It’s for platforms where users upload content. Aimed at teams who could be part of implemention: legal, development, etc.
Examples of platforms who have integrated CC licenses:
Flickr, Medium, Youtube, etc.
What is this page for?
It’s a guide to implementing CC licenses to uploaded materials. These are best practices, not requirements.
If you’re looking for information on how to add licenses to individual materials, click here.
Table of Contents
Here you can see the topics covered in this toolkit and can help you find what you’re looking for. The topics are organized by area of interest; you can filter by the colored tabs or by clicking directly on a topic below.
This toolkit brings all the elements for a basic Creative Commons platform integration.
For platforms who want to offer CC licenses to user uploaded content
If you’re looking to apply a CC license to your own materials click here.
Showing the power of collaboration
Give your user context, explain how the CC licenses work, and how your platform’s values align with the CC vision. Click here for resources you can use.
Because engaged creative communities will thrive
And it’s easier for users to contribute on platforms they already use, such as YouTube, and Medium.
Types of Content
Identify the types of content on the platform
All CC-licensed content functions the same for your users once it is published on your site – they can use the content freely under the terms of the relevant Creative Commons license.
But for you as the platform provider, there are a few things to consider that are specific to each category of content.
Content owned by users
Ensure your user understands the basics of how the licenses work - especially since they’re irrevocable. Decide which of the six license types and two public domain tools you want to enable users to apply. Signal which license applies to which content.
In nearly all cases, this content remains owned by the user, and the platform gets the rights to host it via the CC license that is applied or via a separate license in the terms of service. (Click here for more about Terms of Service)
Content owned by the platform
You’re the copyright holder for this type of content. If you choose to apply a CC license to any of it, just be sure to mark which license applies (type and version) and signal any content that is not covered by the license, such as company logos or other trademarks.
Third-party content contributed to your platform
Be clear about what permissions the user needs from the author. The decision to allow users to upload third party content, and which Creative Commons licenses are permitted, comes down to how the content could be used by both the platform itself and other users. In some cases the platform will specify the particular types of CC-licensed content that are permitted, and in other the onus is on the uploader to make the determination (see example below).
A platform hosting open educational resources wants users to share and build upon the content.
It’s enabled so users share and remix existing third party material under CC licenses.
This platform may choose to specify that only third party content under a specific CC license, eg. CC BY, may be shared.
Or it may allow third party content under various licenses as long as the user maintains the rights to reuse the content.
Terms of Service
CC and your terms of service
Website terms of service are not strictly necessary, but most platforms have them. For those that do, we recommend including the following elements if the platform enables CC licensing for user-generated content.
Terms of Service should:
Explain how CC licensing works for content creators on the platform.
For example, is all user-generated content published under a particular CC license by default, or do users simply have the option to select a CC license for their work?
Make it clear that users of the platform can reuse CC-licensed content according to the terms and conditions of that license.
Link to information that explains how CC licenses work. If the T.O.S. include other provisions that restrict the way content is used on the site, then it’s important to point out that CC-licensed content may be used according to the license terms.
State what types of CC-licensed content created by third parties can be uploaded and how that content should be marked.
Some sites only allow users to upload content under CC licenses allowing commercial use while others allow any CC-licensed content. In all cases, the T.O.S. should also state how such content should be marked with license and attribution information.
Other considerations for terms of service
License from Contributors
When users are uploading content that is already CC-licensed (whether their own content or others), the platform can get all of the copyright permission it needs to use the work from the applicable CC license. However, platforms often include a direct copyright license grant from the uploader to the platform in their terms of service. In cases where people are uploading CC-licensed content owned by others, the direct license to the platform is in conflict with the CC license. See the Third Party CC-Licensed Content for more information about this conflict and how to address it.
Representations & Warranties
Platforms often ask their users to formally promise that the content they upload to the platform is not infringing of others’ copyright or other rights. CC licenses do not include reps and warranties of this type, and CC-licensed content comes “as-is” or without guarantees. However, platforms may still ask their users to represent that they have the necessary rights to all content they upload, including CC-licensed content.
Later versions of the License
In 2013, Creative Commons published the latest version of the license suite – version 4.0. We have no plans to version the licenses again for many years, but it is realistic to assume that eventually the licenses will be updated to reflect legal and policy changes. Only the rights holder can apply a new version of the licenses to a work, so platforms may want to consider getting express permission from their users to move to the most updated license of the particular CC license applied to a work when those future versions are released. This can be done in the terms of service or at the point of upload where the user applies the CC license to their work.
Most common conflicts in terms of service
Many T.O.S. include restrictions on how content on the platform may be used. Imposing additional terms that contradict the CC license confuses users and undermines the point of license standardization. CC strongly discourages this practice.Your platform may have extra restrictions that are not intended for CC-licensed content. For example, a platform may include terms that limit use of the platform to noncommercial purposes. In these cases, we recommend adding language that clarifies that these and other restrictions do not apply to CC-licensed content. For example:
For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Agreement is designed to prevent you from reusing content available under a Creative Commons license according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license.
At the end of the day, we want to ensure that people who come across CC-licensed work can trust that they can use that work under the terms of the CC license. When extra restrictions are imposed on CC-licensed content – whether by changing the license terms themselves or by imposing new contractual restrictions via terms of service – Creative Commons requires that the CREATIVE COMMONS name and brand be removed to avoid confusing people about the source of the more restrictive terms imposed by the platform. Anything that imposes additional conditions or narrows the permissions granted by a standard CC license is prohibited. For example: prohibiting download of CC-licensed works, or adding extra attribution requirements. For more details, read the full CC License Modification Policy here.
Third Party CC-Licensed Content
As noted above, platforms often require their users to grant a separate, direct copyright license to the platform for all content they upload.This creates a conflict when a user uploads CC-licensed content owned by others (third parties) because the user cannot grant rights to content they don’t own; only the original CC licensor can grant these rights to the platform. Therefore, it is important that the direct license written into the TOS excludes CC-licensed content owned by someone other than the uploader.
Example language: “If you provide any content to [the platform], you grant [the platform] a nonexclusive, royalty-free right to use that content, unless the content is not owned by you, in which case you represent and warrant that such content is in the public domain or available under a Creative Commons license or other terms permitting upload to the [the platform].”
Please keep that in mind when looking through the model and real world examples below, and do not use any of this language for your own purposes without considering how it would apply in your unique context.
Model Platform Terms of Service
Example: allow users to apply any of the CC licenses at point of upload.
When you contribute content you own, you have the option to select one of six Creative Commons licenses to your content. Those licenses enable other users of the platform to reuse your content under certain specified conditions. You can read more about the differences between those licenses here.
Example: allow users to upload third party CC-licensed content.
When you contribute content to our platform, you retain any copyright you have in the content, but you grant us permission to use it to provide our service, including reproducing and displaying your content to the public on our site. If the content you contribute is not owned by you, you represent and warrant that it is either in the public domain or available under a Creative Commons license, or that you are authorized to use it by the rights holder or by law.
Example: CC-licensed content may be used according to the terms of the relevant license.
For the avoidance of doubt, nothing in this Agreement is designed to prevent you from reusing content available under a Creative Commons license according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license.
Real World Terms of Service Provisions
Example of T.O.S. indicating if and when users may upload CC-licensed content owned by others.
Example of how CC-licensed content on the platform is not subject to additional restrictions.
Example explaning how CC licensing works for content creators on the platform:
Updating to later versions
To update if you’re still using an older version:
Change the existing links to the 4.0 license suite (eg. creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0) and make sure the correct license versions are displayed throughout your site. This is valid for all content going forward.
To update existing licensed content:
You’ll need permission from users. For example, platforms could prompt users to relicense their previously CC-licensed work the next time they log into the platform.
To always keep licenses up to date:
Get previous permission from your users to move their content into the most updated version of CC-licenses.You can do this in the terms of service or during the upload process.
Adding CC Licenses
Concerns when implementing a license picker
Make sure you familiarize yourself with our full suite of CC licenses and public domain tools. Most UGC platforms will want to offer the full suite, or a recommended subset, for users. You’ll want to offer the latest version of these licenses and tools; currently the most up-to-date versions are Version 4.0 for the licenses, and 1.0 for both CC0 and the Public Domain Mark.
During the upload process
Let the user license individual work
Let the user batch license multiple works
Let the user choose a default license
After uploading content
Allow easy access to editing licenses
Give information about the licenses
Help the user understand the licenses
Your license chooser should:
Present choices so your user can make an educated decision
Depending on the goals of your platform, you would either set the default selection for sharing at “all rights reserved copyright” or one of the CC licenses, presenting the remainig licenses as viable options.
Allow publishing work in a way that can be shared more broadly
The license chooser is an appropriate place to give users clear choices about how they would like their work to be used under CC or other terms.
Make sure the platform’s user flow supports the user
Let users pick and learn more about licenses. Display license icons and provide information. After publishing, editing should be easy. The metadata behind each license selection should correspond to the metadata on the page where it’s displayed.
Follow these basic guidelines but adapt when needed
Every platform has particular needs, so these recommendations are not set in stone. The goal is to make the process of picking licenses fit your userflow seamlessly. If you’d like to see examples, click here for implementations in other platforms.
Users should easily identify licenses and what they mean
Let your users know what rights govern the content. CC licenses make this easy; as universally recognized symbols of sharing, the CC license icons invite users to discover content on your platform at a minimum, and once there, users can click further to learn more about what they can do with the work according to the specific license indicated.
Ensure your user can easily identify a licensed content. Our logos and icons are available here. We recommend using the circular icons when appropriate and have provided these initial standard sizes for use. The CC logo and license icons are universally recognized symbols of sharing and have been acquired by the Modern Museum of Art (MoMA) in New York. Use of our logos, icons, and trademark are governed by our policies. Please do not use the main CC logo to link to anything other than our main website.
Access to information
Make sure your user can find information about the licenses. Link each license icon or corresponding set of license icons to the specific license in question, eg. (cc in a circle) + (attribution man in a circle) should be linked to https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ for CC BY.
Include machine-readable metadata on the backend (a small snippet of html code that indicates the license to search engines and other kinds of software). This is invisible to the lay user, but visible in the source code. The metadata behind each license display should correspond to the metadata chosen via the license chooser process.
Allow access to CC-licensed or public domain work
All CC licensed content should be publicly accessible, which means be able to be read or viewed by a user, without a login.
Allow download and distribution of content
A “download” button, or other way to obtain the original file should be displayed along with the license so that users may use the content.
Allow redistribution according to each license
All CC licenses allow redistribution at a minimum. Technical measures prohibiting actions that CC licenses allow should not be added to CC-licensed content on your platform.
License Metadata (Display)
License Metadata gives a broader reach to content
CC license metadata should be incorporated into the technical backend of the three components of the CC user experience: the license selection process, display of the licensed content, and discovery of licensed content. Here we’ll go over the metadata that is required for uploading and display. Under Search Implementation you can find the remaining information.
What is this license metadata
CC license metadata consists of a small snippet of html code with RDFa that expresses CC license and attribution information on the web. RDFa is a way of expressing RDF triples inside XHTML pages using span tags. You can learn more about RDFa and how it works here. The following is an overview of all the information you need to implement it into your platform.
Metadata for chooser
If the chooser is a graphical user interface for work stored on the platform then it doesn’t need to generate metadata itself. The platform can just store the chosen license in the database. This can be done with two pieces of information: the terms (for example All Rights Reserved, CC0, CC-BY-SA, represented as a unique id for each one) and the version (e.g. 1.0, 2.5, 4.0). Or if the TOS allows the platform to automatically update licensing versions it can be done with just the terms id number.
Metadata for display
At a minimum, the main component you want machine-readable is the license and license icons. Next, you can find code snippets and their explanation:
Title: Lawrence Lessig at the CC Global Summit 2015
Author: Creative Commons
URL of work: https://vimeo.com/143427866
Associating metadata to a specific media file
We also recommend associating the CC license metadata on a web page with the specific media file by wrapping the metadata in div tags. This is especially useful to specify when your platform hosts more than one work on a web page.
<div about="<LINK TO MEDIAFILE>">
<a rel="license" href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/" >
<img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0"
<span xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" property="dct:title">
Lawrence Lessig at the CC Global Summit 2015
Adding Search Filters
Concerns when allowing users to search for content.
The same license metadata can be integrated into your search so that users can filter content on the platform by license, or by reuse categories that address their needs. You can also add a portal for users seeking commons content on your platform. To increase visibility, provide an API so your content can be found through other places.
Add filters to your search
Let the user search by licenses
Let the user search by usage
Add a content portal to your site
Let the user see commons content
Provide an API for search engines
Let the user find this content in more places
Search by License
Allow filtering the material by a specific license.
All content under a specific CC license should appear in the results when that license is selected.
Search by usage
Filter by what the user could do with that content.
When using categories, portray the usage rights given by the CC licenses and return the subset of CC licensed content.
A session dedicate to displaying CC-licensed content.
Portals provide direct and easy access to CC content. This page shoud be accessible and easily found in the UI.
Applying license metadata for search
Add filters to the interface using lists or radio buttons to allow selecting licenses or categories that correspond to content under more than one license.
At the back-end level, either source can be used to determine a list of license identifiers to be used to constrain the search. At the software level this is simply an SQL “where” clause or equivalent.
Make sure your users respect and give credit to each other
All six CC licenses require attribution, which includes naming both the author and the specific CC license the work is under. We also recommend giving attribution for public domain works as a best practice, even if it’s not legally required.
Attribution at the point of download
Attribution can be automatically generated or prompted on your platform at the point where a user downloads a CC licensed work.
