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Copyright Decision Tree

Creative Commons Licenses

Chances are, you've seen a Creative Commons license. These licenses enable copyright holders to provide preemptive permission for certain uses. Instead of "All Rights Reserved," Creative Commons licenses enable creators to share work with only "Some Rights Reserved." There are four potential conditions to a Creative Commons license:

Table of potential creative commons limitations
Creative Commons Attribution Icon Person in Circle Attribution All CC licenses require that others who use a work in any way must give the creator credit the way they request.
Creative Commons Non Commercial Icon Slash through Dollar Sign Non-Commercial Work cannot be used commercially unless additional permission from the creator is granted. Most educational uses will be non-commercial.
Creative Common Share Alike Icon Circular Arrow Share Alike Others can copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify the work, as long as they distribute any modified work with the same license.
Creative Common No Derivative Icon Equal Sign in Circle No Derivatives Others can copy, distribute, display, and perform only original copies of the work. In order to make modifications, the creator must give additional permission.

Attributing CC Licensed Content

Here is a photo licensed under a Creative Commons license:

Image of cupcakes with creative common icons as decorations

And this is an ideal attribution: "Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco” by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Because it includes:

How you attribute authors of the CC works will depend on whether you modify the content, if you create a derivative, if there are multiple sources, etc. Find out more about attribution on the CC Wiki.

The content of this box is a derivative of "How to give attribution" by creative commons, used under a CC BY 4.0 license

Other Pre-Approved Licensing

While Creative Commons licenses are the most common copyright pre-approval licenses for educational content, there are other licenses available. For example, software writers often employ the GNU General Public License to enable distribution and modification without copyright restrictions. Carefully review licenses and documentation appended to potential sources.