2. Copyright Law

Creative Commons licenses do not replace copyright. They are built to work with it.

The default of “all rights reserved” copyright is that all rights to copy and adapt a work are reserved by the author or creator (with some important exceptions that you will learn about shortly). Creative Commons licenses adopt a “some rights reserved” approach, enabling an author or creator to free up their works for reuse by the public under certain conditions. To understand how Creative Commons licenses work, it is important that you have a basic understanding of copyright.

This unit has four sections:

2.1 Copyright Basics

2.2 Global Aspects of Copyright

2.3 The Public Domain

2.4 Exceptions and Limitations of Copyright

Note: This unit is important because Creative Commons licenses and public domain tools depend on copyright in order to work. While some aspects of copyright law are harmonized around the world, the laws of copyright vary –sometimes dramatically – from country to country. The information contained in this unit is not intended to be exhaustive or to cover all aspects of the complex laws of copyright around the world, or even every aspect of copyright that may impact how the licenses operate in a particular situation. It is intended to provide an overview of the basic concepts that are most important to understanding how Creative Commons licenses operate. There are also additional resources if you are interested in learning more about copyright topics covered in or excluded from this unit. Additionally, you might be interested in joining the CC Copyright Platform for updates and collaborative efforts aligning copyright systems with public interests. Membership is free. 

Also note: we often refer to “authors” or “creators” in relation to an original work; for the purposes of explaining copyright, we use these terms interchangeably.