Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that helps build a large library of creative work that individuals and companies can share and work with for free. As a creator, you can apply for free licenses through Creative Commons, allowing you to share your work with the public.
As someone looking for content, you are free to use Creative Commons-licensed works such as illustrations, photographs, educational documents, scientific research, or music, as long as you follow the author attribution guidelines.
The benefits of Creative Commons in our creative world are immeasurable. Let’s take a closer look at how it all works, why it’s so effective for creative content, and how each license works.
What is Creative Commons and how does it work?
Creative Commons was created to offer an alternative to copyright law. Rather than handing out the DMCA and warning of copyright infringement when someone uses your work, you instead get a Creative Commons license so that others can freely use your work, provided they properly mention you.
As an art creator, you can present your artwork, photography, or music to a wider audience and help grow your brand. You also get the fuzzy feeling that comes when you are sharing your work rather than pressing it to your chest.
As a creative person with a need for art or music, you can use Creative Commons licensed content, provided you’ve credited it correctly. Instructions are provided on the official Creative Commons website for this, but in essence it means including a written mention of the author’s name, work title, source link, and license links. Some licenses have limitations, which we will explain later.
Here’s an example of how Creative Commons can be useful for both artists and content creators. Let’s say a music artist creates great instrumental music, but he finds it difficult to promote it. If an artist got free Creative Commons licenses for their songs, they could promote them as copyright free on platforms like YouTube and Soundcloud.
Content creators looking for background music for their YouTube or Instagram videos, for example, can then use the artist’s music and include proper attribution in the video description or caption.
The end result will be that the content creator can create higher quality content, and the performer can get more views of their content thanks to the new interest from the content creator’s audience.
What are Creative Commons licenses?
What’s great about Creative Commons is that there are multiple licenses to choose from, giving artists and researchers more control over how they share their work. Below we will explain how each of these licenses works.
If you want to use a Creative Commons licensed work, you must check what the content is licensed under before using it because some usage restrictions will apply as you will see below.
Attribution (CC BY)
Thanks to the Creative Commons Attribution Standard License, others can share, edit, edit, and distribute the work. They are even given freedom of commercial distribution, provided that they properly credit the author.
Attribution-ShareAlike (CC BY-SA)
ShareAlike attribution is similar to a standard attribution license. This allows others to use, remix, resell and redistribute the work, but any redistributed work will also include the same Attribution-ShareAlike license.
The difference between Attribution and ShareALike Attribution is that a person is free to post a standard copyright license for any work they create that uses the standard Creative Commons CC BY work. This is not possible with Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike.
Attribution-NoDerivs (CC BY-ND)
With this license, others can reuse the licensed work, even for commercial purposes, but they cannot share adapted versions and must always indicate the original author.
Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC)
Under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, others can remix, edit, and adapt the licensed work, but they are not allowed to offer it commercially. If this license is used, any revised or edited work may be copyrighted by its new owners.
Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike (CC BY-NC-SA)
With a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike, a licensed work can be edited, revised, and supplemented, but it cannot be offered commercially, and a new edited work cannot be copyrighted – the newly edited work must have the same Creative Commons Attribution- NonCommercial- ShareAlike License.
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs (CC BY-NC-ND)
This is the most restrictive Creative Commons license, but it still gives some freedom to others to use your work. Others may upload and share your work as long as they credit the author, but they cannot modify the work in any way and cannot use it commercially.
How to obtain a Creative Commons license
It’s completely free and very easy to get a Creative Commons license. Visit Creative Commons first, share your work page and follow the steps. Be sure to include your name, job title and correct URL. The website will select a license based on which options you choose.
You will then be provided with media, text and HTML to display your license online. Creative Commons licenses can be enforced in court, and there is evidence of this, but you will need to speak with a lawyer or your legal department about the right steps to take.
How to search for Creative Commons content online
If you’re a creator looking for Creative Commons content, you’ll be glad to know that there are excellent search tools available to find Creative Commons content on the Internet. We’ve compiled a list of the best resources available.
Creative Commons Search
It makes sense to start with a search engine built right into the official Creative Commons site. This tool will search the entire database for Creative Commons images. You can also filter your searches by file type, source, and even license type.
For example, if you need to find content that can be modified and redistributed, you can filter out BY and BY-SA licenses.
Google has powerful advanced tools that allow you to quickly filter by usage rights. Go to Google Images, find the phrase and click the “Tools” button. After that, click on the Use Rights dropdown and you will have several options.
Select an option, and Google will automatically filter images that are tagged with Creative Commons licenses, similar licenses, or in the public domain. Just like when choosing content with the correct Creative Commons license, make sure you select the correct search filter that suits your needs.
Below is an overview based on Google guidelines.
- Marked for reuse: Images with this filter can be redistributed, even for commercial purposes, as long as the content remains intact.
- Marked for use with modification: Images with this filter can be modified and redistributed in any way, even for commercial purposes.
- Noted for non-commercial use: You can find more search options by selecting this option, but remember that any results with this filter are not for commercial use.
Flickr is a powerful image hosting service best known for its great photography. While searching, you can click the Any License drop-down box to select Creative Commons licenses.
All results obtained will be made available under a Creative Commons license. Click on each individual photo to see more details on which license is being used and attribution.
3D modeling is a skill that takes years to master, so finding free content to use can be tricky. A great platform, however, is the Blender-Models website where all models are CC licensed and you can quickly search by model category.
That’s right, you can even find free audio under the Creative Commons license. This includes user-added sound effects, songs, and atmospheric sounds. Just sign up for free, search and click the license filter to the right of the search results.
The content is rated and the number of downloads is displayed, making it easy to find good quality sounds for any content.