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University Library, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Finding and Using Creative Commons Works

Learn how to incorporate Creative Commons licensed materials into your research and other projects.

Overview

Copyright law offers protections for original and fixed works from the moment they are created. Those protections include several exclusive rights that belong only to the copyright owner. Some authors want to allow users to share, adapt, and display their work without needing to ask permission. Using a license provides clear conditions for what kind of uses the author wants to allow and which they do not.

Think about a driver's license. A driver's license indicates that you have permission to legally operate a motor vehicle. If you get caught driving without a license, then your use of the car is illegal. With the license, your use becomes permissible. However, the driver's license isn't all-encompassing. If you want to legally drive an 18-wheeler, you need a special license. Creative Commons licenses work similarly by providing authors several licenses to select from that convey different permissions to the user.

The Six Licenses

Creative Commons is a well-known, standardized method of communicating which rights an author wants to share with users. They provide six different licenses that can be easily applied to your work.

Creative Commons Licenses

There are six different license types, listed from most to least permissive:

CC BY

Creative Commons CC-BY License

This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.

CC BY includes the following elements:

BY A figure in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for attribution required – Credit must be given to the creator

CC BY-SA

Creative Commons CC-BY-SA License

This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format, so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.

CC BY-SA includes the following elements:

BY A figure in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for attribution required – Credit must be given to the creator

SA A circular arrow, the Creative Commons symbol for Share Alike – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms

CC BY-NC

Creative Commons CC-BY-NC License

This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.

CC-BY-NC includes the following elements:

BY A figure in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for attribution required – Credit must be given to the creator

NC A dollar sign with a line through it, the Creative Commons symbol for Non-Commercial – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted

CC BY-NC-SA

Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-SA License

This license allows reusers to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the material in any medium or format for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. If you remix, adapt, or build upon the material, you must license the modified material under identical terms.

CC BY-NC-SA includes the following elements:

BY A figure in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for attribution required – Credit must be given to the creator

NC A dollar sign with a line through it, the Creative Commons symbol for Non-Commercial – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted

SA A circular arrow, the Creative Commons symbol for Share-Alike – Adaptations must be shared under the same terms

CC BY-ND

Creative Commons CC-BY-ND License

This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator. The license allows for commercial use.

CC BY-ND includes the following elements:

BY A figure in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for attribution required – Credit must be given to the creator

ND An equal sign in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for No Derivatives – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted

CC BY-NC-ND

Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND License

This license allows reusers to copy and distribute the material in any medium or format in unadapted form only, for noncommercial purposes only, and only so long as attribution is given to the creator.

CC BY-NC-ND includes the following elements:

BY A figure in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for attribution required – Credit must be given to the creator

NC A dollar sign with a line through it, the Creative Commons symbol for Non-Commercial – Only noncommercial uses of the work are permitted

ND An equal sign in a circle, the Creative Commons symbol for No Derivatives – No derivatives or adaptations of the work are permitted