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Putting the Power in Your Hands: Creative Commons and Creative Professionals

Written By Jennie Rose Halperin | Sep 6, 2016

Creativity and gratitude naturally go hand in hand. There are countless examples of artists helping other artists throughout history, from the tangled friendships of the Impressionists to McLaren and Westwood supporting punk fashion (and igniting the movement in the meantime).

Artistic communities have the power to change the world, and the internet provides both a higher level of cooperation (and distraction) than ever before. Our creative output can too easily become just content, and the seeming endlessness of the network creates the illusion of greater competition to make ends meet, both within our professional lives and our personal artistic practice.

Copyright and licensing is often the last thing on our minds when putting our work out on the web, but it shouldn’t be. The traditional mindset of “I made it so therefore it’s mine,” limits the free flow of remixing and community creation, and it’s antithetical to the internet’s vast potential. We don’t need to all become copyright wonks, but licensing your work is an integral part of working as a creative professional.

We don’t need to all become copyright wonks, but licensing your work is an integral part of working as a creative professional.

Creative Commons exists to change the way we share on the web. Our mission is to “develop, support, and steward legal and technical infrastructure to maximize digital creativity, sharing, and innovation.” In practice, that looks like over 1.1 billion works in the commons, with platforms we all know, use, and love like Medium, Flickr, and Youtube participating in the project. It also means a ton of wins for information sharing: like a massive growth in open access research and open education as well as millions of free images from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums (you’re welcome). Licenses are a large part of what we do, but it’s not all we do. We also advocate for a more open and equitable world, but we can’t do that without you.

Our six easy to use licenses make sharing easy, and can help you both discover work to use for your projects, as well as create work that’s more easily shared and attributed–fostering communities of makers working together toward the common goal of a more robust and innovative world (and making sure that you don’t end up as one of Richard Prince’s selfies).

Attribution and gratitude are the integral pieces of each license. From there, you can choose what you want people to be able to do with your work, including how it’s distributed, licensed, and used. These are legally binding licenses, so whatever license you choose for your work carries with it and will hold up in a court of law.

In addition to creating lots of good feels about growing a global commons of work, there have been countless examples of how Creative Commons and open licensing works for creators as well. From Cards Against Humanity to the Noun Project to AdaFruit, companies as well as creatives are successfully using the licenses to great effect. We’re even writing a book about our favorite examples.

Below, find a breakdown of the license types. Wondering what license to use for your work? Try our handy license chooser.


In short, Creative Commons puts the power of creation back into the hands of creators. Licensing your work under Creative Commons demonstrates your commitment to collaboration, equality, and community, which is really what creativity is all about.

Jennie Rose Halperin is the communications manager at Creative Commons, a librarian, researcher, writer, and information literacy activist. You can read more of her work on Medium.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.