Introduction to Creative Commons Licenses

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By Sudhir Suyal at

So what are these tools or licenses that a content creator can use?

They are 4 basic tools which a content creator can use (in various combinations) in order to indicate the amount of freedom with which he would want his creative work to be used with. Though the Creative commons license promotes free sharing of content, it must be noted that the content creator does not lose his copyright by offering his work under the license; it only means that some of the content creator's rights are offered to the public on pre-defined terms and conditions.

Here is the complete list of the types of Creative Commons licenses a content creator can use:


- "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."

A common example of this is when a newspaper uses a photo from the web, if the photo were to carry an Attribution license, the newspaper would have to provide credit to the photographer in a manner he deems fit; this is often carried out by printing the Photographer's name by the side of the photo.


– "You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work and derivative works based upon it, but strictly for noncommercial purposes only."

For instance someone can plagiarize blatantly from a blog post of yours, put it up on the web and base content around it; but if he for instance were inclined to compiling the content into a book and putting it out for sale, he would have to take your permission before doing so.

No Derivate Works

– "You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon it."

This one is quite simple, if you for instance were to compose a new song and upload it onto the web with a 'No Derivative Works' license; your friend Joe can download the song for free, share and distribute it; but if he were for instance to use the song, mix it with another and come up with his own compilation, the license would prevent him from doing so without your permission.

Share Alike

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

The Share Alike license in many ways epitomizes the entire philosophy of Creative Commons. This is used in association with other licenses, to quote an example; if for instance a photograph of Samira's under a non-commercial license is used by Simon (a publisher) in creating a collage to be used in his magazine. His magazine would firstly have to be a non-commercial magazine, as Samira's photo has a non-commercial license. Secondly, his photo would also necessarily have to be under a non-commercial license since it contains your picture. This would mean that if anyone were to copy or derive content from his magazine, it would necessarily have to be for non-commercial purposes only.

Except for the 'No Derivate Works' license not being used with the 'Share Alike' license , all other combinations of licenses are allowed and are frequently used.

Some of the commonly used combinations of licenses are:

(Attribution Non Commercial No Derivative Works)

This is one of the most restrictive of the combinations of licenses, and is often called the "Free Advertising license". This license would in effect mean that the specified piece of content cannot be made derivates out of or mixed with other forms of content, further it cannot be used for commercial purposes and will necessarily have to provide you with a pre-agreed upon attribution wherever it is used.

(Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike)

The main difference between this license and the previous one is that this one lets others freely share, mix, tweak, and make modifications of the content, provided of course that the content is used only for non-commercial purposes. The Share Alike component of this license means that any derivative of any part of this creation would also necessarily have to be non-commercial in nature and given pre-agreed upon attribution to.

Once the license is chosen, its presented to the user in 3 ways:

1. Commons Deed: A simple, 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.

The process is completely free. After this is done, the relevant button is added to your published material and viola, you're done! (

More Information

Creative Commons