Creative Commons

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons is a non-profit organization which is committed to facilitating the legal sharing of creative works though a range of licenses which allow creators to stipulate which rights they reserve, and which rights they waive for the benefit of other creators. Creative Commons licenses follow a "some rights reserved" model in contrast to traditional copyright which follows an "all rights reserved" model. Creative Commons therefore provides a continuum of rights between "all rights reserved" on the one end of the continuum and "no rights reserved" (public domain) on the other.

A useful YouTube video has been created by Michael Paskevicius (Open Educational Resources at the University of Cape Town) that walks you through the process of publishing an electronic or hard-copy presentation under a Creative Commons license. Click here to link to the presentation.

Creative Commons in South Africa

Since April 2009, the Intellectual Property Research Unit at UCT's law faculty is the hosting institution for Creative Commons South Africa. Creative Commons South Africa strives to make Creative Commons licences work for South Africa, e.g., by formulating South African versions of the six different Creative Commons licences. Creative Commons South Africa's vision is of a thriving African internet community using Creative Commons licenses to educate the people of South Africa, grow South Africa's markets, share South Africa's knowledge and celebrate Africa's culture and heritage with people around the world. Creative Commons South Africa is led by Dave Duarte (public lead) and the UCT IP Research unit's Dr Tobias Schonwetter (legal lead).

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons licenses enable the creator to specify if a creative work (text, audio, images or video) can be shared freely with others, remixed by others or even used commercially or any combination of these.

  • All the licenses include the need for what is termed attribution, which means allowing others to copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix your copyrighted work, as long as they give you credit the way you request.

  • An additional option is to allow others to copy, distribute, display, perform, and remix your work for non-commercial purposes only. If they want to use your work for commercial purposes, they must contact you for permission.

  • A further option is to allow others create remixes and derivative works based on your creative work, as long as they only distribute them - termed share alike - under the same Creative Commons license that your original work was published under. In this way no one can withhold their own work if they have used other share alike works to produce theirs

  • Finally there is an option to restrict derivative works which means that although you allow others to copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work they are prohibited from altering, transforming, building upon, or remixing your work - termed no derivatives. If they would like to make a derivative work, they must contact you for permission.

A useful overview of creative commons licenses is provided in the JISC briefing paper here

Selecting a suitable Creative Commons License

Creative Commons has made it quite easy to select and display a Creative Commons license in your creative work by prompting you with a set of questions that help you identify the license most suitable for your work. The key steps are to:

  • Visit the Creative Commons Licence page and use their simple licence chooser to select a Creative Commons licence that indicates how others may use your creative content. (These responses to the questions will be used to automatically generate HTML text which includes all these details for an electronic version of the Creative Commons licence that you have chosen. The HTML code will display an icon as well as a link to the full license deed hosted at the Creative Commons site. Note that you also need to select a legal jurisdiction (country). South Africa is listed at the end of the drop down list).

  • For electronic works: Cut and paste this HTML text on your website.

  • For non-electronic works: Select the option "Mark a document not on the web, add this text to your work." In addition you might like to note the icon that they suggest and download the appropriate CC icon and paste it onto your word processed document for a paper-based cc licence.

For detailed instructions on how to publish other creative works can be found here.

The Creative Commons Add-in for Microsoft Office 2007 v1.01 can be downloaded from here.

This add-in enables you to embed a Creative Commons license into a document that you create using Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office PowerPoint, or Microsoft Office Excel. With a Creative Commons license, authors can express their intentions regarding how their works may be used by others. The add-in downloads the Creative Commons license you designate from the Creative Commons Web site and inserts it directly into your creative work.

To learn more about Creative Commons, please visit its web site, To learn more about the choices among the Creative Commons licenses, see here.

For useful advice on how to attribute CC works correctly and which licenses are compatible see here . The section "for Licensees" is particularly useful.