displayrights.com logo

Creative Commons: What Does It Really Mean?

Creative Commons: Picture of the world
There are six types of license …
If you share or display third-party content, you may already be familiar with Creative Commons licenses. But for those less familiar with such licenses, what are they, who issues them, and what do they enable you to do with other’s intellectual property?

The first thing to know is that the Creative Commons is an organization. Creative Commons is based in the US (California) and describes itself as “a nonprofit organization that helps overcome legal obstacles to the sharing of knowledge and creativity”.

They provide a set of licenses that make it easier to allow others to create or license works for educational access purposes or to make available works that others can build upon and share legally. 

In pursuit of their goal, the Creative Commons organization works with national governments worldwide to ensure the adoption and implementation of such licensing within their jurisdictions!

A Creative Commons license will allow for the legal use of copyrighted works by individuals or organizations in the ways specified by that license. A Creative Commons license is typically NOT a carte blanche to use copyright content in any way you want, just in the specific ways defined by the license. And there are different types of Creative Commons license, which define different permitted uses.

“What types of Creative commons licenses are available?”

The Creative Commons offers six types of license. These each have slightly different terms. However, typically they will allow the use and distribution of such works, so long as the content creator is given credit and is recognized for their work.

That said, three of the six Creative Commons licenses do not permit commercial use at all. So, if you are a for-profit organization, then almost any use you might wish to make of such a work would not be allowed. The license used by TED Talks is a good example of a Creative Commons license that does not permit commercial use.

If you are interested in using TED content please get in touch!

Going into further detail of Creative Commons licenses, some will not allow any adaptations to be made of a work; others ensure that any derivative works are placed under the same terms as the original works. You can even have all restrictive terms together in one license.


This means it is important that you read the applicable Creative Commons license closely to understand which type the work operates under and what is, or is not, permitted. Creative Commons licenses are not all the same, by any means. They do not mean you can just forget about copyright.


Creative Commons also offers a public domain license that allows the owner of a copyright work effectively to relinquish their rights and place the material straight into the public domain. If you are the one wanting to use such licensed materials, then this is great. However, you do need to check carefully that the applicable Creative Commons license does indeed permit the use you want to make of it.

How does it work?

The copyright owner chooses the Creative Commons license that establishes the terms of use. As a user, you cannot just choose a Creative Commons license and apply it, you have to work with the one already attributed to the copyright owner’s work!


Once the copyright owner chooses the license, the good news is that they cannot revoke it. If you are a permitted user of such a work, this means you do not have to worry about checking or updating your material: the permission will continue to apply.


One specific Creative Commons condition that is serious and universal is the need for attribution. It applies to all Creative Commons licenses (and indeed to all copyright use). You should include any information pertinent to the license, the title of the work, a link (if available online) and, of course, mention the author, recognizing that the work belongs to them.

You may not be 100% sure if a work you want to use is available for use under a Creative Commons license and, even if it is, whether its terms permit your desired use. So, you need to check!

Making the mistake of believing that something is appropriately licensed, when it isn’t, could leave you as much in breach of copyright as if you had never even thought to ask. It is always sensible to double-check, to save you unwittingly placing yourself, or your organization, at risk of paying big fines! Even just at a reputational level, leaving yourself open to such risks simply makes no sense.


Here at Display Rights, we are partnered with some of the biggest content creators worldwide, whether they be broadcasters (such as Bloomberg or the BBC) or thought leaders (such as TED). We are also happy to reach out to the rights-holder on your behalf, whether we already have a relationship with them or not.


If you are not sure, then give us a call. We are always pleased to help ensure that you are acting within the law and to get you the licenses you need.

Until next time …

More About Licensing and Copyright
Like to know more?

If anything I’ve written in this blog post resonates with you and you’d like to discover more about, get in touch with us or leave a comment below and let’s see how we can help you.


About DisplayRights

In 2003, DisplayRights, formally known as Executive Interviews, recognised the rising demand for online video, specifically in the corporate sector, and relaunched itself as a company focused on the recording, repackaging, and rights distribution of television and radio news interviews. Since then, DisplayRights has expanded to become a full-service, global company recording over 150,000 interviews and news clips annually. DisplayRights is headquartered in the UK, with wholly-owned subsidiaries in the United States and Asia.
As the needs of our clients change, so do we! We have now fully rebranded to DisplayRights to better reflect what we do, which now includes talks and presentations as well as executive interviews. We hope that our new brand can better serve how our content partners and clients want to work with us.
We are proudly partnered with the world’s leading business news networks, providing their guests with timely, professionally-produced, and fully licensed video clips to post to their public websites or corporate Intranets, use at trade shows, investor conferences, corporate meetings, and more.
In addition, we now offer registered access to more than 16,000 thought leadership videos from leading educational networks which can be accessed free of charge by anyone, helping them learn, grow and thrive.

Telephone: +44 1908 041290

displayrights.com logo

Registration will soon be available for licensing content on DisplayRights.

displayrights.com logo

Executive Interviews is soon to become Display Rights.