Creative Commons is a system of licensing that allows copyright owners to specify different levels of rights protection for their work. It is a flexible form of copyright protection and usually allows users more freedom of use than traditional copyrighted material.
There are six different levels of licence, and it is important you check which licence has been specified when looking for copyright-protected material you wish to use:
1. Attribution -
2. Attribution-NoDerivs -
3. Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike -
4. Attribution-ShareAlike -
5. Attribution-NonCommercial -
6. Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs -
Not all Creative Commons licence allow for 'derivative works' to be made from copyrighted material. It is important to check which license material has been distributed under; if a licence has the ND ('NoDerivs') symbol, you can only use, download and/or redistribute the material, not edit or adapt it. The chart at the top of the page will give you an idea of what the copyright holder will allow under the different licences.
Any material used under a Creative Commons licence must be referenced in the usual manner using, for example, the Harvard referencing system. It may also be beneficial to add the details of the Creative Commons licence at the end of your reference, for example, 'used with permission under Creative Commons licence'.
If you have edited or adapted the original material, you need to acknowledge this, e.g. 'This is an adaptation of [title or name of work used] © 2012 Joe Bloggs. This work is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/'
If you have used material under one of the 'ShareAlike' licences, you must make your work available for users to use under the same licence.
You can Creative Commons your own work, although it is important that you fully understand the difference between the various licences, particularly those allowing commercial use.
There is no registration process to go through. All you need do is go to the Creative Commons page and choose which licence best meets your goals or aims. Once you have chosen a licence you need to mark your work in some way so that others know you have chosen to make your work available under the terms of that licence.
If your work is hosted on a website, you can use one of the Creative Commons licence symbols to mark your work. There is a step-by-step licence chooser that you can work through, which will advise you of the best licence for your purpose and generate an HTML code for you to upload to your site.
If you are marking some form of offline content, you can use some variation of the following statement on your title page or at the foot of each page: '© 2012 Joe Bloggs. This work is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Use this flowchart created by Creative Commons Australia and used here under CC Attribution 2.5 Australia licence to help you determine which is the best licence for you. This will give you a better understanding not only of which licences are best to use for your own work, but what you are allowed to do with other people's work under these licences.