Skip to Main Content

Creative Commons

Reference and information guide for the creative commons option in copyrighting work

Creative Commons

What Is Creative Commons? 

Creative Commons is a set of copyright licenses free for public use that define the “middle way” between copyright and the public domain – or between all rights reserved and no rights reserved. It was created by, a group of intellectual property experts – lawyers and librarians. 



Creative Commons have defined a set of licenses so that authors and artists can clearly define what rights they are keeping, and what they are sharing – for free or for fee.

These Creative Commons licenses, six variations in total, allow for creators to keep their copyright while inviting other uses of their work – or a “some rights reserved” copyright.

Using these creative commons licenses, creators can choose a set of conditions they wish to apply to their work.The basic four conditions are:

Attribution : You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give credit the way you request.

Noncommercial : You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only.

No Derivative Works : You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it.

Share Alike : You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.


These conditions can be combined to produce six licenses (all licenses include attribution):

  1. Attribution
  2. Attribution – Share Alike
  3. Attribution – Non Commercial
  4. Attribution – No Derivatives
  5. Attribution – Share Alike – Non Commercial
  6. Attribution – Non Commercial – No Derivatives

Your license choice will be expressed in three ways:

  1. Commons Deed. A plain-language summary of the license, complete with the relevant icons.
  2. Legal Code. The fine print that you need to be sure the license will stand up in court.
  3. Digital Code. A machine-readable translation of the license that helps search engines and other applications identify your work by its terms of use.

Go to for more information.

For open source music:

For open source images:

*Adapted from the Creative Commons website (