Being content creators, copyrights are very important to us at Design Instruct. We thought we’d do a little research on the Creative Commons licenses to get a clearer picture on how to use each of the Creative Commons licenses. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

What Are Creative Commons Licenses?

At it’s core, Creative Commons Licenses allow creators to share and distribute materials online for others to use without having the strictness of claiming “all rights reserved” on all of your materials. Creative Commons licenses are meant to work alongside the usual “all rights reserved” copyright terms by allowing creators to modify them with different levels of openness and attribution requirements. In other words, Creative Commons licenses allow creators to share materials but also specify how their work is used by others.

How are the Creative Commons Licenses Used?

This question came up during one of our weekly meetings regarding a discussion about the usage terms we have for the freebies and other resources we publish on Design Instruct. We had an idea of what Creative Commons Licenses were meant for but we had no real clarity on how they might apply to the content we publish on Design Instruct if we chose to release some of our materials under a Creative Commons license.

There are 6 different Creative Commons Licenses that range from being very open to being very restrictive.

We’ll be using some photos I took last year as examples to demonstrate how the different licenses are used in practice.

Attribution: CC BY

The CC BY license looks like this.

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.
image_01_CC_license-001

This is the most open Creative Commons license.

From Creative Commons Website: 

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.

In this example, since I have applied a “CC BY” License to my photo, I am allowing others to:

  • Distribute my photo as long as they give me credit for taking the photo.
  • Use the photo in their own works, tweak, remix, add to my photo in any way as long as I get credit for taking the photo.
  • Sell my photo or any derivatives of my photo as long as the original photo is attributed to me.

In practice, this means that I am allowing others to download this photo and I’m allowing them to use my photo in any way they like. They can use my photo to create new works by tweaking or remixing my photo as long as I am given credit for taking the photo.

Attribution – ShareAlike: CC BY-SA

The Attribution – Sharealike license looks like this:

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

image_01_CC_license-003

From Creative Commons website:

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.

Applying the Attribution Sharealike license to my photo means that I am allowing others to:

  • Use my photo in their own works as long as I am given credit for taking the original photo. The new creations must also be licensed under the same Attribution – Sharealike license.
  • Use my photo commercially as long as I get credit for the photo.

In practice, this means that my photo can be edited, tweaked, and used to create new works. I must be given credit for taking the original photo. Any new works must also be licensed under the Attribution Sharealike license which means that if someone were to use that derivative work to create new works, I must still be given credit.

Attribution – No Derivatives: CC BY-ND

The CC BY ND license looks like this:

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

image_01_CC_license-002

This is the license you apply to your work if you don’t want others to tweak or remix or build upon your work.

This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Applying a Creative Commons By – No Derivatives license to my photo means that I am allowing others to:

  • Redistribute my photo commercially as long as my photo is left unchanged in any way and I am given credit for taking the photo.

Others are NOT allowed to:

  • Alter or tweak my photo in any way.

In practice, this means that if someone downloads this photo, they can share my photo for free or sell my photo as long as my photo is left unchanged and untouched and I am given credit as the creator of the photo. This is the license you use when you want others to distribute your works in their original form still get credit for creating them.

Attribution – Non-commercial: CC BY-NC

This is what the Attribution Non-Commercial license looks like:

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

image_01_CC_license-005

From the Creative Commons website:

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.

Since I have applied the Attribution Non-commercial license to my photo, I am allowing others to:

  • Use my photo in their own works as long as the photo is attributed to me.
  • Tweak, remix and add to my photo as long as the original photo is attributed to me.

Others are NOT allowed to:

  • Sell my photo and the derivative works from my photo for money.

In practice, this means that if someone downloads my photo, they are allowed to create new works with my photo but they are not allowed to sell their derivative works to others. Any redistribution of my original photo in any form must be attributed to me.

Attribution – Non-Commercial – ShareAlike: CC BY-NC-SA

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

image_01_CC_license-006

From Creative Commons website:

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.

Applying the Attribution Non-commercial Sharealike license to my photo means that I am allowing others to:

  • Use my photo in new works as long as the original photo is attributed to me and license their new works under the same Attribution Non-commercial sharealike license.

Others are NOT allowed to:

  • Sell my photo or any derivatives created from my photo.

In practice, this means that if someone downloads my photo, they can use it to create new works as long as they do not sell their derivative works and I must be credited for the photo. This also means that their derivative works must be released with an Attribution Non-Commercial Sharealike license.

Attribution – Non-Commercial – NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND

Creative Commons License

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

image_01_CC_license-007\

From Creative Commons Website:

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.

By applying the Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives to my photo, I am allowing others to:

  • Download my photo and share my photo but I must be given credit for taking the photo.

Others are NOT allowed to:

  • Tweak or remix my photo in any way.
  • Sell my photo or any derivatives of my photo.

In practice, this means that I am allowing others to download my photo. However, no one is allowed to tweak it or edit my photo in any way. I am also allowing others to share (not sell) my photo for free in its original form and I must be given credit for taking the photo.

Tell us what you think or ask the community some questions you might have in the comments section below.

Author:

Isaac is the Co-Founder and Chief Editor of Design Instruct. He has experience in various design and art related fields including design, illustration, and photography. He's in charge of making sure that Design Instruct publishes high quality content that professional designers and digital artists demand and expect. Get in touch via email and on Twitter as @designinstruct or @IAMTHEGUBE.