholder’s permission, among other things. On the Internet, even the most basic activities involve the making of copies. As content is increasingly uploaded, downloaded and shared online, copyright law is becoming more relevant to more people than it was 20 years ago. Unfortunately, infringing copyrights - even unintentionally or unknowingly - can lead to liability. Successful navigation of the Internet requires some understanding of copyright law.
The public domain of copyright refers to the aggregate of those works that are not restricted by copyright within a given jurisdiction. A work may be part of the public domain because the applicable term of copyright has expired, because the rightsholder surrendered copyright in the work with a tool like CC0, or because the work did not meet the applicable standards for copyrightability.
Because the public domain depends on the copyright laws in force within a particular territory, sometimes a work may be considered “in the public domain” of one jurisdiction, but not in another. For example, U.S. government works are automatically in the public domain under U.S. copyright law, but might be restricted by copyright in other countries.
Copyright in most jurisdictions attaches automatically without need for any formality once a creative work is fixed in tangible form (i.e. the minute you put pen to paper, take a photo, or hit the “save” button on your computer).
In some jurisdictions, creators may be required to register with a national agency in order to enforce copyright in court. If you would like more information, please consult the Berne Convention or your jurisdiction's copyright law.
Although you do not have to apply a copyright notice for your work to be protected, it may be a useful tool to clearly signal to people that the work is yours. It also tells the public who to contact about the work.
An adaptation, referred to in pre-3.0 licenses as a derivative work, is a work based on one or more pre-existing works. What constitutes an adaptation depends on applicable law, however translating a work from one language to another or creating a film version of a novel are generally considered adaptations.
In order for an adaptation to be protected by copyright, most national laws require the creator of the adaptation to add original expression to the pre-existing work. However, there is no international standard for originality, and the definition differs depending on the jurisdiction. Civil law jurisdictions (such as Germany and France) tend to require that the work contain an imprint of the adapter's personality. Common law jurisdictions (such as the U.S. or Canada), on the other hand, tend to have a lower threshold for originality, requiring only a minimal level of creativity and “independent conception.” Some countries approach originality completely differently. For example, Brazil's copyright code protects all works of the mind that do not fall within the list of works that are expressly defined in the statue as “unprotected works.” Consult your jurisdiction's copyright law for more information.
Copyright laws in many jurisdictions around the world grant creators “moral rights” in addition to the economic or commercial right to exploit their creative works. Moral rights protect the personal and reputational value of a work for its creator. Moral rights differ by country, and can include the right of attribution, the right to have a work published anonymously or pseudonymously, and/or the right to the integrity of the work. The moral right of integrity may provide creators with a source for redress if an adaptation represents derogatory treatment of their work, typically defined as “distortion or mutilation” of the work or treatment that is “prejudicial to the honor, or reputation of the author.”
Not all jurisdictions provide for moral rights. CC offers some additional information on how CC licenses may affect your moral rights.
Copyright provides an incentive to create works by providing exclusive rights to creators. However, the distribution or exploitation of a work often involves more than just the creator. For example, if someone writes a song, someone else may perform the song, and another may produce the recording of the song. Some jurisdictions extend copyright to the contributions made by these persons; other jurisdictions extend such exclusive rights in the form of neighboring rights. Neighboring rights may include performers' rights or broadcasters' rights. The Rome Convention sets forth some guidelines on the scope of neighboring rights. Not all jurisdictions recognize neighboring rights.
Collecting societies are copyright management organizations. Some examples of collecting societies include ASCAP and BMI (United States), BUMA/STEMRA (Netherlands), PRS (United Kingdom), and APRA (Australia). These societies license works on behalf of their owners and process royalty payments from parties using the copyrighted works.
CC offers additional information on how collecting societies might affect your rights and your ability to apply CC licenses to your work. CC has several pilots underway with collecting societies that have chosen to allow their members to use CC licenses on a limited basis.
In some jurisdictions, publicity rights allow individuals to control the use of their voice, image, likeness, or other identifiable aspect of their identity. Similarly, in some jurisdictions privacy rights exist that restrict others' ability to publish information about them without their permission. Whether and to what extent these rights exist varies depending on the jurisdiction.
Creative Commons licenses do not waive or otherwise affect rights of privacy or publicity to the extent they apply. If you have created a work or wish to use a work that might in some way implicate these rights, you may need to obtain permission from the individuals whose rights may be affected.