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