TOP 10 QUESTIONS FROM CREATORS:
Applying a Creative Commons license to your material is a serious decision. When you apply a CC license, you give permission to anyone to use your material for the full duration of applicable copyright and similar rights.
CC has identified some things that you should consider before you apply a CC license, some of which relate to your ability to apply a CC license at all. Here are some highlights:
- Is the material copyrightable? If not, is it subject to neighboring rights or sui generis database rights? CC licenses do not apply to material in the public domain. Different countries have different standards for what is in the public domain.
- Do you own the material you want to license? If not, are you otherwise authorized to license it under the specific CC license you are interested in using? You should not apply a license to material that you do not own or that you are not authorized to license.
- Are you aware that CC licenses are not revocable? You are free to stop offering material under a CC license at any time, but this will not affect the rights associated with any copies of your work already in circulation. (Any particular licensee may lose his or her rights after violating the license, but this does not affect continual use of the work by other licensees.)
- Are you a member of a collecting society? If you are, you should make sure that you are able to use CC licenses for your materials.
- Always read the terms and conditions of the specific license you plan to apply. Additionally, there are several terms that may differ in the earlier versions of the license, both unported and ported. If you choose to use a pre-4.0 version or any ported version, clauses such as choice of law may affect your desired choice of license.
For online material: Select the license that is appropriate for your material from the CC license chooser and then follow the instructions to include the HTML code. The code will automatically generate a license button and a statement that your material is licensed under a CC license. If you are only licensing part of a work (for example, if you have created a video under a CC license but are using a song under a different license), be sure to clearly mark which parts are under the CC license and which parts are not. The HTML code will also include metadata, which allows the material to be discovered via Creative Commons-enabled search engines.
For offline material: Identify which license you wish to apply to your work and either (a) mark your work with a statement such as, “This work is licensed under the Creative Commons [insert description] License. To view a copy of the license, visit [insert url]”; or (b) insert the applicable license buttons with the same statement and URL link.
For third-party platforms: Many media platforms like Flickr, YouTube, and SoundCloud have built-in Creative Commons capabilities, letting users mark their material with a CC license through their account settings. The benefit of using this functionality is that it allows other people to find your content when searching on those platforms for CC-licensed material. If the platform where you’re uploading your content does not support CC licensing, you can still identify your content as CC-licensed in the text description of your content.
Legally, these three options are the same. The only difference between applying a CC license offline rather than online is that marking a work online with metadata will ensure that users will be able to find it through CC-enabled search engines.
A CC license terminates automatically when its conditions are violated. For example, if a reuser of CC-licensed material does not provide the attribution required when sharing the work, then the user no longer has the right to continue using the material and may be liable for copyright infringement. The license is terminated for the user who violated the license. However, all other users still have a valid license, so long as they are in compliance.
Under the 4.0 licenses, a licensee automatically gets these rights back if she fixes the violation within 30 days of discovering it.
If you apply a Creative Commons license and a user violates the license conditions, you may opt to contact the person directly to ask them to rectify the situation or consult a lawyer to act on your behalf. Creative Commons is not a law firm and cannot represent you or give you legal advice, but there are lawyers who have identified themselves as interested in representing people in CC-related matters.
However – as long as users abide by license terms and conditions, licensors cannot control how the material is used. However, CC licenses do provide several mechanisms that allow licensors to choose not to be associated with their material or to uses of their material with which they disagree.
It depends. The first question to ask is whether doing so constitutes an adaptation. If the combination does not create an adaptation, then you may combine any CC-licensed content so long as you provide attribution and comply with the NonCommercial restriction if it applies. If you want to combine material in a way that results in the creation of an adaptation (i.e. a “remix”), then you must pay attention to the particular license that applies to the content you want to combine.
