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Creative Commons

Copyright laws are regulations that apply to the duplication and distribution of original works. Creative Commons licenses, which work in conjunction with a nation’s copyright laws, are applied when creators want to extend certain rights to others. The guide below will help describe each as well as public domain licenses.

infographic showing the relationship between creative commons license types

What does Creative Commons mean?

By Martin Missfeldt,


Creators enrich the Internet with their works. They may be artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, etc.

Problem: what license?

Many creative people want to share their works for use, but…

  • Artist: “How do I explain the license conditions?”
  • User: “What does he mean exactly?”

Licensing agreements are complicated.

Solution: Creative Commons

Creative Commons (CC) is a nonprofit organization. It offers pre-licensing agreements. CC licenses are free, but…

Four possible conditions are important to check:

Attribution (BY)

  • The author’s name must be listed under or next to the work!
  • Symbolized with a person icon

No Derivatives (ND)

  • Use exactly as is! No editing!
  • Symbolized with an equals sign icon

Non Commercial (NC)

  • No revenue by using the work.
  • Symbolized with a money sign with a slash through it icon

Share Alike (SA)

  • Share: Gladly. But only under these same conditions!
  • Symbolized with an arrow making a counter-clockwise circle icon

As a result of the combination of these conditions, there are six different CC licenses:


  • Only attribution (name, sometimes with link to creator’s homepage)


  • Attribution and no editing (no derivatives)


  • Attribution and no commercial use


  • Attribution, no commercial use and no editing


  • Attribution, no commercial use and share alike


  • Attribution and share alike


  • Creative Commons does NOT mean that the works are public domain!
  • At a minimum, the AUTHOR has to be mentioned!

Advantages of CC licenses

  • Sharing of your works
  • When using CC licenses user feel more secure that the works could be shared without asking directly
  • Make a statement: free access to digital culture
  • Interest in the processing and derivatives
  • Enlargement of the world’s material pool

How to use CC licenses?

Include near your work a reference to the appropriate license (as graphics or text shortcut) and link it to the appropriate license agreement page. More about this:


This infographic is licensed under CC-BY-SA: feel free to use and share it, but please mention the author.

Public Domain Dedication


This icon indicates that the creator of the work chose to waive ALL rights to their work. Others may copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission or providing attribution. It is also symbolized with CC0 (Creative Commons, Zero rights reserved.)

Public Domain Mark

Public Domain Mark

This icon identifies works that are free of known restrictions under copyright law. For example, works may be in the public domain because their copyright has expired (see Duration tab), or because they were created by the federal government. Others may copy, modify, distribute, and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission.