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Creative Commons and Other Open Licensing

Information about Creative Commons, open data, and open software licenses.

Choosing a License

CC BY is often the default license publishers use for open publications, allowing others to distribute, remix, adapt, and build upon work, even commercially, with attribution. This allows for the maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials. But depending on other elements in the work you don’t own or control copyright and the preferences of co-authors, CC BY might not be the best choice.

You and your co-authors need to decide whether or not you want to allow others to make changes or “derivatives” to the work, or whether you want to restrict others from using the work as is. You can indicate that you want others have rights to use the work itself, or you can indicate that others have rights to use derivatives of the work. If you want to encourage others to make interesting new works from the work, or customize it for their own needs, you will want to allow others to make derivatives.  

Here are some things to consider:  

  • Are you okay with allowing other people to copy and distribute your content without asking for permission every time? This could entail downloading, sharing a copy with a friend, or posting a copy online. If not, then you do not want to use a Creative Commons license.
  • Are you okay with others changing or adapting content, such as translating into another language or reformatting for improved accessibility? 
  • What about allowing remixing or making a mashup of the content?
  • If remixing is acceptable, do you want to limit how others can release their remixes? If not, you will want to consider a license that includes a Sharealike element.  
    • You should apply the “ShareAlike” terms if you want the work and adaptations of the work to be incorporated into Wikipedia, for example. This will help the digital commons grow over time.
  • Do you want to allow others to make money off of your content?  

These questions are based on CC's License Chooser tool.

If you want to give away all of your rights in the content so that it can be used by anyone for any purpose, then you might want to use the public domain dedication tool, CC0.

Do you need to investigate extra permissions not included in the existing licenses? You can find CC+ examples on this page.

Creative Commons provides guidance on the use of their licenses with data and databases.


WashU Research Data

When you deposit data with WashU Research Data, your data will be discoverable and shared with others. You have the option to choose from one of the licenses below that determines what others may do with your data, ranging from a broad license to do whatever they like, or a narrow one that restricts non-commercial use and prevents distribution of derivative works.

  •     Creative Commons Licenses
  •     Open Data Commons Licenses
  •     Open Software Licenses

More information about each of these types of licenses is explained on the home page of this guide. Data documentation and other considerations for preparing to share are listed on the Digital Research Data Sharing at WashU guide. For additional information about WashU Research Data, please visit the repository FAQ page.

Choose and Use Creative Commons Licenses for Open Educational Resources