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Creative Commons Licenses

Why Creative Commons?

Creative Commons licenses make it easy to locate images, videos, audio recordings, and other materials that are free to use and that do not require permission from the copyright holder.

Prior to the Creative Commons licensing system, people who wanted to insert illustrations, images, media, or any materials created by others into their own work (presentations, articles, webpages, etc.) had to either find works in the public domain or use what they wanted and risk copyright infringement.

Copyright Basics

The current copyright system is complicated and confusing. Basic facts about copyright are:

  • Copyright is a bundle of rights regarding the use, reproduction, and public performance of materials.
  • Just about everything is copyrighted as soon as it is in fixed form, including images, videos, photographs, and audiorecordings.
  • Copyright of materials lasts for the life of the creator/author, plus 70 years. If the materials are the work of a coporation, copyright extends to 95 years from publication.
  • Copyright holders can specify which rights they want to retain, and which they want to sign away. The set of Creative Commons licenses makes it easy for authors/creators to allow others to use their works without seeking permission or fearing they are violating copyright.

For more information about copyright, visit the Copyright Research Guide.

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a set of licensing tools that allow creators to specify how others can use their work. The licenses, which work alongside copyright, are easy to understand and available free of charge.

Watch Creative Commons' "Get Creative!" video to learn more about how and why the licenses were developed.

"Get Creative" by Creative Commons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY) license.