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Copyright Information: Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to make it easier for creators to share their work and/or build upon the works of others consistent with the rules of copyright. They have created a standardized way to grant copyright permissions that anybody can apply to their work to allow others to share, remix, or use the work without having to contact the copyright owner to ask for permission. There are several Creative Commons licenses, each with a different level of use restrictions. Note: Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative or exception to copyright; rather, they are one way for copyright owners to distribute their work within the copyright framework.

Through the Creative Commons Search, you can access other sites like Flickr, Google Images, Wikimedia Commons and YouTube and search them for Creative Commons licensed material. Currently you can only search one site at a time.

Understanding Creative Commons Licensing: the "License Conditions"

Creators and copyright holders who wish to apply a Creative Commons license to their work can choose to allow their work to be copied and reused with any one or more restrictions, or certain combinations of restrictions.  The four restrictions are: 

Condition Image Description
Attribution CC-BY.png

You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

Non Commercial CC-NC.png If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.
Share Alike CC-SA.png If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
No Derivatives CC-ND.png If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

It is important to consider how you want to use the work.  For example, if you need to make changes, then an "ND" license won't help you.


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Understanding Creative Commons Licensing: Specific Licenses

The four license conditions described above can be combined to make specific licenses.  The six license types are summarized in the chart below.

Title Image Description
CC-BY button.png This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit the creator for the original creation. This is the most flexible and accommodating of the available Creative Commons licenses. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
CC-BY-ND Button.png This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as the licensed work is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the creator.
CC-BY-NC Button.png This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge the creator and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
CC-SA button.png This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the creator and license all new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
CC-BY-NC-SA button.png This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit the creator and license their new creations under the identical terms.
CC-BY-NC-ND button.png This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit the creator, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.


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Other Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons also offers a CC0 "No Rights Reserved" license, which allows you to enter your work into the public domain. Click here for more information.


Choosing a License

Still confused about which license you should use?  You can head over to the Creative Commons site for more information on the six (6) different types of Creative Commons licenses. The website even has a guide to help you select an appropriate license. 


Creative Commons Attribution

For information on how to attribute or cite Creative Commons Material, head on over to this page.


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References Used in this Page


  1. Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
  2. Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License
  3. Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License
  4. Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License


Content on this page has been copied and adapted from the "Copyright at UBC" website, created by the University of British Columbia under a CC BY 4.0 International License.

Have a copyright question?

If, after browsing this guide, you still have questions or require additional information please contact, or 403.440.6618.

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