History of Creative Commons/Creative Commons Licenses

What Licenses DoEdit

Licenses allow creators of works to specify what uses can be made of those works, without seeking permission. Authors may still grant permission for uses that fall outside the license, but the uses allowed by the license do not require permission.

Creative Commons Licenses are both human-readable and machine-readable. This means that works with Creative Commons licenses can be identified as such in their metadata, allowing search engines to identify them. For instance, Google Image Search allows users to filter works by license.


The first (1.0) Creative Commons licenses, issued in 2002, were inspired by the GNU General Public Licenses.[1] They included three parts: a plain-language summary for anyone who wanted to use them, legal code to guarantee their permissions, and a machine-readable component to make them searchable via search engines.[1]

The second iteration of the Creative Commons licenses (2.0) was released in 2004. It provided an attribution standard and made the Share-Alike licenses work internationally.[1]

Version 3.0 was released in 2007.[1] Today, 4.0 licenses are available.

Types of LicensesEdit

Authors can mix-and-match their licenses. The characteristics covered by the licenses include:

  • BY (Attribution)
    • Everyone who uses the work must provide attribution to the original author.
  • SA (Share-Alike)
    • Anyone who makes use of the work must make it available to others under the same license.
  • NC (Non-Commercial)
    • Commercial uses of the work are not allowed.
  • ND (No Derivatives)
    • The work can be reused but not remixed. Derivative works (such as translations, pastiches, etc) may not be made.

Thus, a range of possible Creative Commons licenses can exist. If a work is licensed CC BY, for instance, any uses are allowed as long as the original author is credited. If a work is licensed CC BY-NC-ND, then the work can be reused with attribution, but only in non-commercial contexts, and derivative works are not permitted.[2]

Popularity of Creative Commons LicensesEdit

The first Creative Commons licenses were issued in 2002; by 2003, one million such licenses had been granted, and by 2004, that number had reached nearly five million.[1] In 2006, 140 million works were available under CC licenses.[3]

As of 2017, over 1.4 billion works had been released under Creative Commons licenses. Millions of CC-licensed works are available on platforms including Wikipedia, Wikimedia Commons, DeviantArt, Europeana, the Internet Archive, Medium, and the Directory of Open Access Journals.[3]

Books, educational resources, and games have all been published under Creative Commons licenses.[4]


  1. a b c d e Geere, Duncan. "The History of Creative Commons." Wired UK. December 13, 2011. https://www.wired.co.uk/article/history-of-creative-commons
  2. Creative Commons. "Licensing Types." https://creativecommons.org/share-your-work/licensing-types-examples/
  3. a b State of the Commons. https://stateof.creativecommons.org/
  4. "List of Major Creative Commons Works." Wikipedia. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_major_Creative_Commons_licensed_works