Wed Aug 29 23:24:21 BST 2018

Creative Commons Integration, from A to Z

About this toolkit

What: This toolkit covers the elements for a basic Creative Commons platform integration, including aligning legal terms to CC tools; installing the CC license chooser; displaying CC licensed content with the correct logos and links; and how to communicate CC to your users. See the Table of Contents above to skip to the topic you need help on. What this is not: Legal advice. There may be unique issues that apply to you that aren’t considered here. See Beyond this Toolkit.

Who: User-generated content platforms that want to address the increasing public demand for sharing under CC licenses and public domain tools. Think of it as an onboarding tool – everything you need to know to get from zero to basic CC integration. Who this is not designed for: Organizations or individual licensors looking to apply a CC license to their own publications or other materials. Though helpful, most of this toolkit will not apply to you. Please refer to our best practices for marking and attribution instead.

Why: Creative Commons works to create easy, clear, and enjoyable ways for users to contribute to the commons on web platforms they already know and use. Many platforms already allow easy sharing under CC tools, allowing their users to share and remix millions of freely licensed works. This toolkit will help you join the network of major platforms like Flickr, Wikipedia, YouTube, and Medium with engaged and creative communities that benefit from the rich universe of content under Creative Commons licenses.

License: This web version of the toolkit is free for you to reuse and remix under the terms of the CC Attribution 4.0 International license. Please credit Creative Commons with a link back to this toolkit. If you modify this toolkit, don’t suggest that we endorse your revisions.

Learn more: This toolkit is part of a larger initiative to transform platforms into vibrant, creative spaces for the commons. If you would like to get involved with these aspects of our work, visit this page.

The different types of content on your platform

The primary focus of this toolkit is to help you enable CC licenses for user-generated content (UGC) on your platform. However, you probably have other types of content on your platform as well. We have categorized the main types of content most platforms deal with:

  1. content owned by your users;
  2. content owned by you, the platform provider; and
  3. third party content contributed to your 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.

1. Content owned by your users:

If you enable your users to apply CC licenses to their content on your platform, your primary goal should be ensuring they understand the basics of how the licenses work, especially because the licenses are irrevocable. You can decide which of the six license types and two public domain tools you want to enable users to apply and then make sure to mark the content to identify 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. (More on that below.)

2. Content owned by the platform:

As the copyright holder for this type of content, the world is your oyster! If you choose to apply a CC license to any of it, just be sure to mark which license applies (type and version) and mark any content that is not covered by the license, such as company logos or other trademarks.

3. Third party content contributed to the platform:

If you allow your users to upload content created by others, it is important to be clear about what permissions they need to have from the author before doing so. Many platforms permit users to upload content they do not own so long as it is available under a Creative Commons license (or one of some particular subset of CC licenses). The decision to allow users to upload third party content, and if so, which particular Creative Commons licenses are permitted, comes down to how the content on the platform is and 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 (1) and in others the platform puts the onus on the uploader to make the determination (2).

Example: A platform hosting open educational resources (OER) wants its educators to share and build on relevant and high quality resources. This platform may find it desirable to enable its users to share and remix existing third party OER 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 (1), or it may allow third party content under various licenses as long as the user maintains she has the rights to reuse the content (2).

CC and your Terms of Service

In this section, we cover a few basic elements for an ideal TOS, explain some additional legal considerations for adding CC licenses to your site, and identify the most common problems in terms of service and how to fix them.

Checklist for an ideal TOS

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.

1. In the most simple and accessible terms possible, the TOS should explain how CC licensing works for content creators on the platform.

For example, is the default that all user-generated content is published under a particular CC license, or do users simply have the option to select a CC license for their work? See Model platform TOS provisions for an example.

2. The TOS should make it clear that users of the platform can reuse CC-licensed content according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license.

