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Digital Essentials: Licences & creative commons

Copyright Licences

What is a licence agreement?

A Copyright License Agreement is a contract where a copyright owner allows another person or company to use their copyrighted material in one way or another. The licence agreement will include what the person can do with the copyright material such as whether they can reprint it, distribute it, use it for a specified amount of time, and more.

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What is Creative Commons (CC)?

Creative Commons (CC) is a copyright-based system of modular licenses or "permissions" for the use of copyright materials.

Depending on the permissions the licenser allows, you can copy, publish in digital form, publicly perform (all or in part) according to a combination of these general, baseline rights:

  • Attribute (acknowledge) the authorship
  • Not alter terms of license unless you obtain permission from the creator to override any restrictions
  • Link to license from copies of work
  • Not use technology (digital rights management), to restrict other licensees' uses of work.

How Can I use Creative Commons?

If you want to use an image, video clip, document or work under a Creative Commons license, there are different license terms. The most basic license allows you to copy, distribute, display, perform, edit, remix and build upon the work for commercial or non commercial purposes, provided you attribute the creator, additional creators and link to the source. A CC license may have one or more additional elements which carry further licensing terms. Refer to choose a license at

Importantly, any work you create may also be made Creative Commons if you wish others to be able to use it. See the License Builder.

License terms: Baseline permissions and core conditions

There are six standardised CC licenses. Each of the CC licenses grants certain baseline permissions, authorising people to re-use the material without additional permissions, provided they comply with core conditions, as well as all other general terms in the license.

The core conditions are:

  • Attribution (BY): The core condition that applies to all six of the standard CC licenses is the requirement that the author of the work is attributed
  • Non-Commercial (NC): Requires all use of the material be for non-commercial purposes (i.e., materials could be used for educational or non-profit organisations)
  • No Derivatives (ND): Licensees may copy, distribute, display and perform only verbatim copies of the work without creating any derivatives or remixes of the material
  • Share Alike (SA): Works or licenses with this condition require all copies or adaptations of the work to be released under the same or similar license as the original




All Creative Commons License images from Creative Commons, n.d. Retrieved from Used under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0: 

Standardised CC Licenses

Attribution (CC BY) 4.0 Int

Allows users to distribute, remix and build upon a work, and create Derivative Works – even for commercial use – provided they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties).

Attribution-Share Alike (CC BY-SA) 4.0 Int

As above but any new creations based on the work must also be licensed under the same terms.

Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) 4.0 Int

As CC BY but only for Non-Commercial purposes. Derivative Works do not have to be Shared Alike.

Attribution-NonCommercial-Share Alike (CC BY-NC-SA) 4.0 Int

Lets others distribute, remix and build upon the work, but only if it is for non-commercial purposes, they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties) and they license their derivative works under the same terms.

Attribution-No Derivatives (CC BY-ND) 4.0 Int

As CC BY but no Derivative works are allowed.


Attribution-NonCommercial-No Derivatives (CC BY-NC-ND) 4.0 Int

The most restrictive of the six main licences, allowing redistribution of the work in its current form only. This licence is often called the ‘free advertising’ licence because it allows others to download and share the work as long as they credit the original creator/s (and any other nominated parties), they don’t change the material in any way and they don’t use it commercially.

CC0 enables scientists, educators, artists and other creators and owners of copyright- or database-protected content to waive those copyright interests in their works and thereby place them as completely as possible in the public domain, so that others may freely build upon, enhance and reuse the works for any purposes without restriction under copyright or database law.

Read the CC0 FAQ Read the CC0 summary and legal text.

Creative Commons provides an easy Web form to decide on the license that best suits your purposes to release your work. See below for an overview of the attributes of your license.

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