Creative Commons Information

Just about everything is copyrighted

Did you know that (most of the time) whenever anyone creates something, such as if it is printed on paper, posted on a blog, or saved on a document, that it is protected by copyright automatically? Whoever owns that copyright holds all the rights to decide if it can be used, sold, given away, etc. If they don’t want you to copy it or buy it, they have the right to stop you. This makes it very hard to decide what you can use, and what you can’t.

However you CAN use copyrighted work:

  • IF you have permission from the copyright holder
  • IF it qualifies as Fair Use according to copyright law


What is Creative Commons (CC)?

Creative Commons provides an easier solution, and this video does a pretty nice job of explaining both copyright and CC (on YouTube, about 6 minutes). Long story short, Creative Commons lets people know that a work CAN be used, so you don’t have to ask for permission. You might also consider sharing your work, and joining the commons.


How to find Creative Commons stuff

  • Google Advanced Search – search for your item in, then choose the gear icon on the upper-right and select “advanced search”. The last option is “usage rights” and you can select the kind of licensed material you want to search for.
  • (searches different sources, in all kinds of media)
  • One of many great lists of places to look for CC material
  • The first part of this video shows how some people use CC licensed material to create an open education resource (focus for teachers)
The different licenses (so you know what you’re getting into)
A creator chooses the kind of license they want on their  material. The different licenses for are listed on the Creative Commons licenses page. However, they all consist of one or more of the following concepts, where you can use the material…
  • BY: …but you must attribute (they all have this)
  • SA: …and you can make a derivative of the work, but if shared, it must have the same license as the original material (share alike).
  • ND: …but you cannot change it (non-derivative).
  • NC: …but you may not make money off of it (non-commercial).
It’s also worth noting that you may encounter another abbreviation:
  • CC0: A public domain dedication tool. The creator has waived all rights, and this material is in the Public Domain.
Here is a fun video by Creative Commons New Zealand (via You Tube) explains the licenses in additional detail.



If you use CC licensed material, you are required to provide appropriate attribution. This means that you have to share the details of the CC licensed material you used It’s different from a citation, which is a norm for academic work. Attribution is a requirement, and has nothing to do with school. You are agreeing to do this when you choose to use CC licensed material.

In short, for an attribution you need to indicate the following information on your web page, project, or whatever it is you are creating.

  1. existing copyright if any
  2. author (screen name, anything… link to author profile if possible)
  3. title (link to work if possible)
  4. cc license (link to license wording required)
For more detail, refer to the source: Marking Content with CC Licenses for Users
What attribution can look like:

An Ideal Attribution
This video features the song “Play Your Part (Pt.1)” by Girl Talk, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license. © 2008, Greg Gillis.

A Realistic Attribution
Photo by mollyali, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license.

A Derivative Work Attribution
This is a video adaptation of the novel Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, available under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license. Copyright © 2003 Cory Doctorow.

Taken from CC HowTo #1: How to Attribute a Creative Commons licensed work


Another easy-to-read pdf resource on attribution is here from Creative Commons Australia. This source does a wonderful job of giving lots of examples, and also tells you how to deal with different mediums and remixes (see next section).

This You Tube video (geared toward teachers, but applicable to all) shows how two people create a product that uses a variety of CC licensed material. The process of searching, attributing, and licensing the final product is shown, and sums up all of this quite nicely.


Sharing and Remixing:

If you create content, you should strongly consider licensing your work with a Creative Commons license, which tells others that your work can be shared under certain conditions. To do so, you simply go to the Creative Commons site to choose a license. You answer a couple of questions and it will give you the embed code to post into your blog or web page.

However, sometimes you might have more detailed questions about how to add your license. For example:

  • Where do you put the license when you make a video?
  • Shall I put a watermark on my photographs? How?
  • What do I do if my creation is a remix, based on other Creative Commons content?
  • How do I add a license to audio files?

Your questions will likely be answered on the Best Practices for Marking Content with CC Licenses: Creators page.


If you remix, it means you have made some sort of change to another work. This can include simple changes like cropping or enhancing color, or adding music to a slideshow, to more drastic changes like taking a photograph and remixing it to create something completely new. Many changes are considered a remix, and are therefore also considered a “derivative.” However, exactly what is considered a remix is not cut and dry. Refer to the Creative Commons wiki for a better understanding. Keep in mind that if the material you choose to use in your remix has a “ND” license, you will need permission from the owner if you want to use it. 

If you remix, the attribution tends to get a little more complicated. For the most part, you should be able to find your answers on some of the resources mentioned above, plus these additional few:


Creative Commons License
Creative Commons Information is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.