Many users will not be familiar with CC licensing, so it is best to spell this out explicitly. You can also link to information that explains how CC licenses work in more detail. If the TOS include other provisions that restrict the way content is used on the site, then providing certainty that CC-licensed content may be used according to the license terms is particularly important. See Additional restrictions for more information. See Model platform TOS provisions for an example.

3. The TOS should state in clear terms what types of existing CC-licensed content (created by third parties and not the user) can be uploaded by users and how that content should be marked.

For example, some sites only allow users to upload content under CC licenses allowing commercial use. Others allow any CC-licensed content. In all cases, the TOS should also state how such content should be marked with license and attribution information. See Third party content contributed to the platform above for more information how to determine what types of third party content to allow and Third party CC-licensed content for information on how to avoid a common conflict related to third party content. See Model platform TOS provisions for an example.

Other considerations for TOS

  1. License from contributors: Where 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 below for more information about this conflict and how to address it.
  2. 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.
  3. Later versions of the licenses: 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.

Example language: “You hereby agree that Your Content: (a) is hereby licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License and may be used under the terms of that license or any later version of a Creative Commons Attribution License.”

Most common conflicts in terms of service

1. Additional restrictions

Many TOS 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.

Example language: “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.

2. 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].”

User guidelines and other supplemental materials

Platforms often have additional guidelines or rules that are incorporated by reference into the TOS. Obviously, it’s important that those rules accurately describe how the licenses work and that they not create any conflicts with the terms in your TOS.

Examples

Every good website terms of use is customized to how the particular platform runs its service, which means TOS cannot be completely standardized. 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.

1. Model platform TOS provisions

This sample language demonstrates one possibility for a platform that allows its users to apply any of the CC licenses to their own content at the 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 [add link to page about CC on your platform or https://creativecommons.org/licenses/].

This sample language demonstrates an example of a platform that allows its 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.

This sample language demonstrates one way to clarify that 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.

2. Real world TOS provisions

This provision from the Jamendo TOS is an example of one way to explain how CC licensing works for content creators on the platform. Jamendo is a music platform that allows its users to opt to CC-license their original works.

3.1.2 - Selection of the Creative Commons License or “CC” License

Artists shall select a CC License when they publish their Works and Materials on JAMENDO, for each Work or for an entire Album. Depending on the type of CC License chosen by the Artist, Users may benefit from more or less extensive rights on the Works and the Materials of the Artist. Certain CC Licenses enable Users to make commercial use of the Artist’s Works without compensation for the latter. Should the Artist wish to participate in the Commercial Programs offered by the JAMENDO LICENSING service, which may or may not give rise to compensation for the Artist, it is advisable for the Artist to preferably opt for a non-commercial CC License (NC) from among the six (6) CC Licenses listed below.

  1. CC-BY (Attribution) : enables users to distribute, remix, arrange, and adapt your work, even for commercial purposes, provided that credit of the original creation of the Work is attributed to you by citing your name.
  1. CC-BY-SA (Attribution - Sharing under the Same Conditions) : enables users to remix, arrange, and adapt your Work, even for commercial purposes, provided that credit is given to you by citing your name and that the creations derived from your Work are distributed under identical conditions.
  1. CC-BY-ND (Attribution - No Derivative Works) : allows redistribution, whether or not for commercial purposes, provided that the original work is distributed unmodified and in its entirety, with attribution and citing of your name.
  1. CC-BY-NC (Attribution - Non-commercial Use) : enables users to remix, arrange, and adapt your Work for non-commercial purposes and, although the creations derived from your Work must credit you by citing your name and not constitute a commercial use, they shall not be distributed under the same conditions.
  1. CC-BY-NC-SA (Attribution - Non-commercial Use - Sharing under the Same Conditions) : enables users to remix, arrange and adapt your work for non-commercial purposes provided that you are credited by citing your name and that the creations derived from your Work are distributed under the same conditions.
  1. CC-BY-NC-ND (Attribution - Non-commercial Use - No Derivative Works) : this license only authorizes users to download and share your Works provided that you are credited by citing your name, but they may not be modified in any way whatsoever nor used for commercial purposes.

