Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that maintains a copyright licensing system created for companies, scientific institutions and individuals who want to retain ownership of their creative content while allowing others to make use of it under certain predetermined conditions. The organization describes this system as a “some rights reserved” approach to copyright, in contrast with the traditional legal approach to a copyright that it describes as an “all rights reserved” system. The Creative Commons attributions licensing system includes six license types, each with its own mix of predetermined allowable uses. Allowable uses range from complete freedom to modify or build on a work to the limited freedom to share an original work only.
The standard Attribution license grants full use rights to any person who wants to share, sell, modify or build on a creative work. The sole requirement is that the secondary user must give credit to the creator of the original work. This is the least restrictive of the Creative Commons attributions licenses.
An Attribution-Share Alike license allows full use rights and requires that credit be given to the original creator, just like the standard license. In addition, this license requires that derivative works carry the exact same Creative Commons attributions license. This ensures that all generations of derivative works following upon the initial creative work will be freely modifiable and shared.
Next, an Attribution-No Derivatives license authorizes free commercial or non-commercial distribution of an original work as long as credit is given to the creator. This license does not authorize any modification of the original work, however. The work must be maintained in its original form.
The Attribution-Noncommercial license allows full-use rights to share, modify or build on a creative work. It also requires that the secondary user give credit to the original creator. In contrast with the standard license, however, this license does not allow for the commercial use of the original work or a derivative work.
The fifth Creative Commons attributions license, the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license, grants full use rights to share or modify a creative work. There are three requirements attached to these use rights. First, credit must be given to the creator of the original work. Next, no commercial use can be made of the original work or a derivative work. Finally, all derivative works must carry the very same Creative Commons attributions license as the original work.
The final license type, the Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivatives license allows secondary users to freely share an original creative work. No modifications can be made to the work, however, nor can the work be used in any commercial context. This license is the most restrictive of the six Creative Commons attributions licenses.