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What Is Creative Commons And How To Use It For Your Website?

March 04, 2024


Images are essential for making you stand out online. Including them enhances the overall user experience, whether you’re writing a blog post, webpage, e-book, or any other type of content.


But, you can’t just download pictures from the internet; you have to figure out whether or not you can use them without violating their copyright.


This is because every image, whether found on Google, social media, or a stock photo site, acquires copyright as soon as it is created, and it is up to you to determine if you have the legal right to use it. For those who don’t know, copyright violations have major consequences!


So today, we’re here to talk about one type of copyright: Creative Commons. Let’s take a closer look at what it is and how you can use it for your website.



What Is Creative Commons (CC)?


creative commons logo

Creative Commons is most commonly known by the CC abbreviation.


If you’ve ever searched through a collection of works for a project, then you’ve definitely heard of Creative Commons (CC), seen the licenses, or possibly even used one already. But what exactly is Creative Commons?


Incorporated as a non-profit in 2001, Creative Commons is committed to promoting educational accessibility and expanding the range of creative works that are freely available for people to use, adapt, and share. It’s a ground-breaking method of promoting artists that have inspired more than billions of works—and counting!


So, when it comes to images, there are a variety of licenses that can apply when using them on your website. And, unlike a lot of copyrighted photos that you must pay to license, Creative Commons images are accessible to use for everyone, as long as you follow the licensing requirements and terms (more on that later on).


Basically, this kind of intellectual property protection is more versatile and web-friendly than the conventional “some rights reserved” copyright framework.



Where Can I Find Creative Commons Images?


It doesn’t take too much effort to find CC images. In fact, some popular sites like YouTube, Flickr, and CC Search offer Creative Commons search filters. You can even find these images through the search engine of your choice with the words “Creative Common images” in the search bar.


Once you’ve found the image you’re looking for, you don’t even have to seek permission from the author. All you need to do is simply comply with the license’s conditions.


google tools to check cc licensed images

Google allows you to check what images are under the Creatives Commons license.


However, rather than acknowledging an image at face value, our tip is to look for the image’s license conditions first. For instance, when conducting a Google picture Search, you can utilize the ‘use rights’ tool to filter out any images that you can’t reuse. If the image you found is not listed here, then it’s your best bet to not use that image.



What Are The Different Creative Commons Licenses?


creative commons licenses

Symbols for each type of Creative Commons License. (Source: ResearchGate)


When you start your online journey and decide to choose Creative Common images for the different layouts of your website, you’ll find that there’s more than one type out there. Below is a quick rundown of these different Creative Commons licenses (CC licenses):


  1. NoDerivs
    Under NoDerivs (short for “No Derivative Works”), only exact copies of the work can be used and shared, meaning no derivative or altered versions of the work are authorized.


    In other words, this license forbids any modification, remixing, or improvement of the original work.

  2. Attribution
    Most opportunities for sharing and republishing are provided by this Creative Commons license. You are free to redistribute, adapt, and improve on the original work under the terms and conditions, as long as you credit the author of the original image.


    Of course, just be careful not to imply that the original author has assisted you in any way when you use their work.

  3. NonCommercial
    The NonCommercial license permits you to reconfigure and expand on the original media, but it cannot be transferred for commercial purposes.


    So, bloggers in the business world – take note of this license. Even though blogs don’t generate income on their own, they can help a business that does them by supporting it and bringing in clients. As a result, unless the media’s author states otherwise, it’s advised to avoid using media under this license when publishing to a company blog.

  4. ShareAlike
    You have permission to redistribute, tweak, and reconstruct the original media as long as you give credit to the creator and release it under the same license, which is the ShareAlike license.


    The image under this license must not be reused under any terms that are different or more restrictive than those imposed by the original author.

  5. NonCommercial-NoDerivs
    The most limiting license an artist could use for their work is NonCommercial-NoDerivs. In this license, the original work cannot be modified, changed, remixed, or built upon, nor is it allowed to be published for profit.


    So, a NonCommercial-NoDerivs image must be displayed exactly as found and must include credit for the original creator of the work if it is to be posted on a personal website.

  6. NonCommercial-ShareAlike
    When using these kinds of Creative Commons images, you are permitted to change, build upon, and redistribute the original content with the following conditions:


    • As long as it is not used for commercial gain.
    • The author is credited.
    • The image is published under the same NonCommercial-ShareAlike license as the original.


    In short, this hybrid license just combines the terms of the NonCommercial and ShareAlike licenses.



How To Properly Attribute Creative Commons Images


Now that you know the different types of Creative Commons images, you probably have questions on how exactly to attribute them. Fear not! We’re here to show you just how to do it.


Step 1: Determine the license for your chosen image


To do this, begin by entering a search word that accurately describes the image you want and need. Once you’ve found the image that you’ve been looking for, take some time to read the image’s license terms before including it in your article.


image licenses on flickr

Flickr is one of the many websites that show their image license.


For example, you can find this license labeled on an image on Flickr in the bottom-right corner, as seen in the image above.


Step 2: Attributing the author


Unless the author of the image specifies otherwise, there are two ways to properly attribute him or her to your redistributed image.


The first method is by putting “Image by” followed by the name of the author. This one is usually done if you haven’t altered or built upon the author’s original work.


It should look similar to this:


Image by Katherine Kenny


But, if you modified their work, you should use the second method. This is done by putting something along the lines of “This image was modified from”, followed by where you get the image and then the author’s name.


When done correctly, it should look like this:


This image was modified from Flickr by Katherine Kenny


Doing all of these is a simple form of courtesy and is the best practice you could do when attributing CC images.


Step 3: Reference the image’s source in a link


Once you’ve determined the license for your image and created an attribution line for it, all you’ve gotta do now is link the author’s name or the image’s origin to the page from which you first obtained it.



Use The Right Images With The Right Attributions


Creative Commons (CC) is a simple framework that enables you to obtain and use a wide range of content. It makes it easy for you to source photos online by choosing and following the conditions under which the creator wants their work to be used.


With that said, it’s important to pay attention to the exact requirements of each license when using CC photos to prevent copyright infringement and possible legal consequences.


By attributing correctly, you can have the peace of mind of, well, not getting sued, all the while being able to elevate your website!


And speaking of having peace of mind, you can also check out our best web hosts article to make sure your website is always running at its best!