Open Licenses and Creative Commons

Myth – Open means it’s free without restriction. Reality   Not necessarily, open means available for use or re-use that may include released under an open licence such as Creative Commons.  

What is an open license?

A traditional license is a document that specifies what can and cannot be done with a copyright work (ie, images, video, sound, text, or multimedia).  Licenses usage rights and also usage restrictions. An open license grants rights to access, re-use and redistribute a work with few or no restrictions.

For example, an image on a website made available under an open license would be free for anyone to:

  • print out and share,
  • publish on another website or in print,
  • make alterations or additions,
  • and do many other things …

Openly licensed works are free to be shared, improved and built upon!

There are many forms of open licenses, for a list of the most common open licenses, see the Open Knowledge Licenses page.

What is an Open Licence definition contains content that has been adapted from Open Definition is a project of Open Knowledge International  is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

What is a Creative Commons licence?

Creative Commons is a set of licence themes used to licence copyright works (music, artistic, literary, and video works) for public use. Creative Commons works are free to use as long as the licence terms are followed.

Creative Commons offers the following licenses:

  • Attribution (BY) – this licence requires the work be attributed
  • Non-commercial (NC) – the work can only be used for non-commercial purposes
  • No-derivatives (ND) –  no adaptations, modifications, or alterations allowed, the work must be used as is.
  • ShareAlike (SA) if you adapt or modify the work you must release the new work under the same creative commons licence attached to the original work.
  • Public domain and CC0no copyright restrictions

The key feature in all Creative Commons licenses is attribution – credit is to be given.   

Other Guides:

Creative Commons Explained

What is Open – Open Knowledge Project

OEL Toolkit

Short history of Creative Commons