The NoDerivatives licenses do not permit remixing except for private use (the pre-4.0 licenses do not permit remixing at all, except as allowed by exceptions and limitations to copyright). All the other CC licenses allow remixes, but may impose limitations or conditions on how the remix may be used. For example, if you create a remix with material licensed under a ShareAlike license, you need to make sure that all of the material contributed to the remix is licensed under the same license or one that CC has named as compatible, and you must properly credit all of the sources with the required attribution and license information. Similarly, if you want to use a remix for commercial purposes, you cannot incorporate material released under one of the NonCommercial licenses.
The chart below shows which CC-licensed material can be remixed. To use the chart, find a license on the left column and on the top right row. If there is a check mark in the box where that row and column intersect, then the works can be remixed. If there is an “X” in the box, then the works may not be remixed unless an exception or limitation applies. See this chart for details on how remixes may be licensed.
Yes. One of our goals is to encourage creators and rights holders to experiment with new ways to promote and market their work. There are several possible ways of doing this.
CC’s NonCommercial (NC) licenses allow rights holders to maximize distribution while maintaining control of the commercialization of their works. If you want to reserve the right to commercialize your work, you may do this by choosing a license with the NC condition. If someone else wants to use your work commercially and you have applied an NC license to your work, they must first get your permission. As the rights holder, you may still sell your own work commercially.
You may also use funding models that do not depend on using an NC license. For example, many artists and creators use crowdfunding to fund their work before releasing it under a less restrictive license. Others use a “freemium” model where the basic content is free, but extras such as a physical printed version or special access to a members-only website are for paying customers only.
For more information and ideas, The Power of Open presents case studies of artists, businesspeople, and organizations who use CC.
CC licenses are not revocable. Once something has been published under a CC license, licensees may continue using it according to the license terms for the duration of applicable copyright and similar rights. As a licensor, you may stop distributing under the CC license at any time, but anyone who has access to a copy of the material may continue to redistribute it under the CC license terms. While you cannot revoke the license, CC licenses do provide a mechanism for licensors to ask that others using their material remove the attribution information. You should think carefully before choosing a Creative Commons license.
Yes. CC licenses are nonexclusive. Licensors always have the option of entering into separate arrangements for the sharing of their material in addition to applying a CC license. However, those different arrangements are not “CC” or “Creative Commons” licenses.
Separate agreements: You may offer the licensed material under other licenses in addition to the CC license (a practice commonly referred to as “dual licensing”). For example, you may wish to license a video game soundtrack under both a CC license and the GPL, so that it may be used under either set of terms. A reuser may then choose which set of terms to comply with. Or, for example, you may offer your material to the public under a NonCommercial license, but offer commercial permissions to fee-paying customers.
Supplemental agreements: Problems arise when licensors design those terms or arrangements to serve not as separate, alternative licensing arrangements but as supplemental terms having the effect of changing the standard terms within the CC license. While you may offer separate terms and conditions to other parties, you should not do so in such a way that would neutralize terms of the CC license.
Except in the limited situation where more permissions are being granted or license conditions are waived, if the additional arrangement modifies or conflicts with the CC license terms, then the resulting licensing arrangement is no longer a CC licensing arrangement. To avoid confusing those who may mistakenly believe the work is licensed under standard CC terms, we must insist that in these instances licensors not use our trademarks, names, and logos in connection with their custom licensing arrangement.
No. CC offers its licenses, code, and tools to the public free of charge, without obligation. You do not need to register with Creative Commons to apply a CC license to your material; it is legally valid as soon as you apply it to any material you have the legal right to license.
CC does not require or provide any means for creators or other rights holders to register use of a CC license, nor does CC maintain a database of works distributed under Creative Commons licenses. CC also does not require registration of the work with a national copyright agency.
May I apply a CC license to my work if it incorporates material used under fair use or another exception or limitation to copyright?
Yes, but it is important to prominently mark any third party material you incorporate into your work so reusers do not think the CC license applies to that material. The CC license only applies to the rights you have in the work. For example, if your CC-licensed slide deck includes a Flickr image you are using pursuant to fair use, make sure to identify that image as not being subject to the CC license. For more information about incorporating work owned by others, see our page about marking third party content. Read more considerations for licensors here.