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Creative Commons

An overview of Creative Commons history and use, licensing, and resources for authors/creators.

What is a License? 

Using the work of others requires permission from the copyright holder. A license is a legal statement of permission that explains who can use your intellectual property, and how. Think of it like a movie contract. When Sony works with Marvel to make a Spiderman movie, they are licensing the character of Spiderman and his universe for use in their own productions. These types of copyright licenses require extensive discussions to hash out what the licensee (Sony) is allowed to do with the licensed property (Spiderman) and for how long. 

Whether you are a creator or someone who wants to reuse creative works in your own content, it's likely that you don't have the same time, experience, and money that Sony has to negotiate contracts. Furthermore, it can be time-consuming to answer emails from people who want to share a video you created or adapt an image you've shared. Here's where Creative Commons licenses can help.  

Why Use Creative Commons Licenses? 

Creative Commons licenses give others a variety of permissions up front, making a faster and more transparent process. Adding CC licenses to your work can help ensure that your work is shared or reused as you see fit. 

Creative Commons Attribution License graphicThe graphic design of the licenses is a useful tool in its own right, and each license can be read in its full legal language and an easier-to-read simple description:


Open Access

Open Access is an ongoing movement to increase the amount of research and work that scholars have free access to. For more about Open Access, see the Open Scholarship Services website or our Open Access Library Guide:

This guide presents information about copyright law. The library and staff make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.

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Abbey Elder
150 Parks Library
Iowa State University

More information about copyright can be found on the Copyright for Research & Teaching Library Guide: