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How to Use the Creative Commons License

Updated on January 20, 2015
tillsontitan profile image

What better way to preserve our memories than photographs? Mary loves taking pictures and sharing them along with her knowledge about them.


What is the Creative Commons License?

Before learning how to use the Creative Commons License one must know what it is....According to Wikipedia, "A Creative Commons license is one of several public copyright licenses that allow the distribution of copyrighted works." Excellent news for writers, being allowed to use copyrighted works that is. Wait though, there's more....the rest says, "as long as they abide by the conditions the author has specified."

Hmm, have we opened a can of worms here? You can use copyrighted work but you have to do it the way the author says. Not really bad because the bottom line is there is NO CHARGE!

We all know when you want to use a copyrighted item you need to contact the author/owner to gain permission. Ninety-nine point nine percent of the time that author/owner is going to give you a "reasonable deal" to use his work.....his idea of reasonable and your idea of reasonable may not be the same! Whether they are or not its going to cost you.


Of course we've always known, when you use another's work you must attribute that work to it's proper author/owner. In the literary world there are three different types of citations; APA Style, MLA Style, and Chicago Style. Whichever style you choose you must give the author credit. Citing the author/owner also allows your readers to check back with that author and look at all the references you've used, showing how much research you have done.

Whichever style you choose you must cite the author and you can do this through in-text parenthetic notes, footnotes, or end notes. Okay, but what about Creative Commons? I just said its free and you have to follow the author/owner's instructions. The interesting thing about Wikipedia is the information, pictures, whatever you find there is owned by the individual creators, not Wikipedia. Wikipedia states that most of what you find there can be freely used and that is were the Creative Commons License comes in.

So, moving back to the Creative Commons License:

  1. It is a public license - use is unlimited
  2. Anyone can apply one to his work
  3. Conditions include - licences with attribution, share-alike, non-commercial and no-derivatives
  4. Can also include Public Domain licenses.

How to Use the Creative Commons License

Now that you know what the Creative Commons License is, how do you use it? Well, number three above listed three 'conditions'; attribution, share-alike, and non-commercial. The first, attribution, is when you can copy the owner's work into your own, you can display it, and you can actually make derivative work based on the owner's original AS LONG AS YOU give the author/owner credit in the manner he/she specifies. Usually they will give you a link to use, one that not only includes their name but a website where they can be found. So the first way to use the license is to attribute the work back to the author/owner. The work will be marked (on Wikipedia) with "by".

The second way is through a Non-Commercial condition. Under the non-commercial, you can do all of the things stated in the paragraph above but you cannot use the work for commercial purposes. This work will be marked " by- nc".

The No-Derivative condition is just what it states, though you can use the work as stated above your cannot base derivative works on the original. This work will be marked "by-nd".

Lastly is Share-Alike. This one is not what it seems. Share-Alike means any work derived from the original author/owner, is bound by the same copyright laws. So, if you make a copy of the original author/owner's work, that copy is bound by the copyright laws back to the original owner. This work will be marked "by-share alike".

Note each marking contains "by" meaning attribution applies in addition to the other conditions.

Attribution Condition
The most important condition for using ANY work and yet still one of the most misunderstood. As writers we always attribute a work back to the author but we are no longer dealing with just books but Internet resources, usernames, a whole new ball game. The "new" attribution should include:

  • the copyright (date, notation, whatever is available)
  • the author's name - including any screen name or User ID if known (sometimes a site such as HP lets people write under a user ID)
  • the name/title of the work
  • the Creative Commons License - a link back to the original license
  • whether or not the work is derivative - Ex. “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].” (from en.Wikipedia)
  • if the author requires the citing of a specific URL you must cite that as well

Of course you should never make it look like the author is backing your work, unless of course that is the case.

