Now that you have new image sources — and even more — that you’ve probably never heard of before, free to use for your blog posts and other creative pursuits, it’s the perfect time for an easy-to-understand explanation of Creative Commons licenses.
Because let’s face it, Creative Commons licensing is almost as difficult to understand at first glance as legalise. Oh, the horrors. Relax and fear not; this is going to be a breeze for even those of you who fear the dreaded clicking on “agree” to lengthy terms and conditions imposed on us with every piece of software we use.
Oh, the jargon. Will it never end? Here it is in common English, complete with my own personal disclaimer: I assume no responsibility for anything legal, even the lack of jargon. (Hint: I am not a lawyer.)
Go to the CC license site for each license deed and legal code for full explanation. If you really want to roll up your shirtsleeves, click here for a handy License Versions chart that compares all the different licenses.
But first, a little trick from Creative Commons. All CC licenses require attribution. To help you with remembering this, start with a simple acronym. Think “TASL” for Title, Author, Source, License. This handy mnemonic device means thinking about a bunch of threads hanging from a knob. How hard can it be?
The next time you’re wondering what to do for image attribution, ask yourself:
- What’s the title of the image? (If there is one, include it.)
- Who’s the author or owner of the image? The word “creator” would be better, but then that would mess up the acronym.
- Where can the source be found? This is usually a URL or hyperlink to the image.
- What’s the license of the image? There are now eight different Creative Commons licenses, so name it and create a hyperlink to its Creative Commons license page.
There are good ways to do this, and not so good ways. The good ways are all going to clear the TASL-minimum. Did you know that including the title is only a requirement for CC license versions 3.0 or earlier? And it’s optional for 4.0? Go with TASL and you’ll be covered.
On with understanding the Creative Commons licenses:
For this attribution only license, give the creator of the image the correct attribution by following TASL. You can use the image however you want, distribute it, and make changes to it for both commercial and non-commercial use. Indicate if you’ve modified the work from the original in your attribution.
This is the same as the attribution except for the one all-important difference. You can’t modify the image in any way, including cropping, changing color, and adding text. It must remain in its original, unaltered condition in order to use it for any purpose you want, and with all the TASL requirements.
This license allows you to share the image for non-commercial purposes only, but that’s it. No altering it in any way. The TASL still stands, so don’t forget to give attribution to the original creator.
This is similar to the attribution only license except you aren’t allowed to use it commercially. Remember the TASL requirements, give attribution to original creator, and use the images only in a non-commercial way. You are allowed to modify the image, just be sure to indicate you’ve done so.
You can use the image, manipulate it in any way, but only for non-commercial uses. You need to give attribution to the original author. The one caveat here is that the share alike gives you rights to the new work you created when you changed it. Your new, altered work carries the same license, which means others can again alter the image, etc. .
Can you guess what this one is by now? You must give proper attribution, manipulate the image in any way for either commercial or non-commercial use. The same share alike portion applies, giving you the same license should you build upon the image, and anyone else who builds upon your new work.
Public Domain Dedication (CC0)
This is a new addition to Flickr’s licensing, a popular free image source. This particular licensing carries the CCO or “CC Zero” restrictions, meaning zero restrictions. There are “No Rights Reserved” and no copyright restrictions. Feel free to make changes, even for commercial use, no attribution or permissions needed. Thank you very much, Flickr.
Public Domain Mark
Also new to Flickr, this license carries no known restrictions under copyright law. Go ahead and modify and distribute it as you wish, commercial purposes included, no permission or attribution required. See other information as noted in license.
Your Creative Commons 101 course is now over. It’s up to you to stay informed, follow the requirements, and be a happy image sharer.