Creative Commons is a licensing framework for intellectual property that works alongside copyright law. By applying CC Licenses to any copyrighted work, a rightsholder may preemptively waive any or all of the exclusive rights codified in the copyright law.
Any “work of authorship” is automatically placed under copyright protection once it is “fixed,” or made tangible. Even if an author or creator does not register a work with the U.S. Copyright Office, the rightsholder retains all exclusive rights enumerated in Section 106. Licensing makes it possible to share intellectual property in the manner that the rightsholder sees fit.
Creative Commons offers six different levels of licensing that you can apply to your works, plus one license which places any work automatically into the public domain.
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their 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.
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge you and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.
This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.
CC0 — “No Rights Reserved”
CC0 enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.
In contrast to CC’s licenses that allow copyright holders to choose from a range of permissions while retaining their copyright, CC0 empowers yet another choice altogether – the choice to opt out of copyright and database protection, and the exclusive rights automatically granted to creators – the “no rights reserved” alternative to our licenses.
CARLI (The Consortium of Academic and Research Libraries in Illinois) provides links to creative commons information for authors and adopters of OER resources. Learn more about Creative Commons from CARLI.