Creative Commons License

Creative Commons (CC) licenses are a type of public copyright license that enable the free distribution of copyrighted works. These licenses allow creators to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created, often under specific conditions. Creative Commons licenses are often used for all kinds of content including articles, music, photos, educational materials, and even software. They offer a more flexible alternative to traditional copyright, which usually restricts the use of a work to the copyright holder exclusively.


Creative Commons was founded in 2001 by Lawrence Lessig, Hal Abelson, and Eric Eldred with the intent of offering a more permissive license scheme in contrast to the "all rights reserved" set by traditional copyright laws. The first set of CC licenses was released on December 16, 2002. Since then, Creative Commons has continued to evolve, and its licenses have become widely accepted and are now used by millions of creators, institutions, and organizations worldwide.

Types of Licenses

  • CC BY: This license allows others to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit the creator for the original creation. This is the most flexible CC license in terms of what others can do with the works.
  • CC BY-SA: This license lets others remix, adapt, and build upon the work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the creator and license their new creations under identical terms. This license is often compared to open-source software licenses.
  • CC BY-ND: This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as the work is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the creator.
  • CC BY-NC: This license lets others remix, adapt, 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 BY-NC-SA: This license allows others to remix, adapt, and build upon the work non-commercially, as long as they credit the creator and license their new creations under identical terms.
  • CC BY-NC-ND: This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, allowing others to download the 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.
  • CC0: Sometimes referred to as the "No Rights Reserved" option, it allows creators to waive all their copyright and related rights, effectively placing their work in the public domain.


Creative Commons licenses are widely used across various media and sectors, including academic publishing, music, photography, and web development. Many notable platforms like Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, and Flickr offer options to license works under some type of Creative Commons license.

Benefits and Criticisms


  • Flexibility: Provides more freedoms than traditional copyright
  • Easy to Use: Simple, standardized, and easy to understand
  • Promotes Creativity and Sharing: Allows works to be easily shared and remixed
  • Global Applicability: Internationally recognized


  • Not Suitable for All Types of Work: Some works may require more stringent copyright protection
  • Lack of Legal Testing: Limited case law exists to affirm the enforceability of these licenses
  • Complexity in Commercial Use: Some licenses restrict commercial use, causing potential confusion or legal challenges

Legal Considerations

It’s essential to understand that Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright but are based upon it. They enable licensees to use works in ways that would otherwise infringe copyright law. However, they also come with conditions like attribution, which, if not followed, could lead to legal consequences.

See Also