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Choose your license [Nov. 22, 2012, 5:29 a.m.]

In this task we will take a look at the Creative Commons licenses and how they can help you to open up your data. If you are interested in learning even more about Creative Commons, we suggest you take the 'Get CC savvy'-course.

Creative Commons is a nonprofit organization that enables the sharing and use of creativity and knowledge through free legal tools.

The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web. The default setting of copyright law requires all of these actions to have explicit permission, granted in advance, whether you’re an artist, teacher, scientist, librarian, policymaker, or just a regular user. To achieve the vision of universal access, someone needed to provide a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws. That someone is Creative Commons.

Creative Commons developed easy-to-use copyright licenses to provide creators a simple, standardized way to give the public permission to share and use their creative work — on conditions of your choice. CC licenses let you easily change your copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright and enable you to modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.

Creative Commons licenses are articulated into four basic clauses which the licensor can choose and match to his needs: 


Attribution – «You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).» This clause is a feature in every license. It states that every time we use the work we must clearly indicate who the author is.


Non Commercial – «You may not use this work for commercial purposes.»

This means that if we distribute copies of the work, we can not do it in any way which is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation. To do this, we have to ask the licensor for specific permission.


No Derivatives – «You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.»If we want to modify, to correct, to translate or to remix the work, we have to ask the licensor for specific permission.


Share Alike – «If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.» This clause - as in the Free Software model - grants that the “freedoms” conceded by the author will be also kept on the derivative works and on the derivative ones of the derivative ones, with a persistent effect.

From the matching of these four basic clauses we have the six sheer Creative Commons licenses, which are named by referring to the clauses shown in the previous section.

There are two essential points in this list: ‐ the “Attribution” clause is present in every license; ‐ the “No Derivatives” clause and the “Share Alike” clause are incompatible with each other. In fact, the first one denies the modification of the work, while the second implicitly gives permission to modify the work.

Here is a more detailed explanation about each license:



This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered, in terms of what others can do with your works licensed under Attribution.

Attribution – Share Alike


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial reasons, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use.

Attribution – No Derivatives


 This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non‐ commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.

Attribution – Non Commercial


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 – Non Commercial – Share Alike


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. Others can download and redistribute your work just like the by‐nc‐nd license, but they can also translate, make remixes, and produce new stories based on your work. All new work based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also be non‐ commercial in nature.

Attribution – Non Commercial – No Derivatives


This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, allowing redistribution. This license is often called the “free advertising” license because it allows others to download your works and share them with others as long as they mention you and link back to you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

CC0 is another interesting project by Creative Commons: it is a tool that allows creators to effectively place their works in the public domain through a waiver of all copyright to the extent permitted by law.


CC0 enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright‐protected content to waive copyright interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, in order for others to freely build on, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright.

In contrast to CC’s licenses that allow copyright holders to choose from a range of permissions while retaining their copyright, CC0 empowers another choice altogether – the choice to opt out of copyright and the exclusive rights it automatically grants to creators – the “no rights reserved” alternative to our licenses.

In effect, we know that copyright and other laws throughout the world automatically extend copyright protection to works of authorship and databases, whether the author or creator wants those rights or not. CC0 gives people who want to give up those rights a way to do so, to the fullest extent allowed by law. Once the creator or a subsequent owner of a work applies CC0 to a work, the work is no longer his or hers in any meaningful legal sense. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to rights others may have in the work or how the work is used. Think of CC0 as the “no rights reserved” option.

The last tool we would like to present you is the Public Domain Mark

public domain mark

The Public Domain Mark enables works that are no longer restricted by copyright to be marked as such in a standard and simple way, making them easily discoverable and available to others. Many cultural heritage institutions including museums, libraries and other curators are knowledgeable about the copyright status of paintings, books and manuscripts, photographs and other works in their collections, many of which are old and no longer under copyright.  The Public Domain Mark operates as a tag or a label, allowing institutions like those as well as others with such knowledge to communicate that a work is no longer restricted by copyright and can be freely used by others.  The mark can also be an important source of information, allowing others to verify a work’s copyright status and learn more about the work.

 no rights reserved





some rights reserved





all rights reserved


The figure above shows all licenses and their respective place in the spectrum between no rights reserved and traditional copyright's all rights reserved. To be Free Culture Data we only allow the use of licenses up to Attribution-ShareAlike to safeguard maximum reuse potential.