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Copyright and Intellectual Property Rights

Your guide to understanding copyright law and intellectual property rights

What is Creative Commons?

Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use licences for copyrighted materials. Adopting a Creative Commons licence for your work makes it easier to specify what people can and can't do with it. This standardised approach to reusing and repurposing materials promotes sharing and makes it easier to search for reusable content.

Creative Commons licences are human and machine readable, making it possible to search for materials made available under a particular licence.

For example, find reusable images through Flickr, videos through YouTube (after searching select Filters > Creative Commons) or music through Jamendo (click on Advanced Search). Look for the symbols to see which licence applies to the work.

Using Creative Commons on work you create?

Creative Commons licences allow you to label your work as "Some Rights Reserved" instead of "All Rights Reserved". The rights you retain and those you give to others are expressed through the Creative Commons licence you choose.

For example, the CC BY (Creative Commons Attribution) licence "lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials." It is recognisable by this symbol. 

Adding a Creative Commons licence to a document or online resource is quite simple. On this webpage, we have embedded the code within the page so that visitors know at a glance how our resources can be reused and adapted. 

Creative Commons and research

Notably for academic staff and researchers, the RCUK's Open Access policy now mandates that research made freely available through the payment of an Article Processing Charge (APC) should be available under a CC BY licence. Other funders are following suit.

The issue of licensing Open Access research outputs has been addressed by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee's Inquiry into OA. See the response from Creative Commons, explaining the CC-BY Licence.

Creative Commons try to make it as easy as possible to Choose a Licence but there are also considerations to bear in mind.

Find out more about copyright in publications.