Creative Commons license

(from Wikipedia)

A Creative Commons (CC) license is one of several public copyright licenses that enable the free distribution of an otherwise copyrighted work. A CC license is used when an author wants to give people the right to share, use, and build upon a work that they have created. CC provides an author flexibility (for example, they might choose to allow only non-commercial uses of their own work) and protects the people who use or redistribute an author’s work from concerns of copyright infringement as long as they abide by the conditions that are specified in the license by which the author distributes the work.

There are several types of CC licenses. The licenses differ by several combinations that condition the terms of distribution. They were initially released on December 16, 2002 by Creative Commons, a U.S. non-profit corporation founded in 2001.

Types of licenses

The CC licenses all grant the “baseline rights”, such as the right to distribute the copyrighted work worldwide for non-commercial purposes, and without modification. The details of each of these licenses depends on the version, and comprises a selection out of four conditions:
Icon Right Description
Attribution Attribution (BY) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only if they give the author or licensor the credits in the manner specified by these.
Share-alike Share-alike (SA) Licensees may distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs the original work. (See also copyleft.)
Non-commercial Non-commercial (NC) Licensees may copy, distribute, display, and perform the work and make derivative works based on it only for noncommercial purposes.
Non-derivative No Derivative Works (ND) Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work, not derivative works based on it.

The last two clauses are not free content licenses, according to definitions such as DFSG or the Free Software Foundation‘s standards, and cannot be used in contexts that require these freedoms, such as Wikipedia. For software, Creative Commons includes three free licenses created by other institutions: the BSD License, the GNU LGPL, and the GNU GPL.

Mixing and matching these conditions produces sixteen possible combinations, of which eleven are valid Creative Commons licenses and five are not. Of the five invalid combinations, four include both the “nd” and “sa” clauses, which are mutually exclusive; and one includes none of the clauses. Of the eleven valid combinations, the five that lack the “by” clause have been retired because 98% of licensors requested attribution, though they do remain available for reference on the website. This leaves six regularly used licenses:

Seven regularly used licenses

Icon Description Acronym Free/Libre
CC0 icon Freeing content globally without restrictions CC0 Yes
CC-BY icon Attribution alone BY Yes
CC-by-NC icon Attribution + Noncommercial BY-NC No
CC-BY-SA icon Attribution + ShareAlike BY-SA Yes
CC-BY-ND icon Attribution + NoDerivatives BY-ND No
CC-BY-NC-SA icon Attribution + Noncommercial + ShareAlike BY-NC-SA No
CC-BY-NC-ND icon Attribution + Noncommercial + NoDerivatives BY-NC-ND No

For example, the Creative Commons Attribution (BY) license allows one to share and remix (create derivative works), even for commercial use, so long as attribution is given.

Version 4.0 and international use

The original non-localized Creative Commons licenses were written with the U.S. legal system in mind, so the wording could be incompatible within different local legislations and render the licenses unenforceable in various jurisdictions. To address this issue, Creative Commons asked its affiliates to translate the various licenses to reflect local laws in a process called “porting.” As of July 2011, Creative Commons licenses have been ported to over 50 jurisdictions worldwide.

The latest version 4.0 of the Creative Commons licenses, released on November 25, 2013, are generic licenses that are applicable to most jurisdictions and do not usually require ports. No new ports have been implemented in version 4.0 of the license. Version 4.0 discourages using ported versions and instead acts as a single global license.



Since 2004, all current licenses require attribution of the original author (the BY component). The attribution must be given to “the best of [one’s] ability using the information available”. Generally this implies the following:

        • Include any copyright notices (if applicable). If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, those notices must be left intact, or reproduced in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which the work is being re-published.
        • Cite the author’s name, screen name, or user ID, etc. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice to link that name to the person’s profile page, if such a page exists.
        • Cite the work’s title or name (if applicable), if such a thing exists. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.
        • Cite the specific CC license the work is under. If the work is being published on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website.
      • Mention if the work is a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, one needs to identify that their work is a derivative work, e.g., “This is a Finnish translation of [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

Non-commercial licenses

The “non-commercial” option included in some Creative Commons licenses is controversial in definition, as it is sometimes unclear what can be considered a non-commercial setting, and application, since its restrictions differ from the principles of open content promoted by other permissive licenses. In 2014 Wikimedia published a guide to using Creative Commons licences as wiki pages for translations and as PDF.

Zero / public domain

Besides licenses, Creative Commons also offers a way to release material into the public domain through CC0, a legal tool for waiving as many rights as legally possible, worldwide. Development of CC0 began in 2007 and the tool was released in 2009.

In 2010, Creative Commons announced its Public Domain Mark, a tool for labeling works already in the public domain. Together, CC0 and the Public Domain Mark replace the Public Domain Dedication and Certification, which took a U.S.-centric approach and co-mingled distinct operations.

In 2011, the Free Software Foundation added CC0 to its free software licenses. and currently recommends CC0 as the preferred method of releasing software into the public domain.

In February 2012 CC0 was submitted to Open Source Initiative (OSI) for their approval but, due to problems, it was rejected. The OSI FAQ concludes “At this time, we do not recommend releasing software using the CC0 public domain dedication” because of the reservations of being able to waiver copyright (aka “public domain”) from a legal standpoint in all jurisdictions. The OSI FAQ further explains that “CC0 was not explicitly rejected, but the License Review Committee was unable to reach consensus that it should be approved, and Creative Commons eventually withdrew the application”. In the withdrawal message the Creative Commons representative explained that CC0 was initially developed for the needs of the scientific data community in order to help sharing data freely.


Rights in an adaptation can be expressed by a CC license that is compatible with the status or licensing of the original work or works on which the adaptation is based.

SMAB license

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