What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is an international not-for-profit organisation, which suppplies free licences which content creators can use to signal to other people how they want their content to be shared, reused, and remixed by others. Creative Commons Australia is the affiliate that supports Creative Commons in Australia, and administers the Australian licenses.

Creative Commons licences are an alternative to traditional copyright. Put simply, by default the copyright to everything you create is owned either by you, or the organisation who paid you. Copyright can be bought, sold, and given away. Making your work available under a Creative Common license does not mean you are giving up your copyright. Rather you are allowing others to make use of your work under conditions dictated by you.

You can search for and use Creative Commons content completely free in your LEO units, your teaching materials, and your own creative works, so long as you abide by the restrictions set out in the conditions of the license.

There is a wealth of free content for you to use, including images, video, audio, and even 3D printer files, which have been made available for you to use under a Creative Commons license!

  • For more information about Copyright, particularly Copyright and how it pertains to teaching please read the Library Guide on Copyright, or contact your local Senior Librarian.
  • To learn how to source Creative Commons videos, audio, images, and 3D printer files please read 'How to source Creative Commons content'
  • To learn how to license your own content appropriately, please read 'How to protect your own content with a Creative Commons license'.

Creative Commons licenses are made up of four core elements, which can be combined in different ways to make-up six standardised licenses.

These elements are:

Attribution - This element means that you must attribute the author of the work, and that attributon must comply with any conditions they require (such as linking back to a website). Attribution operates similarly to academic citations, in that it is about crediting the author of the work appropriately.

No derivative works - This means you can only use this work exactly as it currently is, and you can't alter it. For example: if it was attached to an image, you would be unable to edit the image using Photoshop.

share alike iconShare alike - This means that work shared under this license can only be used if the person using it agrees to license the new work under the same license.

Non-commerical - This means the work can only be used for non-commerical purposes, meaning that you are not permitted to make money off the use of it. For example, if a license with this element was attached to a piece of music, the music couldn't be used in a film which was going to be sold in stores.

These licenses vary from the most permissive (the 'Attribution' only license, which only requires that you attribute the content 88x31) , to the most restrictive (the 'Attribution-Non-Commerical-No Derivatives' license which requires that you attribute the author or creator of the work, states that you are unable to make money off the work, and that you are not able to edit the work and have to use it verbatim or 'as is' 88x31-2).

The key feature of Creative Commons licenses is the flexibility they afford to content creators, and content producers alike. By protecting your work (for example, blog posts, photographs, video clips, audio clips, and 3D printer files) with a Creative Commons license, you can allow your work to be used by others for their own projects. Creative Commons licenses is a way of freeing content from the restictions of copyright, and instead conceiving pieces of content as the building blocks of a shared culture.

There are many benefits to the Creative Commons licensing system. These include (but are not limited to):

  • Creative Commons is globally recognised - Creative Commons licenses are becoming globally recognised. Content hosts such as Flickr and YouTube support the use of Creative Commons licenses, and have additional functionality which allows you to let the parameters of your search by content which has been made available under a Creative Commons license.
  • Creative Commons licenses are easy to understand and apply - You do not need to have an extensive understanding of Copyright legislation to be able to apply a Creative Commons license to your work, or to search for and use Creative Commons content which is appropriate to your needs.
  • Creative Commons licenses are legally robust - Creative Commons licenses are constantly being reviewed by lawyers familiar with Copyright legislation around the globe. Additionally, a number of court hearings have enforced the use of Creative Commons licenses, providing jurisprudence on their use and value.
  • The Creative Commons organisation provides support - Creative Commons provides documentation, license generators, search portals, and a robust and lively community, to support you in the application of Creative Commons licenses and the use of Creative Commons licensed content.

(Adapted from 'What are the benefits of offering and using creative commons licences?'. (2016). 1st ed. [PDF] Creative Commons Australia. Retrieved from: https://creativecommons.org.au/content/Benefits_of_CC_08.pdf [Accessed 8 Jun. 2016].)

The Creative Commons movement has impacted on the education sector, giving rise to the OER movement. OER stands for Open Educational Resources. An OER is any type of teaching, learning, or research material which exists in the public domain, and has been released under a license which permits for it be used and/or repurposed by others.

AN OER can be as granular as a single image or Word file, or as large as an entire educational package built using Open Courseware.

The OER Commons website defines Open Educational Resources as:

Open Educational Resources (OER) are teaching and learning materials that are freely available online for everyone to use, whether you are an instructor, student or self-learner. Examples of OER include: full courses, course modules, syllabi, lectures, homework assignments, quizzes, lab and classroom activities, pedagogical materials, games, simulations, and many more resources contained in digital media collections from around the world.

Open Educational Resources are a part of a broader Open movement which encompasses:

  • Open source (relating to business and technology)
  • Open source software
  • Open source hardware
  • Open standards
  • Open access (research)
  • Open design
  • Open knowledge
  • Open data
  • Open content
  • Open courseware
  • Open educational resources
  • Open educational practice

(source: JISC (2010). Open educational resources (OERs) | Jisc. [online] Retrieved from: https://jisc.ac.uk/guides/open-educational-resources [Accessed 9 Jun. 2016].

Themes underpinning the Open movement are that of justice, equity, access, and community building.

'Building an Australasian Commons: Creative Commons Case Studies Volume 1' (edited by Rachel Cobcroft) includes 60 stories of how people are using Creative Commons both in Australia and internationally. You can access it via the embedded link below.

Building an Australasian Commons: Case Studies Volume by Creative Commons Australia

If you would like to access the PDF version of this publication click here.

Cobcroft, R. (Ed.) (2008). Building an Australasian Commons: Creative Commons Case Studies Volume 1 (1st ed.).  Creative Commons Australia. Retrieved from: http://creativecommons.org.au/materials/Building_an_Australasian_Commons_book.pdf [Accessed 8 Jun. 2016].

Cobcroft, R. (Ed.) (2008). Building an Australasian Commons: Creative Commons Case Studies Volume 1 (1st ed.).  Creative Commons Australia. Retrieved from: http://creativecommons.org.au/materials/Building_an_Australasian_Commons_book.pdf [Accessed 8 Jun. 2016].

Kapitzke, C., Dezuanni, M., & Iyer, R. (2011). Copyrights and Creative Commons Licensing: Pedagogical innovation in a higher education media literacy classroom. E-Learning and Digital Media, 8(3), 271.

JISC (2010). Open educational resources (OERs) [online] Retrieved from: https://jisc.ac.uk/guides/open-educational-resources [Accessed 9 Jun. 2016]

Page last updated on 06/02/2020

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