Creative Commons licenses come with a variety of mix-and-match pieces. Creators, or others who own copyrights, can choose the combination of terms that make the most sense for them.
Attribution - BY - "you can use my works, but you must provide attribution."
NonCommercial - NC - "you can use my works, but only for noncommercial purposes."
No Derivatives - ND - "you can use my works, as long as you do not change them."
ShareAlike - SA - "you can use my works, but if you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original."
Only the Attribution term can stand on its own as a full license; the others only work in certain combinations. Thus, the current full suite Creative Commons licenses are BY, BY-NC, BY-ND, BY-SA, BY-NC-ND, and BY-NC-SA. Learn more about the details of these licenses from the Creative Commons organization.
The Creative Commons licenses have evolved over the years - the current version of the licenses is 4.0, but previous versions have had slightly different details. Users may need to check the specific terms of a specific version of a license; creators granting CC licenses may need to keep up to date on changes as they evolve.
All Creative Commons licenses preserve, and do not override existing copyright exceptions and limitations. For example even when an owner has included a "No Derivatives" term in the license they granted, users may be able to make changes if those changes are fair use.
No Creative Commons license grants rights to users to sub-license. So for example, if a non-profit research center released a report under a CC-BY license, and the report included images available under BY-NC licenses, a later commercial user would be able to use the report, but would have to approach the image rightsholders for permission to reproduce the images on the commercial user's webpage.
- Creative Commons' detailed comparison and info on the various versions of the licenses (fairly technical)
- Creative Commons' long list of Frequently Asked Questions (very readable, less technical)
Unless otherwise noted, all content on the Copyright Information section of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
This web site presents information about copyright law. The University Libraries make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.