Creative Commons - Introduction

Creative Commons is a set of licenses enabling the free sharing and use of creativity and knowledge. This article explains the idea, the licenses and how to use them.

Hand writing "Creative Commons"

Basically, there are different standard-licenses with the aid of which an author can easily grant rights of use for his/her works. These licenses are not specifically tailored to a certain type of works but can be used for all kind of works, which are subject of copyright, for instance:

  • Texts
  • Images
  • Audios
  • Videos

The idea behind Creative Commons is, that licenses should be easily applicable for non-professionals and that - in contrast to the classical copyright - no further queries are necessary because the licenses already include all anwers to possible doubts of use.

License elements

Creative Commons provides a kit with different license elements:

  • BY - Attribution -  lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work even for commercial purposes, as long as the author of the original work is credited and the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.
  • NC - Non-Commercial - lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work, but not for commercial purposes.
  • ND - No Derivatives - allows for the redistribution - commercial and non-commercial - of an author’s copyright-protected work as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole.
  • SA - Share Alike - lets others remix, tweak, and build upon a work even for commercial purposes, as long as the new creations are licensed under the identical terms.

Combinations of these elements allow for constructing different licenses: Starting from the free CC-BY and ending up with the restrictive CC-BY-NC-ND. The Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung has decided to use the licenses CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-NC-ND for works commissioned by or produced for the foundation. That means, that works (texts, images, videos) will be published under these licenses.

When we use Creative-Commons-licensed works created by third parties on our websites or in our publications, there is no restriction concerning licenses that can be/have to be used. However, especially with regard to photos, works licensed under ND must not be used as the ND-license does not even allow for cropping/resizing an image to our default size.


The following licenses are logically possible and legally secure. The link on the licenses takes you to a page, which in detail describes the conditions and provides numerous translations of the license (at the very bottom). It is a good idea to send them to authors as they will explain what Creative Commons means.

Here is a video explaining Creative Commons

Creative Commons Kiwi - plccanz

video-thumbnail Watch on YouTube

If you are interested in the matter of Copyright in general and want to learn more in detail, read the Copyright course.