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The information presented in this guide is intended for informational purposes and should not be construed as legal advice or guidance. If you have specific legal questions pertaining to the University of Arizona, please contact the Office of the General Counsel.
What is a Creative Commons License?
A Creative Commons license is a human- and machine-readable copyright license that clearly indicates what rights the copyright owner retains and what rights the copyright owner offers to other users.
CC licenses are built on copyright law. They apply only when the work falls within the scope of copyright law. In other words, CC licenses work on top of copyright law provisions, not instead of the copyright law.
CC licenses do not apply in cases where copyright does not apply. This includes other rights, such as patents, trademarks, privacy and publicity rights.
CC licenses do not apply in cases where the use of a work falls under one of the other exceptions or limitations to copyright protection, such as fair use. If the use of a work is permitted by an exception to copyright law, then the use is outside the regulation of a copyright license like a CC license.
You can’t attach a CC license to a work unless you own its copyright.
No takebacks! Once you license, you can’t un-license (in other words, a CC license is non-revocable).
Elements of a CC License
Creative Commons Licenses consist of some combination of four (4) basic elements. These elements combine to form six (6) CC license options.
Attribution or BY. All licenses include this element.
Non-commercial or NC. This designates that the work can only be used for non-commercial purposes (uses not intended for “commercial advantage or monetary gain”).
Share Alike or SA. This indicates that adaptations based on the work must be licensed under the same or compatible license.
No Derivatives or ND. This means that users cannot share adaptations of the work. (Users may make adaptations for private use but users may not distribute those adaptations.)
Copyright and CC licenses provide a range of “openness” to users. Licensors can choose how open or permissive a license to apply, from All Rights Reserved to Some Rights Reserved to No Rights Reserved (material dedicated to the Public Domain).
All Creative Commons licenses require that attribution be given to the creator of the content. Proper attribution allows the public to access the original work, identify the original creators, and know what license terms apply to specific content. The best practice for attribution is to follow the TASL approach:
Title (not required, but recommended, under the CC 4.0 licenses)
An ideal attribution will follow the format:
“Title of Work” by Creator/Author is licensed under Specific CC license.
Each element – title, author, CC license – will link to the source.