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What does ‘Creative Commons’ mean?

cc.largeYou want to use an image or media from a website and it says it is licensed under ‘Creative Commons’. What does ‘Creative Commons’ mean?


Here I refer to the Creative Commons license often used on online images and media. It is used as a way to share an image with others, but, does that mean anyone can just take the image and use it for themselves? Close, but not exactly.

Here’s a few points to help understand Creative Commons:

  • Creative Commons is an organisation. It was set up to help share and use tools, knowledge, images, etc.
  • In order for people to share things the organisation made their own copyright license, it’s called the Creative Commons license, and it’s super easy to use.
  • The person who wants to share their knowledge/images/tools… can choose how they want to share them. The owner retains the copyright to the image. People using those images have to follow the sharing rules.


Here are the FOUR sharing rules you need to know to use images with Creative Commons license:

* these can be used on their own or together – when together note each rule.


CC attribution1. ATTRIBUTION

– means people can use an image as long as they note who created the work. e.g. Thanks for the image, Joe Blog (with a link to Joe Blog).  Sometimes people have text or HTML they want inserted to reference the image. It usually has their name and a link to their original site.

This HAS TO be used on every image with Creative Commons. It is the standard baseline. Every Creative Commons image has to be attributed. Otherwise, it’s not a Creative Commons license.



CC non commercial2. NON COMMERCIAL

– means that you can’t use the image for anything that is going to make money. So, you can’t sell the image or use it in advertisement on your website.




cc share alike3. SHARE ALIKE

– means that you can edit the work and build on it but it has to be shared with the same licensing terms as the original.  So, you can crop and put a filter over the image but you have to keep the same Creative Commons license on your finished image.



cc no derivatives4. NO DERIVATIVES

– means that you can’t change an image. No changes at all. Only the exact copy of the image can be used. No crop, no colours or tones, no cutting out etc. (This can’t be combined with ‘Share Alike’).




When you’re using an image make sure to use follow the licensing rules.  Remember, the image creator is being super nice to share the image without charge or royalties.

Have a look through the Creative Commons website for more details information.  Thank you for the images Creative Commons!


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