Happy citing!
Happy citing! | Source

Creative Commons Licenses Other Than Wikipedia

Wikipedia is not the only web site that offers Creative Commons Licenses....what about YouTube? How many YouTube videos have been shared in other people's writings or web pages? They are done so under the Creative Commons Licenses. Anyone who publicly posts a video on YouTube grants the CC License.

Flickr is another site that has the CC License option. While not all photographs listed on Flickr are posted under the CC License, many are. When on Flickr you can search for CC License photos.

Another site that offers a variety of photographs and photo collections is Fotopedia.

Open Clip Art Library is obviously a little different than the photography sites but offers a large collection of public domain clip art that is totally free to the public. lists this as one of the CC license sites. Many images contain an "Edit Image" button allowing you to edit the image right in the program. However these are .svg and you may not be able to use them.

For music there are a sites called Jamendo and for ccMixer. Euoropeana is, and I quote from their description, "Multi-lingual online collection of millions of digitized items from European museums, libraries, archives and multi-media collections, with procedures for content..."


Always, always attribute a work to the author. If you have more questions about the Creative Commons License you can most likely find answer at, Wikipedia, or on Hub Pages..

Copyright Tillsontitan - All Rights Reserved


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    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 4 years ago from New York

      Thank you was interesting to research too.

    • rajan jolly profile image

      Rajan Singh Jolly 4 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

      Very useful and important information for all those who use copyrighted material in any form.

      Voted up.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Glad you liked this hub epus!

    • epus profile image

      Epus Gren 5 years ago from Philippines

      I appreciate your work again Mr. Till and please do more hubs about this. I voted up for this wonderful hub.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      So happy I could help and possibly save you some money ;) Thanks for stopping by Kohuether.

    • kohuether profile image

      Katherine Olga Tsoukalas 5 years ago from New Hampshire

      This is extremely helpful because I find the rules associated with Creative Commons to be very, very confusing. In the end, I wound up paying the membership at because that was a lot more straightforward! Now that I have your helpful article, I can start using Creative Commons again! :-)

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Gypsy so glad this hub can act as a reference for you!

      livingsta, we learn something new everyday.

      You are welcome newusedcar.

      Thanks for the vote and share Carol.

      Moonlake, you are so right...we can't cover it all ourselves.

      Jaye, I'm not a lawyer but since we are not writing in a specific venue to make money, i.e. magazine article. We can still be considered non-commercial, however, I think the HP staff would be better qualified to address this issue for sure. Great question btw.

    • JayeWisdom profile image

      Jaye Denman 5 years ago from Deep South, USA

      Great article, till, and very useful to HP writers who use illustrations and/or photos in their hubs.

      One question, though: If a photo (properly attributed) is used for a hub that has the potential to earn the writer money (little though it may be) through the HP and Adsense programs, can the use of that photo be deemed "non-commercial?"

      Voted Up++


    • moonlake profile image

      moonlake 5 years ago from America

      Very interesting. This will help me when I'm looking for photos. It's almost impossible to use our own photos in every hub. Voted up and shared.

    • carol7777 profile image

      carol stanley 5 years ago from Arizona

      This is so helpful ...I am always in question of photos and what to do. Voting UP and sharing on facebook.

    • newusedcarssacram profile image

      newusedcarssacram 5 years ago from Sacramento, CA, U.S.A

      Thanks for sharing this interesting and informative hub with all of us.

      Voted Up!!

    • livingsta profile image

      livingsta 5 years ago from United Kingdom

      This is something new I have learned today. Thank you for sharing!

    • Gypsy Rose Lee profile image

      Gypsy Rose Lee 5 years ago from Riga, Latvia

      Thank you for sharing this informative and interesting article. Will bookmark for future reference and passing on.

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Linda.

      Don't worry IM, even though I wrote it, I still have trouble with it!

    • ImKarn23 profile image

      Karen Silverman 5 years ago

      You smart girl! Me not so smart...ugh! Thanks for this information - i had never heard of such a thing before..