This provision from the Internet Archive TOS is an example of one way to provide certainty that CC-licensed content on the platform is not subject to additional restrictions. Internet Archive is a digital library providing free access to millions of books, movies, and other content.

If a Creative Commons or other license has been declared for particular material on the Archive, to the extent you trust the declaration and declarer (which is rarely the Internet Archive), you may use the content according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license.

This provision from Section 7(c) of the Wikimedia TOS demonstrates one way of indicating if and when users may upload CC-licensed content owned by others. The Wikimedia Foundation is the nonprofit that owns and operates Wikipedia, the world’s largest online collaborative encyclopedia.

Importing text: You may import text that you have found elsewhere or that you have co-authored with others, but in such case you warrant that the text is available under terms that are compatible with the CC BY-SA 3.0 license (or, as explained above, another license when exceptionally required by the Project edition or feature)(“CC BY-SA”). Content available only under GFDL is not permissible.

You agree that, if you import text under a CC BY-SA license that requires attribution, you must credit the author(s) in a reasonable fashion. Where such credit is commonly given through page histories (such as Wikimedia-internal copying), it is sufficient to give attribution in the edit summary, which is recorded in the page history, when importing the text. The attribution requirements are sometimes too intrusive for particular circumstances (regardless of the license), and there may be instances where the Wikimedia community decides that imported text cannot be used for that reason.

CC in your User Interface

There are three components to a seamless CC licensing experience for users: 1) the license selection process, 2) display of the licensed content, and 3) discovery of licensed content. In this section, we’ll go over what is required for 1 and 2; 3 is covered in depth in Enabling CC Search and Discovery. All three components require design graphics (our universally recognized CC icons and machine-readable license metadata (a small snippet of html code with RDFa).

The License and PD Tool Suite: Before digging into the first two components, you might familiarize yourself with our full suite of CC licenses and public domain tools, along with examples of use for each. 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. If you have a previous version already installed and are simply looking to upgrade to the latest tool suite, jump to Upgrading to 4.0 and later versions of the CC suite.

CC license selection should occur at the point of upload, or just prior to publication for works created directly on the platform. Users should be able to license individual works, batches of works, and all works they upload to a platform via a default license setting. This can be done by adding a CC license chooser, or incorporating the CC tool suite into an existing rights chooser. Note: If your platform requires all user-generated content to be under one license, the license selection process for users described here may not apply. In that case, please see CC and your Terms of Service on specifying a default license for site content in your terms, and Marking Your Work with a CC license for correctly displaying the default license for all content on your website.

License chooser

Licensing individual works

Model license selection

When a user uploads or publishes her work to a platform, they are doing so with the intent of sharing that work more broadly. This is an appropriate place to give users clear choices about how they would like their work to be used under CC or other terms.

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. The following order is recommended for platforms that want to encourage users to share more liberally with their communities.

Users should be able to toggle between license options and learn more about each license before making a final choice. This can be achieved by clearly linking each option to the corresponding license deed, eg. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ for CC BY, and by displaying the corresponding license icons per option, eg. (cc in a circle) + (attribution man in a circle) for CC BY. We further recommend providing a short description of each license upon selection, eg. “This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation” for CC BY, or at the very least a link to the full set of descriptions for more information, eg. “Learn more about the CC licenses at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/.”

After publishing, users should be able to edit their license selection at anytime, just as users can edit other information about their work. Ideally, a record of license changes is logged by the platform either internally and/or publicly.

The metadata behind each license selection should correspond to the metadata on the page where the resource is ultimately displayed. This metadata is a small snippet of html code that indicates the license to search engines and other kinds of software. It is invisible to the lay user, but visible in the source code of the chooser. (See Metadata for chooser for more details.)

