When an author creates a work, Canadian law automatically grants them full "copyright" over their work. This means that nobody may copy their work or make changes to it, except with the author’s express permission, or in accordance with the user rights granted by the Copyright Act (e.g., fair dealing). Put another way, if you want to use a work in way that doesn’t qualify as a user right, you can only use the work as permitted by the copyright owner. The granting of permission is referred to as "licensing." Some copyright holders restrict all rights to their work, and so you have to ask their permission to use their work. Others, however, proactively offer their work to the public on standard terms that allow anyone to use their work so long as certain terms and restrictions are complied with. Creative Commons licenses are a prominent example of this proactive licensing.
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization whose mandate is to make it easier for creators to share their work and/or build upon the works of others consistent with the rules of copyright. They have created standard, easy to use and understand copyright licenses that anybody can apply to their work to allow others to share, remix, or use the work without having to contact the copyright owner to ask for permission. There are several Creative Commons licenses, each with a different level of use restrictions.
Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative or exception to copyright, they are one way for copyright owners to distribute their work within the copyright framework.
This video provides a basic introduction to Creative Commons:
Creators or copyright holders who wish to apply a Creative Commons license to their work can choose to allow their work to be copied and reused with any one or more restrictions, or certain combinations of restrictions. The four restrictions are:
You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
You may not use the material for commercial purposes.
If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.
Creative Commons offers six different licenses that allow copyright holders to apply different restrictions to how their work may be reused. When using a specific CC-licensed work, it is important to pay attention to the CC license and its restrictions. All Creative Commons licenses require attribution. The specific types of Creative Commons licenses are:
This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon the work, even commercially, as long as they credit the creator for the original creation. This is the most flexible and accommodating of the available Creative Commons licenses. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.
This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as the licensed work is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to the creator.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge the creator and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit the creator and license all new creations under the identical terms. This license is often compared to “copyleft” free and open source software licenses. All new works based on yours will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. This is the license used by Wikipedia, and is recommended for materials that would benefit from incorporating content from Wikipedia and similarly licensed projects.
This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit the creator and license their new creations under the identical terms.
This license is the most restrictive of the six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit the creator, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.