    • lrc7815 profile image

      Linda Crist 5 years ago from Central Virginia

      Mary, this is an important subject and you did a great job of making it easier to understand. Thank you!

    • tillsontitan profile image

      Mary Craig 5 years ago from New York

      Thanks Billy. Glad I could clear things up a bit. Hope you had a great weekend.

      Glad you found this useful Jools.

      Me too Audrey. Lots of good stuff there.

      Way to go Frank!

      Thank you for reading and sharing Faith Reader. God bless.

      Only too glad to help SG.

      Mary thanks for the vote and share. I think there are just times we do have to use other's photos.

      mperrottet happy to be of service.

      Angleo happy to clear things up for you.

      Thanks for the votes grandmapearl, I know it can be a confusing issue.

      btrbell nice to know my timing was good! Happy to help.

      Michelle, definitely a tricky happy you found this so useful.

      bdegiulio, thanks for the vote and share. I hope this hub will be useful to a lot of people.

      Vinaya, I'm with you (as to using my own images) but there are times!

    • Vinaya Ghimire profile image

      Vinaya Ghimire 5 years ago from Nepal

      Hi Mary,

      I prefer to use my own image, but this is not always possible, so I'm learning how to look for legal image and properly attribute it. Thanks for a reminder.

    • bdegiulio profile image

      Bill De Giulio 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Great info Mary. I am often confused by all of this but you have made the picture much clearer for me. This info would be very useful for anyone starting out here at HubPages. Great job. VU, sharing, etc.

    • midget38 profile image

      Michelle Liew 5 years ago from Singapore

      Mary, very useful indeed and I am keeping this for reference as attributing photos can be quite tricky. Thanks for sharing! Sharing and adding to my reading list.

    • btrbell profile image

      Randi Benlulu 5 years ago from Mesa, AZ

      Thank you for all of this extremely useful information!I was, actually looking for something on these lines! Up+

    • grandmapearl profile image

      Connie Smith 5 years ago from Southern Tier New York State

      Excellent explanation of a much misunderstood topic. I'm glad to find out more about it here. Thanks for sharing this necessary information for all hubbers! Voted Up, Interesting and Useful

    • Angelo52 profile image

      Angelo52 5 years ago from Central Florida

      Lots of good information on Creative Commons license. Thanks for the explanations. Makes it a bit clearer now.

    • mperrottet profile image

      Margaret Perrottet 5 years ago from Pennsauken, NJ

      Thanks for clearing up how the Creative Commons license works - very useful. Voted up and sharing.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 5 years ago from Florida

      This is such a confusing subject for me. I'm always afraid I'll make an error in attributing photos. I try to take my photos myself, but there are times when I really need to use another person's.

      Great Hub, I voted it UP and will share.

    • sgbrown profile image

      Sheila Brown 5 years ago from Southern Oklahoma

      Great hub! This makes it all a little easier to understand. Very good job! Voting up and more! :)

    • Faith Reaper profile image

      Faith Reaper 5 years ago from southern USA

      Thanks Mary!

      What a very useful hub here. I learned a lot. It can be very confusing at times. Thanks for clarifying a lot of things for me here in this insightful hub you have written.

      Voted up+++ and important one to share!

      God bless. In His Love, Faith Reaper

    • Frank Atanacio profile image

      Frank Atanacio 5 years ago from Shelton

      I agree with Audrey in a wikimedia flair.. a great share til truth be told I didn't really know what a creative commons license was....LOL :) but I got it

    • AudreyHowitt profile image

      Audrey Howitt 5 years ago from California

      What a handy hub! I love Wikimedia Commons--!

    • Jools99 profile image

      Jools99 5 years ago from North-East UK

      Very interesting and extremely useful Mary. It's important that we all know the rules :o)

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 5 years ago from Olympia, WA

      Interesting and useful, Mary! This is such a can of worms, and easy to misunderstand. Thank you for the clarification, and have a great weekend.