Attribution in Remix Tools
If you allow your users to build on each others works within the platform itself via a remix tool or similar, then we suggest automating attribution when a user pulls a work into her remix.
Attribution for content that users don’t own but contribute uploading under CC licenses
Be sure to require attribution for third-party content at the point of upload (allowing them to indicate the original author of the work).
At the point of download
Suggested attribution text can be generated from the source code on the page if you’ve integrated CC metadata. At the code level this means filling out a template based on the metadata examples below. This is solved by creating a license chooser with best practices for attribution text.
In remix tools
Any automated attribution should include at a minimum the author and license of the original work (with link to the specific license). Best practice is to retain TASL, standing for Title, Author, Source, and License, in any attribution.
Third Party content uploaded
If you allow your users to share third party CC licensed content on your platform, be sure to require attribution for that content at the point of upload. Make sure you give your users a way to indicate the original author of the work.
Additional attribution guidance for users
Consider providing your users with attribution guidance, especially if your platform hosts domain-specific content that has different attribution norms, eg. academic research.
This session groups design files (such as logos), information that could be useful during implementation as well as featured cases with examples that could offer insight. In case you need something more structured, you can check out the model platform. The final checklist gives a thorough rundown on the possibilities for implementation, as well as highlighting the main requirements.
Medium’s design process for its CC user experience:
“A Masterwork in Simplicity: The Story of the CC Logo” (feature with the origin of the CC logos and icons).
Platforms that have CC integration:
The model platform is a resource in case you’d rather start with a structured tool
The repository on Github allows you to test, log in, see an example of selection process and download the model.
While the screenshots let you navigate through the screens and see a suggestion of user flow.
Cover the basics of implementation
This toolkit breaks down a great amount of content, and this final checklist is a way of quickly going over what is needed - and crucial - for a successful implementation. We recommend working on the items signaled in yellow first, with the other features remaining as optional.
Your Terms of Service should:
Explain how CC licensing works for content creators.
Make it clear that CC-licensed content can be reused according to the terms and conditions of its license.
State what types of CC-licensed content (created by third parties) can be uploaded by users, if any.
Note that if the TOS requires a direct license from users, it excludes existing CC-licensed content created by others.
The license selection process should:
Allow users to license individual works.
Allow users to license a batch of works.
Allow users to set a default license for works they contribute.
Allow users to edit their license choices afterwards.
Integrate metadata into the source code.
Include the license icons in each license selection.
Include a short snippet of explanatory text and/or link to CC license in each license selection.
The license display on content should:
Display license icon(s), link to license deed and license metadata integrated into the page’s source code.
Allow users to publicly access or view the licensed content without a login.
Allow users to download or otherwise obtain the file directly from the content page.
The license search and discovery should:
Allow users to filter content on the platform by license, or by reuse categories that address their needs.
Provide a portal, or a landing page, to CC-licensed content on the platform.
Link to the CC search or portal pages from the home page, or somewhere else obvious.
Guarantee the license metadata behind the search and browse filters is correct, eg. filter returns correct licensed content.
Make sure the following are true for attribution:
Attribution is automatically generated or prompted at the point where a user download/obtains a CC licensed work.
If the platform has a remix tool, attribution is automated whenever a user pulls a CC licensed work into her remix.
Any automatically generated or prompted attribution includes the Title, Author, Source, and License.
If users share CC licensed content by other creators, attribution for that content during upload is required.
The platform provides users with other attribution guidance, eg. an attribution guide specific to the platform
Please communicate the following in your platform:
Explain the basics of CC.
Explain why the platform decided to enable CC license options and/or how CC aligns with the platform’s goals.
Provide an FAQ on how CC licenses work.
Your community guidelines around sharing under CC licenses.
Provide other materials, eg. announcement of CC integration; blog post describing the CC UX design process; editorial about CC.
Beyond this toolkit
What comes after implementation
Getting from zero to basic integration is just the first step in joining a vast global network of creators, companies, and institutions who are working to build context, gratitude, and other mechanisms for collaboration into the commons. We work with platforms who share our values to design tools and services that light up this universe of content and creators.
Learn about how everything adds up
Check our State of the Commons report to see data about the growth of the commons and use of content, as well as major trends.
What does your platform need?
In addition to the growing your users and content, what are your platform’s goals when implementing CC licenses? Explore more possibilities.
Help this toolkit be a one-stop shop
This toolkit is an evolving resource for platforms. See something you’d like to improve or add? File an issue on Github.
Let us know if anything comes up
Do you have questions or need help implementing particular pieces of the toolkit? Contact us.