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CC FAQ

Absolutely not. CC has responded to claims to the contrary. CC licenses are copyright licenses, and depend on the existence of copyright to work. CC licenses are legal tools that creators and other rights holders can use to offer certain usage rights to the public, while reserving other rights. Those who want to make their work available to the public for limited kinds of uses while preserving their copyright may want to consider using CC licenses. Others who want to reserve all of their rights under copyright law should not use CC licenses.That said, Creative Commons recognizes the need for change in copyright law, and many members of the Creative Commons community are active participants in the copyright reform movement. For more information, see our statement in support of copyright reform.

What does "Some Rights Reserved" mean?

Copyright grants to creators a bundle of exclusive rights over their creative works, which generally include, at a minimum, the right to reproduce, distribute, display, and make adaptations. The phrase "All Rights Reserved" is often used by owners to indicate that they reserve all of the rights granted to them under the law. When copyright expires, the work enters the public domain, and the rights holder can no longer stop others from engaging in those activities under copyright, with the exception of moral rights reserved to creators in some jurisdictions. Creative Commons licenses offer creators a spectrum of choices between retaining all rights and relinquishing all rights (public domain), an approach we call "Some Rights Reserved."

Do Creative Commons licenses affect exceptions and limitations to copyright, such as fair dealing and fair use?

No. By design, CC licenses do not reduce, limit, or restrict any rights under exceptions and limitations to copyright, such as fair use or fair dealing. If your use of CC-licensed material would otherwise be allowed because of an applicable exception or limitation, you do not need to rely on the CC license or comply with its terms and conditions. This is a fundamental principle of CC licensing.

How should I decide which license to choose?

If you are unsure which license best suits your needs, there are plenty of resources to help rights holders choose the right CC license. CC Australia has developed a flow chart that may be useful in helping you settle on the right license for your work. Creative Commons has also compiled a list of examples that demonstrate how various licenses fit into licensors' overall strategies. You can also read case studies of others who are using CC licenses. The CC community can also respond to questions, and may have already addressed issues you raise. The CC community email discussion lists and discussion archives may be useful resources. Finally, you may also want to consult with a lawyer to obtain advice on the best license for your needs.

How do I apply a Creative Commons license to my material?

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 FlickrYouTube, 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. CC offers resources on the best practices for marking your material and on how to mark material in different media (.pdf).

May I apply a Creative Commons license to a work in the public domain?

CC licenses should not be applied to works in the worldwide public domain. All CC licenses are clear that they do not have the effect of placing restrictions on material that would otherwise be unrestricted, and you cannot remove a work from the public domain by applying a CC license to it. If you want to dedicate your own work to the public domain before the expiration of applicable copyright or similar rights, use CC's legally robust public domain dedication. If a work is already in the worldwide public domain, you should mark it with CC's Public Domain Mark.

Note that, in some cases, a work may be in the public domain under the copyright laws of some jurisdictions but not others. For example, U.S. government works are in the public domain under the copyright law of the United States, but may be protected by copyright laws in other jurisdictions. A CC license applied to such a work would be effective (and the license restrictions enforceable) in jurisdictions where copyright protection exists, but would not be operative if U.S. copyright law is determined to be the applicable law.

Creators may also apply Creative Commons licenses to material they create that are adapted from public domain works, or to remixed material, databases, or collections that include work in the public domain. However, in each of these instances, the license does not affect parts of the work that are unrestricted by copyright or similar rights. We strongly encourage you to mark the public domain material, so that others know they are also free to use this material without legal restriction.

When is my use considered an adaptation?

Whether a modification of licensed material is considered an adaptation for the purpose of CC licenses depends primarily on the applicable copyright law. Copyright law reserves to an original creator the right to create adaptations of the original work. CC licenses that allow for adaptations to be shared—all except BY-ND and BY-NC-ND—grant permission to others to create and redistribute adaptations when doing so would otherwise constitute a violation of applicable copyright law. Generally, a modification rises to the level of an adaptation under copyright law when the modified work is based on the prior work but manifests sufficient new creativity to be copyrightable, such as a translation of a novel from one language to another, or the creation of a screenplay based on a novel.

Under CC licenses, synching music in timed relation with a moving image is always considered an adaptation, whether or not it would be considered so under applicable law. Also, under version 4.0, certain uses of databases restricted by sui generis database rights also constitute adaptations (called "Adapted Material" in the 4.0 licenses), whether or not they would be considered adaptations under copyright law. For more details about adaptations in the database context, see the Data FAQ.

Note that all CC licenses allow the user to exercise the rights permitted under the license in any format or medium. Those changes are not considered adaptations even if applicable law would suggest otherwise. For example, you may redistribute a book that uses the CC BY-NC-NDlicense in print form when it was originally distributed online, even if you have had to make formatting changes to do so, as long as you do so in compliance with the other terms of the license.

Note on terminology: throughout these FAQs, we use the term "remix" interchangeably with “adapt.” Both are designed to mean doing something that constitutes an adaptation under copyright law.

Can I combine material under different Creative Commons licenses in my work?

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.

creative commons license adaptation

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 below for details on how remixes may be licensed.

If I derive or adapt material offered under a Creative Commons license, which CC license(s) can I use?

If you make adaptations of material under a CC license (i.e. "remix"), the original CC license always applies to the material you are adapting even once adapted. The license you may choose for your own contribution (called your "adapter's license") depends on which license applies to the original material. Recipients of the adaptation must comply with both the CC license on the original and your adapter’s license.

  • BY and BY-NC material

When remixing BY or BY-NC material, it is generally recommended that your adapter's license include at least the same license elements as the license applied to the original material. This eases reuse for downstream users because they are able to satisfy both licenses by complying with the adapter's license. For example, if you adapt material licensed under BY-NC, your adapter's license should also contain the NC restriction. See the chart below for more details.

  • BY-SA and BY-NC-SA material

In general, when remixing ShareAlike content, your adapter's license must be the same license as the license on the material you are adapting. All licenses after version 1.0 also allow you to license your contributions under a later version of the same license, and some also allow ported licenses. (See the license versions page for details.) If you wish to adapt material under BY-SA or BY-NC-SA and release your contributions under a non-CC license, you should visit the Compatibility page to see which options are allowed.

  • BY-ND and BY-NC-ND material

The BY-ND and BY-NC-ND licenses do not permit distribution of adaptations (also known as remixes or derivative works), and prohibits the creation of adaptations under the pre-4.0 versions of those licenses. Since you may not share remixes of these materials at all, there is no compatibility with other licenses. (Note that the ND licenses do allow you to reproduce the material in unmodified form together with other material in a collection, as indicated in the next FAQ.)

  • Adapter's license chart

The chart below details the CC license(s) you may use as your adapter's license. When creating an adaptation of material under the license identified in the lefthand column, you may license your contributions to the adaptation under one of the licenses indicated on the top row if the corresponding box is green. CC does not recommend using a license if the corresponding box is yellow, although doing so is technically permitted by the terms of the license. If you do, you should take additional care to mark the adaptation as involving multiple copyrights under different terms so that downstream users are aware of their obligations to comply with the licenses from all rights holders. Dark gray boxes indicate those licenses that you may not use as your adapter's license.

Adapter's license chart

Adapter's license

BY

BY-NC

BY-NC-ND

BY-NC-SA

BY-ND

BY-SA

PD

Status of original work

PD

BY

BY-NC

BY-NC-ND

BY-NC-SA

BY-ND

BY-SA

Abbreviation Key

"Frequently Asked Questions" by Creative Commons is licensed CC-BY