The Simple Guide to Creative Commons Resources

by on 10th March 2014 with No Comments

creative commons

Creative Commons is a tool that allows designers, writers, videographers and web developers to use content free of charge. From text to photos to video to sound, there are a variety of different types of available content that can be used when attributed appropriately.

But where can you find this content? Who can use it? And what really is acceptable to use? Today, we have a guide to creative commons works, proper use and attribution and tolls for helping you find great (and usable) content. (As an added bonus, all of the visuals used in this article were available under a Creative Commons license.)

What is Creative Commons

creative commons

Creative Commons is a type of licensed attribution where authors can specify that their work can be used in a certain way. To use CC works, you typically do not have to request advance permission or pay any type of licensing fee.

Creative Commons works are protected by copyright law. What is different about this items are that the creators of the work opted to make it available for use. The author of a work can decide how it can be reused or built on by the type of CC license chosen to accompany it.

The Creative Commons office is a nonprofit organization, supported by volunteers, that enables the sharing and use of creative tools. This mission of Creative Commons is that it “develops, supports, and stewards legal and technical infrastructure that maximizes digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.” Creative Commons is the backbone behind the different licensing options available and can help both creators and people looking for content work together. While Creative Commons is chartered and based in the United States, the network includes hundreds of affiliates around the globe.

Different Types of Licenses

creative commons

Creative Commons includes six different types of standard licensing that are recognized internationally. The licenses are designed to conform to international copyright treaties and are revised and updated periodically.

The types of licenses are:

  • Attribution (CC BY): This license allows others to distribute, alter and build upon a created work, even commercially, as long as the original source is credited.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial (CC BY-NC): This license allows others to distribute, alter and build upon a created work for non-commercial use as long as the original source is acknowledged. Derivative works do not have to be licensed in the same manner as source material.
  • Attribution No Derivatives (CC BY-ND): This license allows for the distribution of a work, commercially or non-commercially, as long as the created item is used unchanged and in its original and intended format with credit given to the creator.
  • Attribution Share Alike (CC BY-SA): This license allows others to distribute, alter and build upon a created work, even commercially, as long as the original source is credited and all derivative works are licensed with the same terms of use as the original. (This is the license used by Wikipedia, for example.)
  • Attribution Non-Commercial Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA): This license allows others to distribute, alter and build upon a created work, but not commercially, as long as the original source is credited. Unlike the CC BY-SA license, derivative works do not have to be licensed with the same terms of use as the original.
  • Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND): This license is the most restrictive of all the Creative Commons options and only allows for the downloading or use of works in a shared manner. The user must credit the original source and can’t change or distribute them commercially information in any way.

Creative Commons vs. Public Domain

So what is the difference between Creative Commons and public domain? How do you know what is acceptable to use?

It comes down to copyright. Creative Commons works are still protected by copyright and can be used under a specific license. Items in the public domain are not protected under copyright law because no one owns or controls that material in any way.

How a created work enters the public domain varies by country of origin. Copyright holders can also give up those rights using a no copyright reserved or CC0 license.

Creative Commons Works

creative commons
There are a variety of places to find fully licensed photos to use in your projects, but just running a standard search engine query and selecting an image is not one of them.

There are a variety of creative works that can fall under the purview of a Creative Commons license. While the first thing that comes to mind is often photos, works can also include video, sound and text.

The most commonly-used type of Creative Commons work is photos. The web is full of images but you need to be sure you are following the rules before using these for your own projects. (You will note that we often use Creative Commons images here at Design Shack and provide both named credit and a link with each image.) There are a variety of places to find fully licensed photos to use in your projects, but just running a standard search engine query and selecting an image is not one of them.

In addition to images, sound can also be licensed for Creative Commons use. This can be a pretty common practice for artists looking to gain exposure or a following. Uses can vary widely but Creative Commons sounds and music can often be found in video clips and are especially popular for use among amateur videographers.

Video is also licensable under Creative Commons, including some of what you may find on YouTube. Uploaders can even select a license when using the popular video-sharing website.

The text and content of a website is even covered under copyright and Creative Commons licensing. This would allow others to replicate and use (under the specifications of the license) both the content and look of a site. Other elements and created work such as illustrations and even typefaces are eligible for copyright and Creative Commons licensing.

Creative Commons Tools

creative commons

There are a large number of tools available to help you both find creative commons content and license works of your own.

Information and Use

10 Content Sources

Get a Creative Commons License

creative commons

If you have a work you want to license under Creative Commons it is pretty easy to do. The benefit for creators is exposure for your photo or other work and attribution.

You can use the Creative Commons licensing icons showcased here and apply for a specific license type online. After licensing, you can even share your work with others that are using Creative Commons.

Certain portfolio tools, such as Behance, also give you the option to include Creative Commons licensing information with your work. Make sure to select the appropriate field when uploading each portfolio item and make sure you do own the copyright to a work before licensing it. (Meaning it needs to be something you created – and often not for hire – in order for you to allow Creative Commons use.)

Conclusion

Working with Creative Commons elements can be a great source of additional content for your projects. The thing to keep in mind when working with this type of content is the source. Attribute properly and if you are not sure of a work’s license or source, don’t use it.

Creative Commons can also be a way for creative professionals to license some of their work for a wider audience. It is important to remember that once this license is assigned, it is permanent. So be sure of how you want a work to be used or distributed beforehand.

Image Sources: Kalexanderson, qthomasbower and gnuckx.

A quick disclaimer: While we’ve done our research to make this article as accurate as possible, you should always do your own research and investigation whenever you’re unsure about copyright. Consult a legal professional if needed, and don’t rely on the advice in this piece!

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