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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons is a comprehensive license suitable for copyleft distribution of creative works. The Creative Commons License was developed in 2002 under the guidance of Lawrence Lessig. He is the Roy L. Furman Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and the former director of the Edmond J. Safra Center for Ethics at Harvard University. Creative Commons covers a wide range of works, including books, movies, plays, music, articles, photographs, website and blogs.

The Creative Commons License is based on four pillars: Attribution, Share-Alike, Non-Commercial, No-Derivatives. Let us describe each of them:

Attribution (BY): The user may copy, distribute, display or modify the work by giving attribution to the creator.

Share-Alike (SA): Users must distribute the modified work using the license used for original work. Attribution to the original creator is necessary.

Non-commercial (NC): Users can copy, distribute, display, modify and reproduce the work only for the non-commercial uses. Attribution to the original creator is necessary. No-Derivatives (ND): Users are only allowed to copy, distribute, and display the work. Not allowed to modify the work. Attribution to the original creator is necessary.

A variety of licenses can be generated by mixing and matching Creative Commons basic terms. Signs for each license can be generated to display along with the work. Based on a combination of the four conditions mentioned above, six major Creative Commons licenses can be generated.

  • Name — Short-form — Conditions
  • Attribution — CC BY — This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.
  • Attribution ShareAlike — CC BY-SA — 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.
  • Attribution-No Derivatives — CC BY-ND — This license lets others reuse the work for any purpose, including commercial; however, it cannot be shared with others in adapted form, and credit must be provided to you.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial — CC BY-NC — 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.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike — CC BY-NC-SA — 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.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives — CC BY-NC-ND — 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 cannot change them in any way or use them commercially

How to Generate Creative Commons Licenses

The users can generate Creative Commons Licenses to combine the terms and conditions suitable for the distribution of the works. Tools for the generation of Creative Commons are available at https://creativecommons.org/choose. It also helps to generate signs, source codes to embed the license on the websites and provide the link to the details of the license terms. Users can display the Creative Commons License on the works using the tool.

How to Find Creative Commons Works

Millions of different types of works have been published using the Creative Commons License. Photographs, artwork, video, film, cartoons, study materials, music, news, research papers, articles, and website content are licensed using the Creative Commons License. Such items are stored in different sources on the World Wide Web. Prominent web search engines can assist the users to search and find open-licensed digital creations. Google Search provides options to show only digital works with a copyleft license.

Search filter with Google to find copyleft images.

Various services are available to store the digital objects with Creative Commons License. For example, the Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org) store a large collection of photographs, audio and video. Open Access research publications also use the Creative Commons License. Public Library of Science (https://plos.org) is a prominent Open Access publisher of scholarly journals. Google Scholar search engine (https://scholar.google.com) can be used to search for Open Access research articles. DOAJ (Directory of Open Accessjournals) is an online service that helps students and research scholars to find Open Access research publications and articles. The web address of DOAJ is https://doaj.org/. The Internet Archive is one of the big digital libraries on the Internet (https://archive.org) stores digital objects with open licenses.


Educational and research institutions encourage copyleft initiatives and open licenses. Publications with copyleft help the creator to grow and open up new opportunities. Copyleft licenses assist in locating and identifying the copyleft works on the Internet. Creative Commons is a license which covers all forms of arts and literary works. In addition to protecting copyright, Creative Commons helps one to create licenses by complying with all possible terms of use.

Source: Vimal Kumar V., An Introduction to Self-publishing, CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 license

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