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Open Educational Resources and Affordable Textbooks

What is Creative Commons?

The nonprofit Creative Commons provides a way to easily share and reuse content through its free copyright licenses. The use of a Creative Commons license does not remove copyright from an item (image, article, video, etc.), but it does allow the copyright holder to identify how the item can be used. Creative Commons licenses are described in more detail in the section below.

Creative Commons and OER

OER are often published under a Creative Commons license, so a basic understanding of these licenses helps you determine how an OER can be used. The links below

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Learn about sharing your work via Creative Commons

Learn about reusing Creative Commons licensed works

Creative Commons Licenses

Below is a brief overview of the license conditions that can be applied to copyrighted works. OPEN Washington's OER course contains an excellent Creative Common licenses module, which provides an in-depth examination of this topic.

License Conditions

Creative Commons currently has four main types of license conditions a copyright holder can use when publishing her work. Below is description of each type.


This condition is the least restrictive of the Creative Commons licenses. Attribution only requires that others must give credit to the copyright holder when using the work. All Creative Commons licenses require attribution, including licenses using the conditions below.


ShareAlike requires that anyone creating a modified version of a work must publish the new work using the same terms.


NonCommerical allows for the use and reuse of a work as long as it is not for commercial purposes.


NoDerivatives allows for the use of a work, but the original work cannot be modified without seeking permission from the copyright holder.


Public Domain

Creative Commons also has two ways to designate a work that has no copyright restrictions associated with it.


CC0 allows a copyright holder to waive any rights under copyright and give her work to the public domain.

Public Domain Mark

This mark identifies works that are free of known copyright restrictions. This mark can be used when copyright has expired on a work.