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Subject: List of open-source video games, Red Wing Shoes, Connexions, Google Book Search Settlement Agreement, Comparison of microblogging services
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"CC BY-SA" redirects here. For the text of the CC BY-SA license, in the context of its use on World Heritage Encyclopedia, see World Heritage Encyclopedia:Text of Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

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A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use and build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility (for example, they might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of their own work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an author's work, so they don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.

There are several types of CC licenses. The licenses differ by several combinations that condition the terms of distribution. They were initially released on December 16, 2002 by Creative Commons, a U.S. non-profit corporation founded in 2001.

Applicable works

Work licensed under a Creative Commons License is governed by applicable copyright law.[1] This allows Creative Commons licenses to be applied to all work falling under copyright, including: books, plays, movies, music, articles, photographs, blogs, and websites. Creative Commons does not recommend the use of Creative Commons licenses for software.[2]

However, application of a Creative Commons license may not modify the rights allowed by fair use or fair dealing or exert restrictions which violate copyright exceptions. Furthermore, Creative Commons Licenses are non-exclusive and non-revocable. Any work or copies of the work obtained under a Creative Commons license may continue to be used under that license.

In the case of works protected by multiple Creative Common Licenses, the user may choose either.

Types of licenses

The CC licenses all grant the "baseline rights", such as the right to distribute the copyrighted work worldwide, without changes, at no charge.[3] The details of each of these licenses depends on the version, and comprises a selection of four conditions:

Icon Right Description
Attribution (BY) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.
Share-alike (SA) Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. (See also copyleft.)
Non-commercial (NC) Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.
No Derivative Works (ND) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it.

The last two clauses are not free content licenses, according to definitions such as DFSG or the Free Software Foundation, and cannot be used in contexts that require these freedoms, such as World Heritage Encyclopedia.

Mixing and matching these conditions produces sixteen possible combinations, of which eleven are valid Creative Commons licenses and five are not. Of the five invalid combinations, four include both the "nd" and "sa" clauses, which are mutually exclusive; and one includes none of the clauses. Of the eleven valid combinations, the five that lack the "by" clause have been retired because 98% of licensors requested attribution, though they do remain available for reference on the website.[4][5][6] This leaves six regularly used licenses:

Icon Description Acronym
Attribution alone BY
Attribution + NoDerivatives BY-ND
Attribution + ShareAlike BY-SA
Attribution + Noncommercial BY-NC
Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives BY-NC-ND
Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike BY-NC-SA

For example, the Creative Commons Attribution (BY) license allows one to share and remix (create derivative works), even for commercial use, so long as attribution is given.[7]


As of July 2011, Creative Commons licenses have been "ported" to over 50 different jurisdictions worldwide. No new ports are being started as preparations for version 4.0 of the license suite begin.[8]



Since 2004, all current licenses require attribution of the original author.[5] The attribution must be given to "the best of [one's] ability using the information available".[9] Generally this implies the following:

  • Include any copyright notices (if applicable). If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, those notices must be left intact, or reproduced in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which the work is being re-published.
  • Cite the author's name, screen name, or user ID, etc. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice to link that name to the person's profile page, if such a page exists.
  • Cite the work's title or name (if applicable), if such a thing exists. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.
  • Cite the specific CC license the work is under. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website.
  • Mention if the work is a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, one needs to identify that their work is a derivative work, e.g., “This is a Finnish translation of [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

Non-commercial licenses

The "non-commercial" option included in some Creative Commons licenses is controversial in definition,[10] as it's sometimes unclear what can be considered a noncommercial setting, and application, since its restrictions differ from the principles of open content promoted by other permissive licenses.[11]

Zero / Public domain

Besides licenses, Creative Commons also offers a way to release material into the public domain through CC0,[12] a legal tool for waiving as many rights as legally possible, worldwide. Development of CC0 began in 2007[13] and the tool was released in 2009.[14][15]

In 2010, Creative Commons announced its Public Domain Mark,[16] a tool for labeling works already in the public domain. Together, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark replace the Public Domain Dedication and Certification,[17] which took a U.S.-centric approach and co-mingled distinct operations.

In 2011, the Free Software Foundation added CC0 to its free software licenses, making CC0 a recommended way of dedicating software to the public domain.[18]

In February 2012 CC0 was submitted for OSI approval process [19] but due to problems, it was rejected. The OSI FAQ [20] concludes "At this time, we do not recommend releasing software using the CC0 public domain dedication" because of the reservations of being able to waiver copyright (aka "public domain") from a legal standpoint in all jurisdictions. The OSI FAQ further explains that "CC0 was not explicitly rejected, but the License Review Committee was unable to reach consensus that it should be approved, and Creative Commons eventually withdrew the application". In the withdrawal message [21] the Creative Commons representative explained that CC0 was initially developed for the needs of the scientific data community in order to help sharing data freely. It was not designed to replace the "released into the Public Domain" statements sometimes used in the sources code of the software.

Retired licenses

Due to either disuse or criticism, a number of previously offered Creative Commons licenses have since been retired,[4][22] and are no longer recommended for new works. The retired licenses include all licenses lacking the Attribution element other than CC0, as well as the following four licenses:

  • Developing Nations License: a Developing Nations license, which only applies to countries deemed by the World Bank as a "non-high-income economy". Full copyright restrictions apply to people in other countries.[23]
  • Sampling: parts of the work can be used for any purpose other than advertising, but the whole work cannot be copied or modified[24]
  • Sampling Plus: parts of the work can be copied and modified for any purpose other than advertising, and the entire work can be copied for noncommercial purposes[25]
  • NonCommercial Sampling Plus: the whole work or parts of the work can be copied and modified for noncommercial purposes[26]

Legal review

The legal implications of large numbers of works having Creative Commons licensing is difficult to predict, and there is speculation that media creators often lack insight to be able to choose the license which best meets their intent in applying it.[27]

Use of Creative Commons licenses

See also

Free software portal


External links

  • Full selection of licenses
  • Creative Commons Licenses Compatibility Wizard
  • Citizen's guide to using Creative Commons licenses
  • A human readable summary of version 2.5 of the Creative Commons CC BY-SA license. (Retrieved 2010-04-10).
  • Legal code of the CC BY-SA 3.0 License.
de:Creative Commons#Die sechs aktuellen Lizenzen
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