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A focus on copyright issues which may concern TCC faculty and staff -- including fair use, the TEACH Act, public domain and other copyright exceptions and issues. Nothing in this guide is to be construed as legal advice.

Using CC Licenses and CC-Licensed Work

by Amanda Ross on 2022-07-29T00:00:00-05:00 | Comments

See this FAQ on what a Creative Commons license is. See this page for best practices in attributing Creative Commons-licensed works.  

Here's an example of a Creative Commons-licensed image and its attribution: 

Staffordshire hoard annotated.jpg by David Rowan,

Staffordshire hoard annotated.jpg by David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Terms to know:

  • Adaptation (adapted works): a derivative work based on one or more works. The new work creates something new that is sufficiently original enough to be protected by copyright. See also, “Derivative” below and “What is an adaptation?” Ultimately, what makes an adaptation depends on a country’s applicable laws. An example of an adaptation can be a translation from one language to another, a film adaptation of a book, etc.
  • Derivative: an adaptation from a work that contains copyrightable elements from an underlying work or works. To be an adaptation/derivative, the work must be based on or derived from the original(s). See “Adaptation” above. What can be confusing about “Derivative” in the CC context is that, when looking at a ND (NoDerivatives) element in CC licenses, users might think that means the work cannot be reproduced at all, but reproduction is a separate entitlement under copyright from the right to make modifications/derivative works. Here is an example of a derivative from the first photograph:

, “Spoils” by TCC Library,

This work, “Spoils” by TCC Library, is a derivative of “Staffordshire hoard annotated.jpg” by David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 , and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

  • Remixes: an adaptation/derivative in connection with CC-licensed works that can be considered a new work. A new work usually made of parts from more than one CC-licensed work (or at least one CC-licensed work and another in the public domain or under copyright if an exception or limitation such as Fair Use applies) that cannot stand on their own if separated from the work, because they have been changed too much from their originals. Here’s an example of a remix using two images (see hyperlinks in attribution):

Blackbeard's spoils

Attributions: “Blackbeard’s Spoils,” by TCC Library, is a derivative of Blackbeard image by J. Basire, public domain, and “Staffordshire hoard annotated.jpg” by David Rowan, Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery, used under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 , and is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

  • Collection(s): not an adaptation. It involves separate and independent works into a whole. Those works can be separated out again to stand on their own as individual works. An example of a collection would be this TCC Philosophy textbook, technically an anthology. Think of collections like a museum. The curator didn’t create or change the art in the museum, but they arranged it and perhaps wrote the contextual display information near each piece. Those pieces are unchanged and can be used in other displays or museums, etc. Here is another example of a collection using images, where the specific arrangement and added elements of the overall collection might have its own, separate copyright:

“Temples Collection” by TCC Library is licensed under a CC Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

Attributions in order from left to right, top to bottom: Vietnam, Temple in Chau Doc 2.jpg by Vyacheslav Argenberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license. 

Puskhar Hindu Temple (1580717983).jpg by Francisco Anzola is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 license.

Luxor Temple, Luxor, Egypt.jpg by Vyacheslav Argenberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license.

Adaptation, derivative, and remix all mean the same thing and can be used interchangeably in the Creative Commons context, though “remix” likely means combining or taking from multiple works to create something new. See also, “When is my use considered an adaptation?”

If using more than one CC-licensed work to remix, this compatibility chart may be helpful:

chart

CC License Compatibility Chart” is licensed under a CC BY 4.0 license

The above chart can help in checking if two works are compatible to “remix.” For example, you can’t remix a BY work with a BY-NC-ND work outside of personal use unless an exception or limitation applies. 

Licensing considerations for collections vs remixes/adapted works/derivatives:

  • Collections: If creating a collection of CC-licensed works, you must provide attribution and licensing information about those individual works. You might still have a separate copyright of your own that you might license, but that copyright only applies to the new/original contributions you make to the overall work (such as an introduction to the collection or the arrangement itself, if creative enough under copyright). While the NoDerivatives (ND) CC licenses do not allow remixing/adaptations except for private, personal use, it may be that you did not create a derivative of the material for your collection, so it might be acceptable to include a ND work in a collection and still have it serve your intended purpose. You might place the attributions where each work exists within the whole or list them all together in one area like the front matter of a book. 
  • Remixes/adapted works/derivatives: If creating one of these, whether from a single CC-licensed work or from more than one, it is important to know what their attached licenses allow you to do. Any license made for these is called the “Adapter’s license.” The license you place on your work must follow the terms of the license(s) attached to the CC-licensed material you used. The NoDerivatives (ND) CC licenses do not allow remixing/adaptations except for private, personal use (see “Derivatives” above in the Terms section). So you likely will not find them suitable for a larger purpose unless a copyright limitation or exception allows you to involve the work (like Fair Use). Helpful tools in figuring out what license you can use on your adapted work include this Adapter’s License Chart or the compatibility chart above. When putting on your adapter's license for a remix, it is best practice to use the more restrictive of the two licenses on the works you are combining. While not technically your only option, it can make it easier for downstream reusers.
Unless otherwise noted, text adapted from Creative Commons Certificate for Educators, Academic Librarians and GLAM by Creative Commons, licensed under a CC Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.

“Using CC Licenses and CC-Licensed Work” blog post and associated images by TCC Library are licensed under a CC Attribution 4.0 International (CC BY 4.0) license.


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