Batch licensing for multiple works

Flickr batch licensing

Similarly, the same license selection options should be given to users when they can upload and/or select more than one work to edit at a time. This is called batch licensing.

Default licensing

Model default license

Users can also be given the option to set a default license for all content they upload and share on the platform.

License display on content

When a user accesses content on your platform, it is important for them to 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.

Model license display

License display on a resource consists of 3 components:

  1. The corresponding specific CC license icon(s), eg. (cc in a circle) + (attribution man in a circle) for CC BY
  2. Link to the corresponding license deed, eg. https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/ for CC BY
  3. 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. (See Metadata for display for more details)

Additionally, users should have the ability to view, download, and distribute any 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. * If applicable, a “download” button, or other way to obtain the original file containing the content, should be displayed along with the license on the content page so that users may download and use the content as it was intended. All CC licenses allow redistribution at a minimum. * Technical measures prohibiting any of these or related actions that CC licenses allow should not be added to CC-licensed content on your platform.

License metadata

At every integration step, license metadata plays a crucial role in communicating the CC licenses to search engines and other kinds of software. For example, adding CC license metadata may direct users to your platform via Google’s advanced search which enables search filters by usage rights. CC license metadata should be incorporated into the technical backend of the three components of the CC user experience: 1) the license selection process, 2) display of the licensed content, and 3) discovery of licensed content. In this section, we’ll go over the metadata that is required for 1 and 2; 3 is covered in License metadata for search.

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. But you don’t need to know all the details to implement it into your platform. We’ve broken down what you need by each component below.

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.

Generating metadata is then a matter of expanding a textual template using the stored licensing and other information.

Licenses can be chosen from a simple list, optionally organized into sections for Public Domain, Creative Commons Licenses, and All Rights Reserved.

Or they can be specified by choosing Default Copyright, Public Domain, or Creative Commons License. To specify which Creative Commons license, the user then chooses between “Do Not Allow Commercial Use” and “Allow Commercial Use” and also between between “Do Not Allow Derivatives”, “Allow Derivatives”, “Allow Derivatives As Long As The User Shares Alike”. The 2012 redesign of Creative Commons’ license chooser uses this method.

In either case, the license information can be stored in the same way.

Metadata for display

At a minimum, the main component you want machine-readable is the license and license icons.

Code:

<a rel="license" href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/"><img src="https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/4.0/80x15.png" /></a>

Explanation: rel=“license” sets the predicate or verb, the URL in the href value sets the object, in this case the CC BY 4.0 license. img src allows you to associate the CC license icon of your choice with the specific license URL.

Beyond that, you can include additional attribution information, such as Title, Author and Work URL, in the following span tags.

Code for Title:

<span xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" property="dct:title">TITLE</span>

Explanation: dc represents “Dublin Core” which is one of the oldest vocabularies or schemas on the semantic web. It allows one to express typical things like a work’s title, author, or source.

Code for Author:

<span xmlns:cc="https://creativecommons.org/ns#" property="cc:attributionName">AUTHOR</span> 

Explanation: In this case, CC is using its own XML namespace (https://creativecommons.org/ns#), abbreviated using cc. The property is CC’s AttributionName attribute and the value is the content inside the anchor tag (AUTHOR). (For definitions of the different properties in CC’s XML namespace, see https://creativecommons.org/ns.)

Code for URL of work (web address where work sits):

<a xmlns:cc="https://creativecommons.org/ns#" href="URL of work" property="cc:attributionName" rel="cc:attributionURL">AUTHOR</a> 

Explanation: This is to link the AUTHOR to a URL where the work sits. The property is still CC’s AttributionName attribute and a relationship of cc:AttributionURL is defined for the URL of the work.

All together now: This CC licensed video on Vimeo should include the following metadata in the source code of the page.

