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Creative Commons Licenses for Commercial Use Explained in Plain English

written by: Rebecca Scudder•edited by: Michele McDonough•updated: 9/9/2010

Have you ever wondered if you can use a creation made by someone else, legally, and seen a Creative Commons license associated with the work? There are a number of different CC licenses, and they allow different rights to users. It is important to understand the specific rights a creator allows.

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    Allowing Commercial Usage

    Creative Commons licenses were developed to allow creators to share some of the rights to use their creations, without giving up their copyright to the creation.

    Creative Commons has licenses that allows a user to use a creator's content on a commercial site- a site that makes money in some manner. There are three different CC licenses which allow commercial use of a creation, and we will explain them here, with examples Creative Commons License matrix using the licenses.

    Creative Commons has on its site a matrix which shows the various licenses, and and the rights they allow, in order to help you select the license you want for your work.

    Click any image for a larger view.

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    1. Creative Commons License- Attribution cc-by

    The Creative Commons license Attribution 3.0 Unported License is the license allowing others the most rights in your work. The license, in the matrix, is the cc-by license. When the creator of a work selects this license, they are allowing others to use the work for commercial and non-commercial use, to share the original work, and the only requirement to use the work is attribution. This means that you must clearly attribute, or show, who created the original work, and you must show the original creator's name no matter what you do with the work, or any changes you make to the work.

    The link to the Creative Commons license, which explains the license in detail, is this:

    http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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    If I write a poem, called My Favorite Toy, and assign the CC license Attribution (cc-by) to it, and you take my poem, which was written in English, and translate it in Chinese, and then put the translation of the poem on an ad to sell stuffed animals, you can do this without paying any money to me, or getting any further permission from me. However, you must credit me with the original poem. You look at your original source, and see how I am requesting you attribute the work. In this case, the poem shows my user name for the by cc site, rscudder, and says attribution. So you would put the poem in your stuffed animal ad, and at the end of the poem you would put my screen name. To show that your use is legal, you can display the CC license I chose next to my name, and you can, although it is not required, provide a link both to the original site where the poem was found, and a link to the text explaining the license.

    This would look like this:

    My favorite Toy, by rscudder cc

    If there was such a poem, and I had published it on a blog with the CC license Attribution, you could also put a link to that site under the text of my user name.

    There is also a symbol created by Creative Commons which you can put by my name, which is an icon meaning attribution. I may also have put that symbol next to the text of the poem, along with the name of the license, and I might also have put cc next to that, so you could go and read the terms of the license.

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    This is the most accommodating of Creative Commons licenses. The next licenses we list will allow fewer rights to people who would like to use a creation.

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    2. Creative Commons License- Attribution No Derivs - cc-by- nd

    The Creative Commons license Attribution - No Derivs 3.0 Unported License is the license allowing others some rights to use your work. The license, in the matrix, is the cc-by-nd license. When the creator of a work selects this license, they are allowing others to use the work for both commercial and non-commercial use, and to share the work, and the only requirement to use it is attribution- no derivatives. You do not have the right to change the original work. This means that you must clearly show who made the original, and the original creator's name must stay with the work if it is used by others after you.

    The link to the Creative Commons license, which explains the license in detail is this: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/3.0/

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    If I write a poem, called My Favorite Toy, and assign the CC license Attribution (cc-by-nd) to it, and you take my poem, which was written in English, and want to put the poem on an ad to sell stuffed animals, you can do this without paying any money to me, or getting any further permissions from me. In this case, you may not transform my work, which would include translating it into another language, as that changes the original form. You must credit me with the original poem.

    Just as in the first case, you see how I am requesting you attribute the work. In this case, the poem shows my actual name, Rebecca Scudder, and says attribution. So you can use the poem in your stuffed animal ad, and at the end of the poem you would put my name. To show that yournd by cc  use is through a Creative Commons license, you can display the CC license I chose next to my name, and you can, although it is not required, provide a link both to the original site where the poem was found, and a link to the text explaining the license.

    This would look like this: My Favorite Toy, by Rebecca Scudder cc

    This is a slightly more restrictive Creative Commons license. While you can use my work with attribution in both commercial and non-commercial ways, and share it with other people, you do not have permission to change my original work.

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    The last license we look at in this article is the Creative Commons license attribution share alike. This license allows the user a great deal of freedom in the use of a work, but using the work means the same license must be used on any use of the work. The end user of the work must still use the same Creative Commons license first assigned to the work by the creator.
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    3. Creative Commons License- Attribution Share - cc-by-sa

    The Creative Commons license Attribution Share Alike 3.0 Unported License is another license allowing others some rights to use your work. The license, in the matrix, is the cc-by- sa license. When the creator of a work selects this license, they are allowing others to use the work for both commercial and non-commercial use, and to share the work, and the only requirement to use it is attribution-share-alike. Thissa by means that you must clearly show who made the original, and you must show the original creator's name no matter how you use the work. You can change or adapt the original work. Because the creator is releasing their work under a share alike license, if you transform the original in some way, the work you have changed must be distributed under the same Creative Commons license. You must also license the work you transformed under an attribution share alike license.

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    Again returning to my mythical poem, My Favorite Toy, under this license, if you make a translation of that into Japanese, you must assign the cc-by-sa license to it. You can put your translation of my poem into your blog, with the license cc-by-sa, and then your name, if you translated it. If someone else decides to make a podcast where they recite the translation you made of my poem, the podcast containing the poem is also under the cc-by-sa license. They must attribute the work to me as the author, to you as the translator, and because it is a share alike license, they may not charge for anyone to listen to that podcast- even if they normally do charge to hear their podcasts.

    This can chain on, since the material stays under the cc-by-sa license whenever anyone uses it. If an independent film maker wants to put in an excerpt of the podcast containing someone reciting my poems as translated by you, the film maker cannot charge people to see the film containing the material. In essence, I have released the material to be used by other people, but it must always be free to the end audience, under the terms of the license I assigned it.remix share cc 

    The link to the Creative Commons license, which explains the license in detail, is this: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

    This would look like this: My Favorite Toy, by Rebecca Scudder cc.

    If you translate my poem and post it on your blog, you would put (in whatever language) My Favorite Toy, by Rebecca Scudder, translated by makeyourowntoys cc

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    This is one of the more interesting Creative Commons licenses. While you can use my work, and transform it through a translation, recording, or even a film, you must keep the license I gave it- and since I am allowing it to be used without charge by you, you must do the same.

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    All images used in this article are from the site creativecommons.org, and are downloaded from their site with the understanding that their cc trademark icons only be used to refer to Creative Commons licenses, or link to those licenses. They request that people who want to use CC icons download them directly from them, so they stay in a high quality format.

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    In the next article in this series we will look at Creative Commons licenses for non-commercial uses.

Creative Commons Licenses

Whether you want to choose a Creative Commons License for your published work, or you want to understand the license on a work because you're considering using it, you should know what various Creative Commons Licenses mean. Here at Bright Hub we explain all 6 main licenses and 'No Rights Reserved'.
  1. Understanding Creative Commons Licenses
  2. Creative Commons Licenses for Commercial Use Explained in Plain English
  3. Examples of Non-Commercial Creative Commons License Usage
  4. Creative Commons Licenses for Releasing Copyright