Updated 24 May 2022
This information sheet provides a short introduction to Creative Commons. For further information, including a detailed guide on how to find and attribute Creative Commons material, see the Creative Commons Information Pack.
Creative Commons provides an alternative licensing system so that authors, musicians and other creators can grant rights to the public to use their work without payment but still retain control over their copyright material. Schools can use Creative Commons resources such as music, film clips and photographs in their projects and teaching resources free of charge.
Conditions for using Creative Commons and other material
The licence terms under which items are available on these websites vary. Generally, you are asked to attribute (acknowledge) the name of the original creator when you use a copy of their work. Others require you to attribute the original creator and send them a copy of any resources you create which incorporate their material. Check the licence terms on each item before use.
Creative Commons Licence Symbols
Creative Commons licensed material can be identified by the use of one of the following symbols. Usually a notice with the words “Some Rights Reserved” will appear with one or more of these symbols. More information about the symbols used in Creative Commons licences is available at: http://creativecommons.org.au/licences.
|Licence||Symbol||Type of Use||You Can||Attribution Required|
|Attribution (BY)||Commercial and non commercial||Copy and enhance (adapt or modify), redistribute (publish, display, exhibit, publicly perform or communicate eg by email or by placing on a website) and license to others on any terms.||Yes|
|Attribution Share Alike (BY-SA)||Commercial and non commercial||Copy, enhance and redistribute but you must make the new work available on same licence terms as original||Yes|
|Attribution No Derivatives (BY-ND)||Commercial and non commercial||Copy but not enhance. Redistribute only in original form.||Yes|
|Attribution Non-commercial (BY-NC)||Non Commercial only||Copy, enhance and redistribute. License to others on any terms.||Yes|
|Attribution Non-commercial Share Alike (BY-NC-SA)||Non Commercial only||Copy, enhance and redistribute but you must make the new work available on same licence terms as original||Yes|
|Attribution Non-commercial No Derivatives (BY-NC-ND)||Non commercial only||Copy but not enhance. Redistribute only in original form.||Yes|
For a quick guide on finding Creative Commons material, see section ‘Quick Reference Guide to Finding Creative Commons Material’
Attribution Only Licences
“Attribution Only” licences (see for example, the Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia licence) are the easiest to use. These licences allow you to copy and enhance (adapt or modify) the source material and make your version available to others (redistribute) as long as you attribute the creator of the original material.
How to attribute Creative Commons material
You should always attribute the original work by adding a notice giving the following information (these details can usually be found on the original item):
- the name (or pseudonym) of the creator of the original work
- the name of the item
- the details of the licence it was provided under (eg “Creative Commons Attribution 2.5 Australia”)
- the web address (URL) of the original item and the website it was found on (eg Flickr, Owl Music Search, etc).
However, you are only expected to provide this information in a form which is reasonable in the circumstances. This will depend on the information available about the original item, the way you are using the item and the space available. On a film, for example, it would be reasonable to add the name of the creator of the item with the Creative Commons details as a “credit” at the end of the film. If space is limited, for example, in the case of a photograph, list the name of the original photographer and the Creative Commons licence details under the photo.
Example: Chart on Volcanoes found on Flickr
Made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution Licence: commercial and non-commercial use permitted; can be copied, enhanced and redistributed but attribution is required.
Original Chart: Cogdogblog (Flickr)
Made available under Creative Commons 2.0 Attribution
Available at: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cogdog/817669/
Creative Commons and other Open Access Resources on the Web
Note to Teachers: Students should be supervised when searching these databases – some material may not be suitable for younger students.
Information about Creative Commons
- Creative Commons international site
- Creative Commons Australia site
- Wiki Creative Commons – list of sites which host CC-licensed material
Search tools for finding Creative Commons and Open Access resources
- Openverse – search engine hosted on WordPress (formerly CC Search)
- Google advanced search – Google advanced-search allows you to search for material based on its “usage rights”
- Yahoo! advanced search – Yahoo! advanced-search allows you to search for CC licensed material only
- Flickr – allows you to search the Flickr photo archive for CC material
- Firefox – an internet browser with a built in CC search function.
Web resources where all material is CC licensed or open access text
- Wiki Creative Commons Books – CC wiki listing notable CC licensed books
- Freepress – an artistic project which releases an eclectic mix of writing under CC licensing
- Austlii – collection of Australian state and federal legislation, case law and journals. AustLII participates in the free access to law movement.
- Geograph – photographs of the British Isles all under CC licences
- Openphoto – a moderated photo community with over 3000 CC licensed photos in various categories
- CCmixter – CC sound remix tool and archive
- Magnatune – CC record label
- Jamendo – CC music distribution site
- CChits – collaborative podcast where users can contribute, find and share music under CC licences
- Artistserver– music community
- Wiki Creative Commons Film – CC wiki listing notable CC licensed films
- Orange Blender – Elephants Dream, open source film
- Cafune-na-rede – Cafune, feature-length CC film
- MIT Open Courseware – provides free, searchable access to MIT’s course materials for educators, students, and self-learners around the world.
- OpenDOAR – a directory of open access academic repositories, featuring collections such as:
- Teaching and Learning Research Programme which supports and develops the UK’s educational research to improve outcomes for learners of all ages.
- Harvard-Smithsonian Centre for Astrophysics which has built an extensive collection of digital video materials supporting science, technology, engineering, and mathematics education reform.
- Overmundo Banco de Cultura – Brazilian multi-format CC archive (in Portuguese, but you can view the licences in English).
Web resources where some material is CC licensed or open access images
- Flickr – online photo album – CC licensed material can be accessed via the main site, or through a dedicated portal at Flickr: Creative Commons.
- Picture Australia (Flickr) – Australian themed images, some of which are CC licensed.
- The Internet Archive – an internet library hosting thousands of CC-licensed and Public Domain video, audio, and text items
- Second Life – a resident built virtual world, which allows open licensing for content created in the world
- Remix Commons – a network of free culture projects in the UK
- Open Clip Art Library
- The Light and Matter – a series of introductory physics textbooks available for free under a CC licence
- Berklee Shares – provides music lessons in text, audio and video format under CC licence.
For further information, contact your local copyright manager.