Creative Commons Licensing

Creative Commons - Some rights reserved

Help others attribute you! Choose which CC License to use with the License Feature Selector.

What is a Creative Commons License?

Creative Commons Licenses are copyright licenses that grant certain rights to the end user, while allowing the author to retain copyright over their work. Creative Commons licenses are designed to move works from the traditional "All Rights Reserved" to "Some Rights Reserved." 

Conditions of Creative Commons Licenses 

Creative Commons licenses have one or many of the following conditions. Each condition is indicated by a symbol and a two-letter abbreviation:

Image of a stick person inside a circle

Attribution (BY): All Creative Commons licenses require that anyone who uses the work must cite the original creator of the work and the source of the work. 


Image of a strikethrough a dollar sign


NonCommercial (NC): Some Creative Commons licenses require that the work can only be used for non-commercial purposes.

Equal symbol inside a circle

NoDerivatives (ND): Some Creative Commons licenses require that no adaptations of the work can be created and shared. Users can make small changes that do not constitute an adaptation (for example, fixing a typo, creating a physical copy of a digital work, or using the complete work in a collection of works).

 Refresh symbol inside a circle

ShareAlike (SA):  Some Creative Commons licenses require that, in the event an end-user wants to share an adaptation of the work, they must share the work with the same or an equivalent license.


Six Variations of Creative Commons Licenses

The four conditions can be combined to create six possible licenses. Each license has a badge, which includes the Creative Commons symbol in the left corner, followed by the symbols for each condition of the license. 

The six licenses are:

How do Creative Commons Licenses Work?

Creative Commons licences are human readable, legally sound, and machine readable. Each license has three layers:

  • Commons Deed: The commons deed provides a plain-language summary of the terms of the license. The commons deed is not legally enforceable, but it provides a summary of the terms of the license
  • Legal Code: The legal code is designed to work with copyright law internationally and within Canada. The legal code includes the legally-enforceable terms and conditions of the license, and is written by lawyers with expertise in copyright law.
  • Machine-Readable Metadata: When used on the web, CC licenses also are equipped with metadata that makes the work discoverable as an openly-licensed work by search engines.

Learn more about Creative Commons Licenses

Questions? Email the Research and Scholarly Communication Librarians