Creative Commons 101

French version

We’ve often heard of Copyright, the authors’ and composers’ rights represented by the symbol ©. It means All rights reserved. Therefore, we can’t do anything with work that’s copyright protected, unless we get permission directly from the author or composer, his or her representative (editor) or collective societies entrusted by authors and composers to manage their rights.

On the other hand, there exists the Copyleft, giving permission to anyone to copy, broadcast, use, modify and distribute work as long as some rights are reserved fairly. In a nutshell, the author who chooses Copyleft lets other creators of the world know that they can do what they want with his or her work (within the limits of morality).

Life isn’t black and white, it’s comprised of different shades of grey. Although Copyright and Copyleft are on opposite sides of the spectrum, there are different parameters between we can play with.


In order to meet creators’ dire need to inform internet users what they can do (or not) with their work, “the coolest lawyer in the world” Lawrence Lessig created a simple tool: Creative Commons. With an easy-to-use questions-and-answers form, Creative Commons lets any creator on the planet change into a lawyer and write his or her own license for his or her work. Once the form is filled out, the Creative Commons tool generates a personalised license in two versions:

  • A license for four-year-olds with pretty symbols; and
  • A detailed license for the judge… just in case.

Plus, the tool produces a button leading to your license that you can put next to your work on your webpage. You’ll see mine at the end of this article. It’s very simple!

Creative Commons lets you create licenses by choosing one or more permissions based on parameters like copying your work, modifying (remixing) it, sharing it, broadcasting it, distributing it, reusing it, and its attribution (giving due credit to its author). Different combinations are available.

Here is a table that represents different possibilities of Creative Commons licenses (click on the image to enlarge):

That’s it for this presentation of Creative Commons 101!

Creative CommonsThe article Creative Commons 101 by the author Guillaume Déziel is made available under the terms of the Creative Commons (BY-NC-SA) license. The permissions not covered by this license may be obtained at


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