Creative Commons: “When we share, everyone wins”

Creative Commons Logo, Hibr, Some rights reserved



The Creative Commons Licenses is a copyright licensing authorization mechanism. The difference from the existing copyright law “all rights reserved” is that the Creative Commons Licenses uses a “some rights reserved” model to allow users to try out works for free under certain conditions. Based on the copyright law, it provides people with a legal mechanism that not only protects the rights of the licensor (original or right owner) but also allows users to legally share, use, and disseminate works (Creative Commons, n.d.). 

This article will take CC licenses (Creative Commons Licenses) as the object of discussion, briefly review the history of the CC licenses movement and the basic content of its terms, and then discuss the effects of its implications in different fields. As well as the social value of the CC license, it not only promotes the development of online education but at the same time, it attracts creators as an effective term work alongside copyright law (research OUTREACH, 2018).

Brief History of CC Licenses

The genesis of Creative Commons Licenses was inspired by a copyright enactment led by The Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act (CTEA) in the US. The Creative Commons Licenses was carried out to address current practical problems (Without copyright notice or registration requirements, it is difficult to determine whether a work has entered the public domain) caused by the default of copyright (Lessig, 2007). In this social background, Stanford Law Professor, Lawrence Lessig, and others jointly initiated a project with the theme of “creation sharing and use sharing”, then in 2002, a non-profit organization which “providing flexible copyright terms for creative works” was established (Creative Commons, n.d).  

Lawrence Lessig, Joi, Some rights reserved

“Lawrence Lessig”,  Joi , Some rights reserved

Overview of CC licenses

Through the certificate provided by CC licenses, the right owner can freely choose the degree of openness of his/her work to the public, that is, to authorize others to use his/her work in accordance with the terms of CC licenses while retaining some of the rights, so as to avoid the suspicion of copyright infringement and obtain more creative material (Bailey, 2015). Since the release of the Creative Commons license, more and more organizations and individuals have begun to use it worldwide.

Each CC license is mainly based on four elements. It includes: 1. Attributions (BY) 2. Noncommercial (NC) 3. No Derivative Works (ND) and 4. Share Alike (SA). It can be well-explained by the following figure. Users can mix these four elements at will to form a valid license. It should be noted that the “Share Alike” and the “No Derivative Works” cannot be used at the same time, because the SA element only applies to deductive works (Creative Commons, n.d.).  

How to Licenses poster, Creative Commons, Some rights reserved

“How to License Poster”, Creative Commons, Some rights reserved

After nearly two decades of development, Carroll mentioned that the Creative Commons license has gained more recognition and support, making the information resources in the public domain that can be used freely by the public, especially scientific information and creative works have become more abundant, which has significant meaning for bridging the knowledge gap (Carroll, 2013, p.790).

Creative Commons Licenses Implications

The application of the Creative Commons License in different fields has enriched resources in various fields. Specifically embodied in the following three aspects: to meet the needs of cultural innovation industries, help improve the level of technological development, and build a good cultural sharing society. 

According to Professor Lessig, excessive protection of intellectual property rights will cause the loss of cultural innovation, thereby hindering cultural exchanges. The CC license provides a reliable legal guarantee for cultural innovation, and balances the interests of copyright owners and users, through clear authorization (2007). This not only reduces the cost of obtaining information but more importantly, it promotes the further development of cultural innovation. 

Secondly, the significance of science lies not only in creating new knowledge but also in creating knowledge that everyone can obtain. The CC license enables the widespread dissemination and utilization of some scientific documents and benefits the whole society. The Science Commons Project, founded by the Creative Commons in 2005, demonstrated the value of many scientific pieces of research, enabling more people to benefit from the scientific research results of scientists.  

“Science Commons", Creative Commons, Some rights reserved

Science Commons“, Creative Commons, Some rights reserved

Thirdly, the CC license has made great efforts to build an orderly public domain. The use of the CC license for authorization attracts more like-minded researchers, opens up a way of communication, improves the awareness of cultural conscious sharing, and builds a balanced public communication platform (Bledsoe et al., 2007). 

It can be seen from the application of the CC licenses in all walks of life that it promotes the advancement of science and technology and the demand for knowledge sharing, and neutralizes the malpractice of copyright law in people’s minds.

Creative Commons Licenses in Edu-Area

The impact of the CC license on college students is mainly reflected in the fields of art, humanities, scientific research, and education. First, it is manifested in open educational resources. China NetEase Online Open Courses is an online learning platform that provides massive learning material freely for Chinese students. Most of the courses are shared from well-known universities and institutions such as Harvard, Stanford, Oxford, BBC, TED, etc.  Except for Chinese university video open courses, all other learning videos are released under the CC license BY-NC-SA 2.5 license (Zhennan, 2015). The shared learning resources are favored by the target group of school students and graduates who have a strong desire for knowledge.  

“NetEase online course launching ceremony in Beijing”, China Daily, Some rights reserved

“NetEase online course launching ceremony in Beijing”, China Daily, Some rights reserved

For me personally, free learning resources like NetEase Open Courses make learning activity with no limit on the number of people anytime, anywhere, and make up for the time and space limitations of traditional education. Especially during the outbreak of COVID-19, many international students can only rely on online education provided by universities. Such free online education has made up for some college students’ demand for knowledge to a certain extent. Allow international students to have the opportunity to discuss difficult problems with other learners, exchange learning experiences, and make progress together in their spare time. 

Although open educational resources face many challenges, such as insufficient funds, intellectual property issues, and coordination issues between universities, these issues can be resolved through effective coordination (Jonsdottir, 2015). In those universities that have adopted open courses, the schools encourage teachers to participate in the weaving of courses through subsidies or bonuses and coordinate the issues of knowledge contribution and copyright protection. 

In short, in the field of education, the use of the Creative Commons license to release courses is not only a contribution to human education but also can increase the school’s popularity and develop its reputation.


On the one hand, the CC license encourages the creation, and on the other hand, it encourages the sharing of the results of creation to promote recreation. It recognizes the author’s “all rights” and guides the author to “give up some of the rights”, to realize the rapid dissemination and utilization of the work, so it can work alongside with copyright to better realize its purpose of promoting the progress of science and applied arts. As countries around the world further improve the CC license, the information project can play a more important role under digital copyright and benefit more the public, especially creators. Just as Lessig, one of the founders of the project, mentioned that sharing creativity builds far-reaching meaning and value for the world, creating a future that benefits everyone and is full of creativity (2007).



Creative Commons. (n.d.). About the Licenses. Retrieved 18 Oct 2020, from

research OUTREACH. (2018). License to share: How the Creative Commons licensing system encourages the remixing and reuse of published materials. Retrieved 18 Oct 2020, from

Lessig, L. (2007). The Vision for the Creative Commons: What are we and where are we headed? Free Culture. Sydney University Press.

Creative Commons. (n.d.). 1.1The Story of Creative Commons. Retrieved 19 Oct 2020, from

Suzor, N. (2019). Lawless : the secret rules that govern our digital lives . Cambridge University Press.

Carroll, M., & Carroll, M. (2013). Creative Commons and the openness of open access. The New England Journal of Medicine, 368(9), 789–791.

Bledsoe, E., Coates, J., & FitzGerald, B. (2007). Unlocking the potential through creative commons : an industry engagement + action agenda .

Jonsdottir, A. H., Jakobsdottir, A., & Stefansson, G. (2015). Development and use of an adaptive learning environment to research online study behaviour. Educational Technology & Society, 18(1), 132+.

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