Creators Control Sharing
Creative Commons Licenses allow creators to make their works available for use under conditions determined by creators. One great advantage of Creative Commons licenses for creators is that they can reduce administrative overhead for frequent approved uses of materials. For instance, if a creator wants to allow anyone re-use of their creation as long as their authorship is noted, a CC-BY license states this clearly. The creator will not have to grant individual license to other creators who wish to re-use or adapt the work.
Users Get Certainty
Even in the best of circumstances, it can be difficult to be sure that a given use is acceptable under fair use or other formal copyright exemptions or limitations. Creative Commons licenses give much more certainty: if you meet the conditions of the license, your use is pre-approved.
For example, if you use illustrations under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial (CC BY-NC) or Attribution (CC BY) license, you won’t have to consider permission requests, or payment, or even have to think about fair use, you can be certain your use is permitted when you follow the terms outlined in the license.
Probably because there are a lot of clearly defined academic style rules around citation formats, many people think there are clearly defined legal rules about attribution or citation and copyright. In the U.S., most of the time, there really aren't.
However, when you use a work through its Creative Commons license, you are legally bound by the license to provide a certain minimum attribution. This attribution is additional to and independent of any citation that may be required in your academic use of the material.
Basic Elements of Creative Commons Credit
- The creator's name (or other form of identification, like a website username)
- The work's title (not required in most recent, CC 4.0 licenses)
- The Creative Commons license through which you are using it
- An indication of changes or alterations you have made, if any
- Relevant links, if possible
Unlike academic citation styles, there is no specific, proscribed form in which these elements must appear. You simply have to provide them in some kind of reasonable form.
An academic citation might be appropriate (although you would have to modify most citation styles to include the CC license information), or not. Credit directly at the moment of use might be appropriate (for example, an image caption on a presentation slide), or credit could be provided in another reasonable spot (for example, on a "credits" slide, or in the (linkable) text information accompanying an online video.) While credit is required with Creative Commons licenses, the actual form it takes can be quite flexible.
Licensors can request that attribution take a particular form, such as an employer granting a license in a work the company owns, but requesting credit for individuals within the company who created a work. Licensors can also request that they remain anonymous; complying with the Creative Commons license then may involve indicating why you are not providing credit.
An instructor uploads an article to share with students on a course website. Demonstrating academic citation styles, the article might appear on the reading list as follows:
Halsey, L. G., Watkins, D. A. R., & Duggan, B. M. (2012). The Energy Expenditure of Stair Climbing One Step and Two Steps at a Time: Estimations from Measures of Heart Rate. PLoS ONE, 7(12), e51213. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0051213. Copies provided via a Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license.
An image appears in a newspaper article. The image may be credited in a caption (better), or at the end of the page (good) as follows:
Red substance in half-filled test tube by Horia Varlan. Used under a CC-BY 2.0 license.
Additional examples and information: