Creative Commons Licensing– Rules every eLearning developer should know

Are you violating someone’s copyright?

Note: This article is written by a non-attorney eLearning developer and is not intended as legal advice. If you are facing legal issues, contact a licensed attorney in your state.

eLearning projects tend to include a good deal of photos, illustrations, audio narration, and other creative and original content, all of which may be subject to copyright protections.  If you are an eLearning developer who creates all original artwork and content, you are entitled to protect your work even if you wish to share it with the world free of charge.   If your eLearning project includes artwork or other content that you obtained from outside sources, you should be aware of applicable licensing terms.  You may be violating someone’s copyright and putting yourself and your organization at risk If you are copying photos, text, using free fonts, or using other outside content without understanding and documenting licensing terms.

Generally, copyright protected material (C) is protected for the exclusive use of the content creator. However, their is a form of copyright that allows people to permit others to use and distribute their content more freely than the traditional (C) method, which is known as “Creative Commons”.  The video and infographic below provide an excellent high level overview of what the creative commons is, its features and benefits, and how you can protect your work and the work of others.

Questions to ask yourself:

  • Do I want to share my content (blog, eLearning courseware, graphics etc.) with others around the world but limit their ability to make money off of my work?
  • Am I putting my organization and/or myself at legal risk by violating someone else’s copyright protected content?
  • Do I want my work credited/attributed to me when others decide to display it?
  • Do I want to connect with a global network of people who are sharing and building upon each other’s creative works in a way that still protects everyone’s interests?


Types of Creative Commons Licensing

License Type License ID Description
Attribution CC By Most Open. Allows others to distribute content (commercially or not) and modify/edit as they see fit, so long as they credit the original license holder/content author. All Creative Commons licensing requires that the work be attributed to the original work creator.
CC By SA Share Alike adds the restriction that whoever modifies and distributes the work must do so under the same Creative Commons license as the original work. Meaning, someone cannot modify your work and call it their own work and subject that new work to their own non-open copyright protected status (C).
Non Derivs
CC BY-ND No Derivative adds the restriction that the work must remain unchanged in whole.
Non Commercial
CC By-NC Non-commercial means that the work cannot be used for commercial purposes (e.g. placing on itmes for sale like t-shirts, calendars, eLearning courses for which money is charged, etc.)
Non Commercial-Share Alike
CC BY-NC-SA This is a combination of using both Non-Commercial and Share-Alike restrictions.
Non Commercial NoDerivs
CC BY-NC-ND This combines Non-Commercial and No-Derivative restrictions and is the most restrictive Creative Commons license option. This optoin only allows others to copy and share content so long as credit is given to the work’s license holder, the work is not changed in any way, and the work cannot be used for commercial purposes.

Step 1: Watch this video – Creative Commons Fundamentals

By Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand with support from InternetNZ.


Step 2: Review this Infographic

Creative Commons Photos
Creative Commons Infographic – By CC BY SA

Step 3: Visit the Creative Commons website



Leave a Reply