Creative Commons Licenses

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a global nonprofit organization, a set of legal tools, a global network, and a movement to allow people to create and share their work openly with the world. Creative Commons began as a response to the new capabilities the internet proves which are in stark contrast to the legal boundaries of traditional copyright laws. The internet provides users the ability to share creativity and knowledge with the world at the click of a button and Creative Commons Licenses provide users to retain their copyright protection and allow the ability of open sharing on a global setting. To learn more visit or view the list below for further readings.

Creative Commons for Educators and Librarians

This book provides an in-depth coverage of CC licenses, open practices, and the ethos of the Commons.

Made with Creative Commons

A guide to sharing your knowledge and creativity with the world and sustaining your operation while you do.

The Beginning

Copyright provides content creators exclusive rights to their creations, preventing others from copying and adapting that work. The internet provides content creators the ability to access, share, and collaborate content globally at the click of a button. The disconnect between an old law and new technology needed a modern solution.


The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) sparked the idea for this solution. This Act extended copyright protection for every work in the United States for another 20 years. This meant items could not be placed in the Public Domain until 70 years after the life of a creator.


Lawrence Lessing believed this law to be unconstitutional stating the terms of copyright had been continuously extended thus providing content creators an extended monopoly over their work. Lessing represented Eric Eldred in the Eldred vs Ashcroft case. Eldred was a web developer who made his career by making public domain works available to others.


The loss of their case did not impede Lessing's inspiration from Eldred. Lessing and others created a small nonprofit organization called Creative Commons which would assist a creator's ability to share their digital works globally within the boundaries of copyright law. In 2002 they published the first set of Creative Commons licenses to achieve this goal.


Creative Commons embodies global participation with staff and contractors working around the world. They focus their efforts on stewarding the CC legal tools while simultaneously supporting open movements. The organization's future focuses on building connections and collaborations of openly licensed work worldwide.


Creative Commons legal tools provide content creators the ability to make their creative works freely available online while describing the boundaries in which the work can be reimagined. These tools reflect a belief where everyone can contribute their knowledge and creativity in a shared culture and society. These contributions have created a global digital commons full of diverse types of content and ideas.


Creative Commons has become a global coalition of activists, policymakers, and creators who steward this movement. The CC Global Network has thematic areas focused on Open Education, Copyright, and Open GLAM where volunteers can collaborate on activities and projects with 700+ members in almost 50 global chapters.


Today, you will find CC licenses across the web on every imaginable type of content. Nearly 2 billion works have been licensed which continuously add to this global commons of shared work. To become a part of this community, visit the Creative Commons Global Network online at to find your next open opportunity!

To learn more visit

Since 2001, a global coalition of people has formed around Creative Commons and open licensing. This includes activists working on copyright reform around the globe, policymakers advancing policies mandating open access to publicly funded educational resources, research and data, and creators who share a core set of values. Most of the people and institutions who are part of the CC movement are not formally connected to Creative Commons.

The CC Global Network (CCGN), is a place for everyone interested in and working with open movements. CCGN members come from diverse backgrounds and include lawyers, activists, scholars, artists, and more, working on a wide range of projects and issues connected to sharing and collaboration. The CC Global Network has over 600 members and over 40 Chapters around the world. To learn more, see if there is a Chapter in your country or contact The Network Platforms are the thematic areas of the Network where volunteers collaborate on activities and projects. CC’s Network Platforms are open to everyone and include the Open Education Platform, a Copyright Platform, and an Open GLAM Platform.

"1.2 Creative Commons Today” by Creative Commons. CC BY 4.0.

Choosing, Using, and Finding CC Works

There are many tools available to help a creator find the correct Creative Commons License for their work. A creative Commons license can be thought of as a mode of communication. CC License allows future reusers exactly how a work can be shared, kept, reused, modified, and remixed by simply viewing the icons of the license. Licenses can be as restrictive as not allowing any derivatives of the work to be shared, to as free as requiring only that the original author be attributed for their work all while having the underlying layer of copyright protection. Just like people, every piece of created content is unique and has its own value. Choosing the correct license for your work allows the global community to understand how the content creator would like their work to be utilized.

Listed are a few tools you can use to choose the license that best fits each unique situation.

Choose a License - This chooser helps you determine which Creative Commons License is right for you in a few easy steps.

Open Attribution Builder - This is a tool to help you build attributions for a work. As you fill out the form, it automatically generates the attribution for you.

Not all creative commons licenses are compatible with each other. Before creating a collection, adapting, or remixing CC works, check this table to ensure the works can be used together.

chart of cc license compatibility

CC Search
CC Search is a Creative Commons search engine that allows users to browse over 500 million images available for reuse.

Creative Commons Platforms
This is a list of platforms that make it easy for users to discover, utilize, and share CC works.

Google Advanced Search
Using Google's advanced search feature you can filter your results by "Usage Rights". This allows you to find openly licensed work.

Major Creative Commons Works
Wikipedia has gathered a list of major Creative Commons licensed works that can be used to search openly licensed content.

OER Commons
OER Commons is a platform that allows users to filter search results by different Creative Commons licenses.