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Copyright & Fair Dealing

Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons and why should I use it?

Creative Commons is a form of licensing that bridges the gap between "all rights reserved" copyright and public domain. It allows creators let others easily use their work under specific conditions while retaining copyright and credit.  For works that are not expressly marked Creative Commons, you must follow the legal requirements of the Copyright Act.

Creative Commons Licenses

A legal license is one component of Creative Commons (CC). As with all legal licenses, it is important to understand the terms of use.

Creative Commons licences use icons and simple language so that creators can make their intentions clear and users can be certain that their use of the work is legal. 

There are six Creative Commons licences available that let you know how you can copy and use the work. Here is a breakdown of some of the terms and conditions expressed in a Creative Commons licence. 

‘BY’ represents attribution. You will see this icon on all Creative Commons licences. This icon means that you must provide attribution by giving credit to the creator of this work. This is the most permissive of the CC licenses. As long as you provide attribution, you are free to alter the image in any way you wish and use it for commercial purposes without further restrictions.

ND’ means no derivatives. This icon means that modified versions, for example, a cropped element of the original work, cannot be used in work you intend to share with others.


’SA’ means share-alike. This icon means that you can modify the original work, but you must share the new work under the same licence. Course assignments fit this criterion, but it has implications for how you license your new work. You must share it with the same SA license.


NC’ means non-commercial. This icon means that you can use the original work for non-commercial purposes, as-is or modified. Course assignments fit this criterion but keep in mind you cannot use your work for commercial purposes later on. 

You may see a combination of some of these terms in the spectrum of licences.


CC BY-NC-ND = Attribution + Non commercial + No Derivatives

CC BY-NC-SA = Attribution + Non commercial + Share Alike

Images that are free of licences, conditions or restrictions may be indicated with a Public Domain icon.  These images do not legally require attribution though most creators appreciate acknowledgement.
Public Domain

All CC licenses are supported by robust legal code yet are accessible by the average human reader and discoverable using Internet search engines and web services.

You can learn more about Creative Commons licences by visiting

If a licence does not permit the desired use, contact the copyright owner to ask permission.


Source: Adapted from CARL/ABRC (2020) Module 7: Openly Licensed Materials. 
Licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License

Get Creative Video

*Note the closed-captioning on this video is auto-generated and thus inaccurate. But we liked the content so much we had to use it! For your convenience, the transcript of the video is available below.

Creative Commons. (2007, April 10). Get creative: Being the origin and adventures of the creative commons licensing project [Video file]. Retrieved from