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Creative Commons Basics

How Creative Commons licensing supports OER


Creative Commons (CC) licensing is a way for authors or creators of work to share it broadly without having to grant permission to each individual who wants to use it. Whether you want to create open materials or use open content, it is best to familiarize yourself with the six main types of CC licenses. These licenses dictate how educators can use the content in their educational settings.

  1. Attribution (CC BY): This is the most flexible type of CC license. Others can use, modify, share, and build upon your work. They can even it use it to make money. The only condition for use is that they give you credit for creation of the original work. Attribution, or CC BY, is foundational to CC licensing and each of the five additional licenses discussed below require providing credit to the original author of the work.

  2. Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND): In addition to attribution, this license states that others can use and share the original work but cannot share modified forms of the original work. Users can share your work with others, or they can modify it for their own use, but they cannot share it with others if it has been modified.

  3. Attribution-ShareALike (CC BY-SA): In addition to attribution, this license says that others can modify and share your content, but any new creations that stem from the original work must be shared in a similar way. If you create content with this license, for example, and someone else takes it and improves it, whatever they create must also have this license.

  4. Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC): This is very similar to #1, the Attribution license (CC BY), with a major exception: they cannot use your original content for commercial purposes (to make money).

  5. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA): While this license is similar to #4, Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC), anyone who modifies content under this license must also apply this license to their new work. In #4, they could modify original work so long as they provide attribution and don’t use it for commercial purposes but could give this “derivative” work any license they want. When using original material with a CC BY-NC-SA license, any derivative work must also have the same license.

  6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND): In addition to attribution, users cannot modify the original content, nor can they use the original content for commercial purposes. Users can only use the original content and share it with others (while crediting the original author).

The chart below provides a summary of each type of license, as well as how flexible they are for users.

This material was created by Creative Commons and published freely under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license at

Strategy Resources

Share Your Work Using Creative Commons

For those interested using Creative Commons licenses, Creative Commons offers an informative Share Your Work... Learn More

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