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Creative Commons Licenses

This guide provides information on how to add a Creative Commons License to share your work and how to reuse and remix content that have Creative Commons Licenses.

Derivatives, Adaptations, and Remixes

Derivative Work = work based on or “derived” from one or more already existing works (US Copyright Circular 14)
Adaptation = an altered or amended version of a text, musical composition, etc.
("adaptation, n.". OED Online. July 2018. Oxford University Press.
Remix = using technology to rearrange, combine or remix existing works to create new works (see Rostama, G.  (2015) Remix culture and amateur creativity: A copyright dilemma.  WIPO Magazine.  Retrieved from for an interesting read on the remix culture.)

A derivative work must:

  • Incorporate Some or All of a Preexisting Work (Derived from the Original) AND
  • Include New Materials Appearing for the First Time

From U.S. Copyright Law = Exclusive right given to copyright owner to “prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work.”  (Title 17, Section 106) = AKA. “Adaptation Right."  THEREFORE, you need to seek permission if you want to Derive, Adapt, or Remix a work.

Exceptions to the Adaptation Right

  • Fair Use (as long as the 4 factors are met)
  • Permission granted via a Creative Commons License
  • Work is in the Public Domain



Remixing involves mixing materials from different sources to create a new work. 
Compiling a collection of images is different.  A collection involves amassing different works together while keeping them organized as distinct separate objects. 
In both cases, you need to look at the CC licenses to determine what you can do in terms of making adaptations. 

The chart below shows which CC-licensed material can be remixed. To use the chart, find a license on the left column and on the top right row. If there is a check mark in the box where that row and column intersect, then the works can be remixed. If there is an “X” in the box, then the works may not be remixed unless an exception or limitation applies. See this page for details on how remixes may be licensed.

Creative Commons and Derivatives

CC BY-ND = Attribution-NoDerivatives License 

  • Use the unadapted version of the work for any purpose AND
  • Give attribution

CC BY-NC-ND = Attribution-Noncommerical-NoDerivatives License 

  • Use the unadapted version of the work for noncommercial purposes AND
  • Give attribution 


ALL Creative Commons Licenses, even the two above that have NoDerivatives clauses, DO allow ANYONE to make an adaptation/derivative of a CC licensed work.

The major difference between the other four licenses and the NoDerivatives licenses is that you CANNOT SHARE the adaptation/derivative.   One can still be made just not shared. 



Creative Commons Adapter's License Chart

Creative Commons Adapter’s license chart

The chart below details the CC license(s) you may use as your adapter’s license. When creating an adaptation of material under the license identified in the lefthand column, you may license your contributions to the adaptation under one of the licenses indicated on the top row if the corresponding box is green. CC does not recommend using a license if the corresponding box is yellow, although doing so is technically permitted by the terms of the license. If you do, you should take additional care to mark the adaptation as involving multiple copyrights under different terms so that downstream users are aware of their obligations to comply with the licenses from all rights holders. Dark gray boxes indicate those licenses that you may not use as your adapter’s license.

Abbreviation Key



Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License