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Creative Commons for Open Projects: Use CC Content

Why use Creative Commons Content?

Creative Commons-licensed content is meant to be used! Creators have shared their content for others to build on. This open sharing of materials contributes to the growth of new knowledge and creative output. Incorporating others' works into your own can enhance digital scholarship projects, open pedagogy assignments, open educational resources, and more.

How to use Creative Commons Content

Think carefully about how you would like to use the content

  • What is the overall context of your project?
  • Do you want to include the content as-is in your project, or do you want to adapt or change it in some way?
  • Will you be resharing with others? Under what circumstances?
  • Will you be adding your own Creative Commons license to your broader work?

Align your use with the Creative Commons license provided

  • Familiarize yourself with Creative Commons licenses. CC licenses are very specific and tell you exactly how you can use the content.
  • Does your use exactly align with the requirements the creator has specified for use of their work? Make sure your use is aligns with the CC license.
  • If you would like to make use of the content in a way that is broader than the CC license allows, you will need to either:
    • make sure the use is fair use
    • or contact the content creator to ask for permission

See the Copyright and CC Licenses page to learn more.

Credit the Creator

Every Creative Commons license requires a credit to the creator. Explore the Give Credit to Creators section of this guide to learn more about how to do this.

Using CC-licensed content in a Collection

A “collection” is a concept with a specific meaning in the context of Creative Commons-licensed materials. A collection of CC-licensed works:

  • Brings together separate works into a compilation
  • Retains distinctions between different works
  • Does not adapt or remix the collected works into a new creative product
  • Each individual work in the collection must be credited with its specific license information

Examples of Collections include:

  • Open textbooks that bring together (but do not change) content from different creators
  • Online exhibits of visual materials that use (but do not alter) multiple artifact or visuals from different creators

Licensing your Collection:

  • You as the creator of the Collection may hold copyright in the collection as a whole and apply a new license the collection you brought together. The license applies only to the aspects of the collection that you created. This could include, for instance, selection, arrangement, framing essays, and an introduction.
  • You cannot license materials you did not create.
  • The Add a CC License to Your Work section of this guide describes how to choose and apply a Creative Commons license to your work.
  • For a Collection, a best practice is to assign the most restrictive license of the materials you include. This allows others to reuse or adapt your Collection as a whole, without omitting content that has a more restrictive license. Although a Collection is a Use, not an Adaptation, the license compatibility guidelines in the Adapt/Remix section of this guide do apply to Collections that include materials by other creators.

Guide Credit and License

"Creative Commons for Open Projects" by Denise Hattwig (2023) is licensed under a  Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.