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Creative Commons

An introduction to Creative Commons licensing of copyrighted works.

Openly Licensed Sources

When to reuse CC-licensed works

There are many scenarios where you may want to reuse an openly licensed work that you have found. Here are some examples: 

  • Sharing journal articles with students or colleagues
  • Data mining of articles for research
  • Using and/or modifying open educational resources (OER) for teaching
  • Incorporating openly licensed content in an artistic work

What kinds of reuse is allowed? 

This depends on which Creative Commons license is displayed on the work. The most open license, the CC BY, allows users to share, copy, modify, and remix the work, even in a commercial setting. The only limitation is that any reuse my include a complete attribution to the original work. On the other end of the spectrum, a CC BY-NC-ND license allows you share and copy the work, but you cannot make any changes to it or use it in a commercial setting. Make sure you examine the license closely to determine whether your intended use is allowed. 

License compatibility

Sometimes you may want to combine multiple openly licensed works into a single derivative or adaptation. This is especially common in OER remixes. Before working with multiple CC-licensed sources, you should understand that not all licenses are compatible. This chart can help determine which licenses can be combined in an adaptation: 

A chart showing CC license compatibility. Licenses with a "share-alike" or "no derivatives" element are not always compatible with other CC licenses.

Image source: Creative Commons via Wikimedia Commons

Source attribution

One condition of all CC licenses is attribution. When you reuse an openly licensed resource, you must display a citation to the original, including the following elements: 

  • Title
  • Author
  • Source
  • License

Here are some examples of attributions for different types of work: 

Luckily, you don't normally have to create your attribution from scratch. You can copy and modify the attribution from the source itself or use a citation tool such as the Open Washington Attribution Builder