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Copyright: What You Need to Know

Provides copyright information and educational resources for the Rhode Island College community
Subjects: Copyright, Open Access, Open Educational Resources & Open Textbooks Tags: academic_honesty, academic_integrity, copyright, fair_use, plagiarism, public_domain

Creative Commons Licenses

Creative Commons (CC) Licenses are the most commonly used open licenses. When Creative Commons licenses are used, the author or creator retains copyright, while allowing others to use the content, with greater or lessor restrictions, without the need to ask permission. The creator can use six standard licenses, immediately put the work into the Public Domain or customize the license further.

Creative Commons licenses are described in three layers:

  1. The legal code - This is the legal license. CC 4.0, the most current iteration of the licenses, has language to recognize international copyright differences.
  2. The Commons Deed (aka, the "human readable") This brief summary of the license is the user-friendly version. For non-lawyers, it provides the basics of what the license allows.
  3. Machine readable - This layer enables search engines, filters and tools to find and sort CC licensed content. Beyond the human readable logo, many CC licenses  you see online are emended code.

Creative Commons License Spectrum

This spectrum shows the range of permissions and restrictions CC licenses can allow. The six main CC licenses are in the middle, following the Public Domain, CC0, and before traditional copyright.

Creative commons license spectrum.svg
By Shaddim; original CC license symbols by Creative Commons - Original CC license icons licensed under CC BY 4.0, CC BY 4.0, Link

Tools from Creative Commons

For more information about Creative Commons licenses, contact Dragan Gill at

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