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Saturday, December 3, 2011

Types of Copyright Licenses - Creative Commons

This is the third and last post about copyright (for now). I admit, the posts began as a crusade, but I really think that it is important for everyone to have a basic knowledge of copyright. From my last post, we know what copyright and infringement are, and now we're going to learn what types of copyright licenses are available and what those licenses do and do not protect. 

The biggest benefit of legally copyrighting your work is that it gives you the power to control where it goes, how it is used, if it is distributed or used at all, who uses it, etc. Without a legal copyright license it is difficult to take legal action against someone who infringes on your creative property.

Copyright licenses that are gaining popularity and are really easy to understand are the Creative Commons licenses. The point of Creative Commons licenses is to give the creator distribution and usage control, but at the same time allow people to use others' creative property, thereby promoting innovation and digital sharing. There are six basic Creative Commons licenses:
  •  Attribution CC BY - This is the most flexible license. This allows others to use, distribute, alter, and/or build upon your work as long as they credit you for the original. 
  • Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY-SA - This one is still flexible, giving the user the same creative ability as Attribution CC BY, but it demands that the user credit you AND license their new creation under the same terms.
  • Attribution-NoDerivs CC BY-ND - This allows for commercial and non-commercial use as long as the original is used in it's whole original form.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial CC BY-NC - This is like Attribution CC BY, but does not allow for commercial use at all. 
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike CC BY-NC-SA - This is like Attribution-Sharealike CC BY-SA, but does not allow for commercial use at all.
  • Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs CC BY-NC-ND - This is the strictest license. It only allows downloading and sharing non-commercially, no tweaking or building upon, and the user must credit the original.
Other copyright licenses, like those through the U.S. Copyright Office, are similar to Creative Commons in that the copyright license holder has the power to authorize if others use their work and how and for what. This relates to the rights of a work. People can buy the rights from the copyright holder in order to reproduce, distribute, perform, tweak, build upon, etc. For example, my high school had to buy the rights to the musical "Chicago" in order to perform it this year without infringing on the copyright.

As the copyright holder, you have to power to decided how you will allow your work to be used and if you want it to be available for use at all. To see examples of works licensed under Creative Commons, you can go to or

note: All images are from


  1. Posted a couple of links to your copyright articles on my blog! Very helpful! :) Thanks!

  2. Thanks, AlexaBritt! I'm glad you found them helpful. What is your blog called?