<a rel="license" href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/"><img alt="Creative Commons License" style="border-width:0" src="https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/3.0/88x31.png" /></a><span xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" property="dct:title">Lawrence Lessig at the CC Global Summit 2015</span><a xmlns:cc="https://creativecommons.org/ns#" href="https://vimeo.com/143427866" property="cc:attributionName" rel="cc:attributionURL">Creative Commons</a>

Explanation: The bolded items correspond to the following fields:

  • License = https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
  • License icons = https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/3.0/88x31.png (you can replace this with the circular icons if you wish, see Logos and icons)
  • Title = Lawrence Lessig at the CC Global Summit 2015
  • Author = Creative Commons
  • URL of work = https://vimeo.com/143427866

Code 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" src="https://i.creativecommons.org/l/by/3.0/88x31.png" /></a><span xmlns:dct="http://purl.org/dc/terms/" property="dct:title">Lawrence Lessig at the CC Global Summit 2015</span><a xmlns:cc="https://creativecommons.org/ns#" href="https://vimeo.com/143427866" property="cc:attributionName" rel="cc:attributionURL">Creative Commons</a></div>

Explanation: about defines the subject of metadata within the div. Here we have about=“”, which defines the subject to be the URL of the media file.

Logos and icons

The CC logo and license icons are universally recognized symbols of sharing and have been recently acquired by the Modern Museum of Art (MoMA) in New York. Transcending language and culture, CC graphics efficiently communicate to users what they can do with a work, increasing recognition and contribution of content into the commons.

Ideally, CC license icons should accompany every instance of a CC license displayed at the three components of integration: 1) the license selection process, 2) display of the licensed content, and 3) discovery of licensed content. At a minimum, license icons should be used in 2) display of the licensed content.

Our logos and icons are available at https://creativecommons.org/about/downloads. We recommend using the circular icons when appropriate and have provided these initial standard sizes for use.

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 (https://creativecommons.org/), and please make sure to 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.

Additional design resources:

You may find helpful Medium’s design process for its CC user experience.

Learn more about the origin of the CC logos and icons in this feature, A Masterwork in Simplicity: The Story of the CC Logo.

Checklist for CC User Interface

Check if the following are true.

License chooser

  • Users can license individual works on the platform
  • Users can license a batch of works on the platform
  • Users can set a default license for works they contribute to the platform
  • Users can edit their license choices after the fact
  • License metadata is integrated into the source code of the license selection process
  • The license logos and icons accompany each license selection
  • A short snippet of explanatory text and/or link to the CC license accompanies each license selection

License display on content

  • The CC license is clearly displayed on the content page, with the following:
    • License icon(s)
    • Link to license deed
    • License metadata integrated into the page’s source code
  • Users can publicly access or view the licensed content without a login
  • Users can download or otherwise obtain the file directly from the content page

Upgrading to 4.0 and later versions of the CC suite

If your platform is currently using an old version of the CC license suite, you should consider moving to the most up-to-date version (4.0). This is simple to do for all content going forward. All you have to do is 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.

If you would also like to change the license for the existing CC-licensed content on your platform, it’s more complicated. Since users typically retain the copyright to content they upload to a platform, this requires getting permission from users. For example, platforms could prompt users to relicense their previously CC-licensed work the next time they log into the platform.

If you would like to be able to move the CC-licensed content on your platform to a later version without hassle in the future, you may want to consider getting express permission from your 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.

Enabling CC search and discovery

Once you have integrated CC into the first two components of your user interface correctly (license selection and content display), you can integrate the same license metadata into your search so that users can filter content on your platform by license, or by reuse categories that address their needs. In addition to adding license filters to your platform’s search, you can also provide a portal to CC-licensed content, a landing page for those users seeking commons content on your platform. We provide examples and details for both in this section.

You can filter by licenses in two ways – by license or by a few reuse categories that are most applicable to what your users are seeking.

Example 1

Model search results

Model search filters

Example 2

CC search filters by category

Example 1 demonstrates filtering by license, which is pretty straightforward. When you filter by license, make sure to use the same order of licenses you used in the license selection process. All content licensed under a specific CC license should appear in the results when the corresponding license is checked. For example, when CC BY is checked, all content licensed under CC BY would show in the results.

