This page contains enriched content visible when JavaScript is enabled or by clicking here. Skip to main content

Library Services

  1. Library Services Home
  2. Resources
  3. Support
  4. About
  5. My Library


Explaining aspects of copyright to be aware of when studying, lecturing or undertaking research. Please note that information on these pages is for guidance only: it does not constitute formal legal advice.

Creative Commons - what is this?

Creative Commons licences allow creators to permit others to legally build upon and share work.

Creative Commons (CC) licences are widely used, for example:

  • all content on Wikipedia is CC licenced
  • many photographs on Flickr are CC licenced
  • the RCUK Open Access policy requires Open Access-published material to be CC licenced.

CC material must be acknowledged (see below for how to do this).

Creative Commons licences allow some rights to be reserved, and some to be waived, by the creator (commercial use may not be permitted, for example), rather than having 'All rights reserved' as is the case with copyrighted works.

How material may be used will depend on what right the creator has reserved and which they have waived - see the 'Licence Conditions' box below.

Creative Commons is a US non-profit company.

Licence Conditions

Each right that creators may reserve, or waive, has initials.


Attribution (BY)

The creator of the material must be attributed (acknowledged).


ShareAlike (SA)

Users may copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify the work, but must licence the work with the same (and not a more restrictive) licence. If they want to use a more restrictive licence they must obtain the creator's permission.


NonCommercial (NC)

Work cannot be re-used commercially without permission. Normally educational uses are non-commercial.


NoDerivatives (ND)

Work may be re-used, but not modified without permission.


The initials may be combined. For example:

  • a work which has no limitations of use (other than being attributed), will have the initials CC BY
  • a work that must be shared under the same licence will have the initials CC BY SA
  • a work that may not be modified or used commercially will have the initials CC BY NC ND

Image credits

Creative Commons logo by AJC1 (CC-BY-NC) Accessed from Flickr 02/09/2016