Creative Commons



Though the term tends to be used loosely Creative Commons (CC) is in reality an organisation that grants licences.




What is a CC licence?

Founded in 2001 the organisation has defined an alternative to standard copyright by filling the gap between full copyright, where use is not permitted without permission, and public domain use, where permission is not required.

A CC licence enables people to share their copyrighted work in a manner that allows others to copy, edit, build upon, etc. their work while they retain copyright to the original work.

These CC licences DO NOT REPLACE COPYRIGHT. They simply amend the copyright from ‘All rights reserved’ to ‘Some rights reserved’. The creator still holds overall copyright to the original work but is granting permission for it to be used by others without rescinding their rights.

Sources of CC Material

A search of the internet (‘Where to find creative commons material.’) will return a number of responses.

Some sites, such as photo stock sources and provide all their material under a CC licence whereas others require users to filter their selection by specifically requesting creative commons material only.

Anyone considering a mixed site should take great care because it is easy to get confused or accidentally miss the fact some material requires specific permission for use. Recommendation is, if not accustomed to using such sites, the novice user avoids them. There are sufficient all CC licence sites to meet most requirements.

Note: Using non-CC licence material without permission may lead to legal action.

Using CC Material

In many instances CC material may be used freely without further consideration. However, if they wish, the overall copyright holder of the original work may apply some minor conditions, such as the requirement for attribution, non-commercial use, and nature of use.


In other words giving appropriate credit to the originating creator of the work.

Some creators and sites, such as the two mentioned above, do not require users to provide any attribution for the work but may sometimes suggest it as a friendly and polite thing to do. In these circumstances there is no obligation upon users: the choice is entirely theirs.

In other circumstances, for example YouTube’s music source, some creators clearly state their work may be used but attribution MUST be ascribed. These normally provide the wording, etc., users need to utilise. Others will clearly state if the work may be used without attribution.


There are some issues round what is defined as being commercial and non-commercial. It is a complex argument that even the Creative Commons organisation has decided not to pursue. The common sense approach for the individual (this article is as usual primarily intended for independent authors), is not to use the material for ‘hard selling’ e.g. where they expect to gain considerable commercial and financial reward. It is suggested for those who are taking a less aggressive approach, the material may be utilised for such things as website and blog posts, and social media sharing.

If the copyright holder has not imposed any such condition or restraint, users may utilise the material as they wish.

Nature of Use

Most sources, including those where everything is covered by a CC licence, especially stock photo sites, require users ensure any material containing (or referring to) recognisable people or faces is NOT utilised in a negative or derogatory manner. In some instances they suggest users first gain the person’s permission before using such material. A common sense approach is simply to avoid using such material e.g. images or photos, in a negative manner or at least, if they really feel the need to utilise them, blur the image to an extent that the person is not definable.


Users of CC licence material should be grateful for the generosity of those creators who enable their works to be utilised freely.

Providing attribution should be considered as a means of thanking the originator of a work, though of course, it is not a necessity in many instances. Where attribution is required, it must be given otherwise the user opens themselves to legislative action.

CC licence material should always be utilised with respect.

Note: Creative Commons is sometimes referred to as ‘Royalty Free’.

Anyone wishing to provide their work for others to use under a creative commons licence may apply for such a licence at:

Disclaimer: Neither T. R. Robinson Publications nor T. R. Robinson, other than being users of some, have any affiliation to any of the companies or organisations mentioned in this article. Nor do either receive any remuneration for referring to or mentioning them.

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