Example 2 demonstrates filtering by a few reuse categories that correspond to content under more than one license.

  • In this case, checking only “use for commercial purposes” returns all content marked under CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-ND, CC0, and PDM.
  • Checking only “modify, adapt, or build upon” returns all content marked under CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC BY-NC, CC BY-NC-SA, CC0, and PDM.
  • Checking both “use for commercial purposes” and “modify, adapt, or build upon” returns all content marked under CC BY, CC BY-SA, CC0, and PDM.

If you choose to use categories different from the ones above, make sure that they accurately portray the usage rights given by the CC licenses and that the right subset of CC licensed content is returned with each filter.

2. CC content portal and browse features

Flickr browse portal

Platforms like Flickr and Vimeo have landing pages that serve as portals to CC-licensed content to allow users to browse the commons in one place. These portals accomplish several goals, including providing direct and easy access to CC content; explaining the diversity of CC licenses and content options; surfacing the significance of sharing culture; and building a community around the commons. It is important that this page is accessible from your home page, or easily navigated to from somewhere equally obvious in the user interface. If your platform is interested in providing a landing page for the commons, see Communication and Education for some additional language and resources you might include.

At the user interface level, the user can specify either “All” or “Any Terms” if they do not wish to constrain their search by license. If they do wish to search for licensed works they can specify specific licenses from a list, or they can choose license affordances using radio buttons for reuse categories that correspond to content under more than one license. For example: “Use Even Commercially” / “Only Use Non Commercially” and for “Do Not Allow Adaptations”/”Allow Adaptations”/”Allow Adaptations As Long As The User Shares Alike”.

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.

Attributing authors of CC content

With so much user-generated content on your platform, it is important that 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 can be automatically generated or prompted on your platform at the point where a user downloads a CC licensed work. Attribution should also be prompted in any remix tool, or if you allow users to upload third party content under CC licenses.

1. Attribution at the point of download

Vimeo music store attribution prompt

MIT OCW attribution prompt

When a user downloads content from your platform, she is intending to reuse it in some way. Providing a suggested attribution both highlights the importance of giving credit while giving the user text which she can easily copy and paste. If you have integrated the CC license metadata, suggested attribution text can be generated automatically from the source code on the page.

Model copy attribution

At the code level this means filling out a template based on the metadata examples above. It is simply a case of creating a license chooser according to best practices for attribution text.

2. 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. 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. For more information see, our Best practices for attribution.

3. Attribution for content that your users don’t own but contribute to your platform under CC licenses

N4L Pond attribution third party work distinction

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, similar to users licensing their own work at the point of upload. The distinction, however, should be made that the users are sharing content that is not their own through a field for them to indicate the original author of the work. Again, please refer to TASL and our Best practices for attribution for more information.

Additional attribution guidance for your users

Consider providing your users with attribution guidance, especially if your platform hosts domain-specific content that has different attribution norms, eg. academic research. CC’s general Best practices for attribution may be linked to or adapted for your purposes.

Communication and Education

A well-designed CC integration and user experience is usually all users need to start contributing their creativity to your platform under liberal sharing terms. However, users are also contributing to a larger pool of content, a global commons of photos, videos, books, music, and scientific research that is changing the world thanks to the collaborative nature and speed with which it can be updated and advanced. Communicating this context to your users, and the role Creative Commons plays in this global movement, will incentivize the growth and quality of content while coalescing your users into an engaged and active community around it.

We recommend at least one or all of the following communications materials to explain how the CC licenses work, the larger movement within which it sits, and how your platform’s values align with the Creative Commons vision.

