How to Find Creative Commons Content to Use in Marketplace Items

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Note: This post hasn't been updated in over 2 years.

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Licensing can be a complex, tricky business. That’s why Creative Commons was founded to help give content creators an easy way to distribute their work while specifying some simple factors such as whether the work could be used commercially or modified. Creative Commons licenses are perhaps most famous for their use on Flickr and Wikipedia. But really they are all over the place, with some half a billion items or more licensed under one of the CC licenses.

For Marketplace users, CC-licensed materials can be a great source of assets to use in item previews and even item downloads. In this post I’ll explain a bit about what kinds of licenses you should be looking for, where to find content, and what to avoid.

Which CC Licenses are suitable for Authors to use?

Every CC license has a short name and description which explains in a simple way what that license allows a person to do. There is also a full legal license if you wish to read it thoroughly. Not all CC licenses are appropriate for content that you intend to use in or on a marketplace item, so you have to pay attention.

The licenses you CAN use with marketplace items are:

Some important things to note are:

  1. Attribution – When this is present you must attribute and link back to the original item. So you would put attribution and a link back in your item description and/or item documentation (depending on where you’ve used the content). Attribution typically says something like “Photo by Joe Photographer” with a link to the page or portfolio where the item came from.
  2. Commercial – The licenses above can be used for commercial purposes. All non-commercial CC licenses explicitly say so. Make sure to avoid any license that says non-commercial since usage on our marketplaces is a commercial usage.
  3. Public Domain – Creative Commons provides a public domain mark which you may also come across. Items put into the public domain can be used in any way you wish (including without attribution). Note that the public domain isn’t technically a Creative Commons license, but the mark is a convenience offered by the organization for content creators.

What to Avoid

Make sure to avoid the non-commercial licenses such as the Attribution-Noncommercial CC BY -NC license. You should also avoid CC licenses that contain the ShareAlike term such as the Attribution-ShareAlike CC BY -SA license. ShareAlike licenses mean that the work you are creating (i.e. the item for sale) needs to also be licensed under the same ShareAlike license. This isn’t appropriate for our marketplaces where the items are meant to go up on sale with the Envato license.

And avoid licenses with the NoDerivs -ND term. The way the -ND license terms are written, all that is allowed is format shifting of items, and compiling items into collections (like an anthology). Remixing or adaptations are not allowed, and that would include using an item within your marketplace item (even if you don’t alter the CC item itself).

Other things to be aware of

You should also remember that just because an item has been made available by someone under a CC license, doesn’t mean they actually had the rights to do so. To give you an example, if I download a photo that someone else took and upload that same photo to Flickr and put it under a CC Attribution license, it doesn’t mean the photographer has actually given permission for such usage.

Essentially when you use free content such as CC licensed items you are taking some risk that the person licensing the content actually has the right to do so. I advise to use your common sense and exercise some caution when sourcing content from sites like Flickr. For example if it looks like the user is just uploading stuff they like rather than images they own, then you should avoid using those images.

Also you should avoid using images containing visible people that have been licensed under CC licenses. The reason being that the people in the photos probably haven’t granted the right to use their image in a commercial setting. So to give another example, if I am walking down the street and a photographer takes a photo of me, uploads it to Flickr under a CC Attribution license and a drug company grabs that photo for their upcoming Viagra campaign, I’m probably not going to be very happy about it! So even though the photographer is the rights holder of the photograph, laws around privacy and controlling use of someone’s image might kick in. Many people have some sort of right to control the use of images of themselves. So people in CC licensed photos may not have given permission for their photos to be used in your item preview.

If you want to use photos of people, it’s best to license stock photography from a reputable site. Such sites (like our marketplace for photos) ask photographers to upload model releases for their images where the people in the photo have consented to the image’s use in various commercial contexts.

Where to Find Creative Commons Content

There are a lot of sites that index their content according to what CC license the creator has granted. Most famous of all is Flickr, but the list also includes some YouTube videos, Jamendo for music, Fotopedia, Wikimedia Commons and the Open Clip Art Library.

Happily there is a really easy way to search these libraries for Commercial CC licenses using the Creative Commons search page with a check in the box to find content that can be used for ‘commercial purposes’.

Start Searching Creative Commons Content Here

There are other, smaller sources of CC-licensed content such as the Blender open movie projects that I recently posted about. If you know of some good sources, be sure to leave a comment below!

If you have any questions about finding or using CC-licensed, feel free to ask in the comments!

Support Creative Commons

You may also wish to support the Creative Commons organisation who have some really inspirational goals. You can do so by Donating or buying yourself one of their nifty little CC Tshirts from the Creative Commons Merchandise Store.

  • Studio9Resources

    This is good to know actually…most people don’t know where to find models, and other pictures to use in their flyers and other items.

  • Yigit Ce. yigit

    Kudos! It’s easier to find the contents now.

  • tiquet


  • ansimuz

    Thanks for this.

  • pezflash

    Useful info. Thanks Collis.

  • acerchina

    Very good, I have little advice.
    1. Open search results in a new window.
    2. Select multiple items (for example: google + the flickr, or other)

  • Matthew Butler

    Great stuff… very clear english! thanks

  • amzee

    Informative – Would make use of it.

  • Mindaugas

    What if I use printscreens of some websites in my demo site, is this allowed?

    Sorry if this was asked and answered somewhere, but I could not find the answer.

    • Nuruzzaman Sheikh

      Yes, you can take screen shots of the entire envato network (like net.tutsplus; webdesign.tutsplus, themeforest etc) and use them in your works what are going to be sold or use on envato network. This is a clear permission of envato and I used their screen shots on some tutorials and market place items.

      But I don’t know about other sites.

  • Misel D.

    Thanks Collis!

  • Saroj
  • zourbuth

    Very nice explanations and easy to understand.

  • matu

    Well that clears a few things up


  • Giallo

    Thanks for the summary Collis

  • Mike

    Collis I want to personally thank you for this. I recently have struggled to find these assets, and you made it 100% clear. Thanks 😉

  • LivelyWorks

    Very useful…lets use creative commons creatively!!

    Thanks Collis!!

  • Basspartout

    Great article – thank you very much!

  • Nuruzzaman Sheikh

    Very good and important article. Thanks a lot for sharing. :)

  • Julien

    that’s simple and clear, thanx Collis

  • Tendosk8er

    Thanks for goodies

  • SaReGaMa

    How about the Art LIbre license?
    Can it be used here?

  • John

    Thanks Collis, that was REALLY helpful indeed!

  • Tom

    Thanks, for the article. I have a question though.
    Can I use stock photography ex. DepositPhoto for preview purposes, I’ve bought from them and do I have to prove somehow that.

  • Steve Kamn

    Thanks Collis!
    It is really helpful to me.

  • razailarbi

    Useful info, I need it, Thanks Collis