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Copyright Basics

Creative Commons


In order to protect your rights while allowing others to use your content responsibly (and without the difficulty of obtaining legal permission from you), you can assign a Creative Commons License to your content. There are several different license types, depending on what you want to allow. There are distinct symbols for each license types allowing you to clearly label your work. You may also use materials within Creative Commons as long as you give the appropriate credit to the creator.

Creative Commons licensing types

Creative Commons (CC): If you're looking for content that you can freely and legally use, there is a giant pool of CC-licensed creativity available to you. There are hundreds of millions of works with more being contributed every day -- from songs and videos to scientific and academic material -- available to the public for free legal use under the terms of the assigned CC license.

When deciding to use CC-licensed content you need to make note of the license assigned by the creator, use the content according to the license, and always give credit to the content creator.


Image Credit: Understanding Creative Commons Licensing - LibSource


1. Attribution: In which a person using a work must give credit to its author.

  • BY

2. Attribution-Share Alike: If a person creates a derivative work under a Share Alike license, the derivative work must be shared under an identical license.

  • CC BY-SA

3. Attribution-Non-Commercial: In this case the original creator allows their work (and its derivatives) to be re-used for non commercial uses only.

  • CC BY-NC

4. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike: The work may be tweaked, remixed, and built upon non-commercially as long as they credit you and license the new creation under identical terms.


5. Attribution-No Derivative Works: The work may be reproduced but no derivative works may be made from it.

  • CC BY-ND

6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs: The work may be downloaded and shared with others as long as you are credited. No changes can be made, though, and the work can't be used commercially.


Share Your Work

There are many instances in which you may want to share your work with others and allow them to responsibly make use of it, while still retaining your copyright.  Some examples include:

  • A play you have written that you want to let others perform freely

  • A drawing or photograph you want to allow others to use as they desire

  • Music you want people to be able to share

  • A lesson plan, experiment, or other idea you've had that you want others to be able to replica

The Creative Commons website will walk you through the options and steps you need to take. Many social media sites, such as YouTube and flickr, provide ways for you to very easily indicate that your work has a creative commons license. Just look for the proper owner settings when uploading your work.