  1. An info page that explains the basics of CC, including why your platform decided to add CC for your users and how it aligns with your platform’s values. Don’t forget a link to https://creativecommons.org for users who want to learn more. Example: YouTube’s page on Creative Commons.
  2. FAQ on how CC licenses work on your platform. You can adapt CC’s FAQ for your purposes. Example: Vimeo’s CC FAQ.
  3. Community guidelines around attribution and other sharing practices Example: Flickr’s attribution and general community guidelines.
  4. CC portal for content discovery. Example: Flickr’s CC portal; Vimeo’s CC portal. See CC content portal and browse features for more info.
  5. One-time communications that sit in a permanent url such as a blog post announcing the integration, the design process, or related editorials about the addition of CC Example: Medium’s posts announcing explicit post licensing and its UX design process.

Model Platform

You can download and test the model platform here. You can also browse through the screenshots below without deploying.

Model home

Model login

Model license upload

Model license selection

Model default license

Model license display

Model browse portal

Model search results

Model search filters

Model TOS

Model about cc

Model FAQ

Model attribution guide

Model community guidelines

Also check out these real world platforms with CC integrations. You can log in to see how the license selection process works on each.

Final checklist

Bold = minimum needed for a functioning CC integration

Check if the following are true for the Terms of Service:

  • The TOS explain how CC licensing works for content creators on the platform
  • The TOS make it clear that users of the platform can reuse CC-licensed content according to the terms and conditions of the applicable license
  • The TOS state in clear terms what types of existing CC-licensed content (created by third parties that are not the user) can be uploaded by users, if any
  • If the TOS require a direct license from users, it excludes existing CC-licensed content created by others

Check if the following are true for the license selection process:

  • Users can license individual works on the platform
  • Users can license a batch of works on the platform
  • Users can set a default license for works they contribute to the platform
  • Users can edit their license choices after the fact
  • License metadata is integrated into the source code of the license selection process
  • The license icons accompany each license selection
  • A short snippet of explanatory text and/or link to CC license accompanies each license selection

Check if the following are true for the license display on content:

  • The CC license is clearly displayed on the content page, with the following:
    • License icon(s)
    • Link to license deed
    • License metadata integrated into the page’s source code
  • Users can publicly access or view the licensed content without a login
  • Users can download or otherwise obtain the file directly from the content page

Check if the following are true for search and discovery:

  • Users can filter content on the platform by license, or by reuse categories that address their needs
  • A portal, or a landing page, to CC-licensed content is provided on the platform
  • The CC search or portal pages are easily navigated to from the home page, or somewhere else obvious
  • The license metadata behind the search and browse filters is correct, eg. each filter returns content under the corresponding licenses

Check if the following are true for attribution on the platform:

  • Attribution is automatically generated or prompted at the point where a user downloads or otherwise 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 the platform allows users to share existing CC licensed content by other creators, the platform requires attribution for that content at the point of upload via a text field or other
  • The platform provides users with other attribution guidance, eg. an attribution guide specific to the platform

Check if the following are true for communication and education on the platform:

  • The platform provides an info page explaining the basics of CC
  • The platform explains why it decided to enable CC license options and/or how CC aligns with the platform’s goals on the info page or in a blog post
  • The platform provides an FAQ on how CC licenses work
  • The platform provides community guidelines around sharing under CC licenses
  • The platform provides other materials, eg. announcement of CC integration; blog post describing the CC UX design process; editorial about CC

Beyond this Toolkit

For Creative Commons, the global commons is a platform for cooperation. The size of the commons is not as important as how (and if) the works it contains are used. 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. Part of this is working to increase cross-platform mobility of content; another part is tracking growth and use of the content itself and reporting on major trends in our annual State of the Commons report. In addition to growth of content and users, what is your platform seeking to do and how can CC help you do it? Learn more about our work and upcoming Platform Membership Program.

This toolkit is an evolving resource for platforms. See something you’d like to improve or add? File an issue on GitHub.

Have questions or need help implementing particular pieces of the toolkit? Contact us.

This toolkit by Creative Commons is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.