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Open Licenses

Choose and Apply a Creative Commons License

Attribution for Reusing/Editing

Even though Creative Commons and other open licenses mean you can reuse and edit content without restriction, it is still important to provide accurate attribution to the original resource and author and to make it clear when a work has been adapted/edited. These tools provide some guidance on best practices for attribution when reusing and/or editing Creative Commons licensed items.

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Hillary Miller
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What are Creative Commons Licenses?

Creative Commons licenses are a common open license, especially for scholarship and open educational resources (OER). Like other open licenses, they work within copyright and outline explicitly which rights the creator wishes to retain over their work. Creative commons licenses outline four central restrictions:

The Creative Commons Licenses - Open Licensing with Creative Commons -  LibGuides @ URI at University of Rhode Island  BY: Attribution. Users must attribute the original work and creator.

Downloads - Creative Commons  SA: Share Alike. Any edits must be shared using the same license as the original.

Downloads - Creative Commons  NC: Non-commercial. Users are not allowed to commercialize items. In other words, uses "primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or monetary compensation” are prohibited.

Creative Commons licenses – Hack4FI  ND: No derivatives. Users are not allowed to make any derivatives of the original work. In other words, edits and adjustments, including translations, are prohibited. 


These restrictions combine to make 6 Creative Commons licenses:

Each license can be interpreted by thinking: "Users are allowed to do whatever they want with the work as long as they _______" where you fill in the blank based on the restrictions. So, for example, the CC BY-NC-ND license can be interpreted as  "Users are allowed to do whatever they want with the work as long as they attribute the original creator/work (BY) and don't commercialize (NC) or make changes to the work (ND)."

More on Creative Commons Licenses


Hover over the license text for more information about what each license means. Clicking on the link will take users to the licenses' site on the Creative Commons website.

Creative Commons and OER

Creative Commons licenses are the most commonly used open licenses for open educational resources (OER), which are freely accessible educational materials available with no-cost use, sharing, and editing without restriction. These additional permissions are often called the "5Rs":

  1. Retain: Make, own, and control copies of the content
  2. Reuse: Use the content in a variety of ways
  3. Revise: Adapt, adjust, modify, improve, or alter the content
  4. Remix: Combine the original or revised content with other OER to create something new
  5. Redistribute: Share copies of the original content, your revisions, or your remixes with others

To satisfy the 5Rs, all Creative Commons licenses except those with no-derivatives can be used. Those materials using no-derivatives (CC BY-ND and CC BY-NC-ND) are still considered open, but are not considered OER.

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