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Copyright Corner: Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

by Roxanne MacMillan on 2022-03-14T08:30:00-03:00 in Copyright, Citation, Images | Comments
“[Creative Commons’] founders recognized the mismatch between what technology enables and what copyright restricts, and they provided an alternative approach for creators who want to share their work. Today that approach is used by millions of creators around the globe.” (Creative Commons, n.d., Unit 1)

Understanding how to reuse someone else’s work legally is complicated. Using works made available under Creative Commons licenses is a (fairly) straightforward way to navigate terms of use, permissions, and the details of Canadian copyright law. Let’s take a closer look!

What is Creative Commons?

Founded in 2002, Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit organization committed to open licensing. They provide creators, worldwide, with “a free, simple, and standardized way to grant copyright permissions for creative and academic works; ensure proper attribution; and allow others to copy, distribute, and make use of those works.” (Creative Commons, n.d.2).

It is important to understand that, although CC-licensed resources are free to use, there are some restrictions and attribution is always required. You must carefully read and understand the terms of the CC license and use the resource as specified.

 

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

There are six Creative Commons licenses. From least restrictive to most restrictive, they are:

Attribution

CC BY

You can distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon a work, even commercially, as long as attribution is given to the original creator of the work.

Attribution-

Sharealike

CC BY-SA

You can distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon a work, even commercially.

Attribution must be given to the original creator and modified works must also be licensed CC BY-SA.

Attribution-

NoDerivatives

CC BY-ND

You can reuse a work for any purpose, even commercially, but no modifications or adaptations are allowed.

Attribution must be given to the original creator of the work.

Attribution-

NonCommercial

CC BY-NC

You can remix, adapt, and build upon a work, but the use must be non-commercial. Attribution must be given to the original creator of the work.

Attribution-

NonCommercial-

Sharealike

CC BY-NC-SA

You can remix, adapt, and build upon a work, but the use must be non-commercial.

Attribution must be given to the original creator and modified works must also be licensed CC BY-NC-SA.

Attribution-

NonCommercial-

NoDerivatives

CC BY-NC-ND

You can download and share a work, but it cannot be modified or adapted or used commercially.

Attribution must be given to the original creator of the work.

License icons by Creative Commons / CC BY 4.0

Creative Commons also provides public domain tools that help creators make their work available without copyright restrictions.

Places to Find Creative Commons Licensed Content

Openverse

This search engine, linked on the CC website under “Search the Commons” and maintained by WordPress, allows you to search for CC-licensed content across the web. You can filter by the type of license or by intended use (commercial, modify/adapt).

Flickr

Flickr is a photo management and sharing site, with billions of photographs. You can limit your Flickr search results to CC-licensed images.

Wikimedia Commons

Many of the 80 million+ media files uploaded to Wikimedia Commons are CC-licensed. Be sure to check the license/terms of use for each resource and provide attribution as required.

Google Images

Google Images allows you to limit your search to CC-licensed images.

Once you have entered your search terms, in this example "human heart", click on Tools (1) to open a menu. Click on Usage Rights (2) and select Creative Commons licenses (3).

It is important to note that not all images retrieved this way are actually CC-licensed. Always check the source of the image to make sure you can use it without payment or permission.

Bing Images/Microsoft Office

To limit your Bing Images search to Creative Commons or Public Domain, click on Filter (1). Then click on License (2) and select the type of license from the dropdown menu (3). Bing’s filter allows you to be more specific than Google.

Microsoft Office allows you to insert online pictures through an integrated Bing Images Creative Commons search.

As with Google Images, the Bing Images/Microsoft Office Creative Commons search is NOT 100% reliable. Always check the source of the image to ensure if and how you are permitted to use it.

 

What does it mean to give a creator attribution?

Attribution is a requirement of all CC licenses. Creative Commons (n.d.3) states that an ideal attribution includes the:

  • Title of the resource (with a link to the source)
  • Author/creator (with a link to their profile page)
  • CC License (with a link to the license details)

See the Creative Commons Best Practices for Attribution wiki for more details. 

When you insert a CC-licensed image in a Microsoft Office project, a generic attribution will be included. 

To obtain the correct title, author and license details , you will need to click the text This Photo (1) to view the original image. Replace the generic text with the actual title (linked to the source) and the author’s name (2) (linked to their profile, if available). Check to make sure that the CC license (3) is correct. The correct attribution (4) for this example is:

Doctor greeting patient by Vic is licensed under CC BY.

For more information about Creative Commons licenses and other copyright topics:

 
References

1. Creative Commons. (n.d.1). Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, Academic Librarians and GLAM. https://certificates.creativecommons.org/cccertedu/

2. Creative Commons. (n.d.2). What we do. https://creativecommons.org/about/

3. Creative Commons. (n.d.3). Use & remix. https://creativecommons.org/about/

Roxanne MacMillan

Librarian Educator, Copyright
Dickson Building, Central Zone


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