Skip to Main Content

Copyright: Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons Licensing?

If you are a copyright holder for a creative work, anyone who wishes to use your work in other creations typically must seek your permission beforehand. But what if you wanted to preemptively give others some permissions without having to release your work into the public domain? You can do so by using a Creative Commons license. As per the Creative Commons FAQ,

Creative Commons licenses provide an easy way to manage the copyright terms that attach automatically to all creative material under copyright.

Choosing to license your work with a Creative Commons license is a form of expressly written permission. This is useful when creators explicitly wish to see their work freely shared, distributed, and/or modified while retaining the ultimate copyright. There are also creators who choose to license their work with a Creative Commons license to avoid the time-consuming process and hassle of reviewing and responding to permission requests.

How can I use Creative Commons with my original work?

There is no elaborate registration process required to license your work with a Creative Commons license: simply brand your work as such, appropriate to the medium.

Each Creative Commons license guarantees the ability to distribute a work worldwide for non-commercial purposes. There are various conditions that a creator may choose to include when licensing that grant others even greater freedoms, such as the ability to modify a work or use a work for commercial reasons. However, attribution (to the creator) must always be given. Creative Commons uses official iconography and abbreviations to make these permissions as transparent as possible.

BY icon


You must attribute the creator of the original work, even if you modify the work, in the manner specified by the creator.
SA icon Share-alike
When distributing a derivative (modified) work, the original creator requires that you also license your derivative work with the identical Creative Commons license.
NC icon Non-commercial
You are not permitted to modify or redistribute a work for commercial purposes. In other words, you cannot ask people to pay money in order to access your work.
ND icon No Derivative Works
Any distribution, display, or performance of a work must be a verbatim, unmodified copy; an exact duplication. You cannot edit a work to create a different work.
PD icon

Public Domain

Not a license! This emblem simply dictates that the creator has willfully entered the work into the public domain internationally.


Ask a Librarian