While we can discuss the concepts and background rationale for Creative Commons license, perhaps the best way to appreciate them is by examining real stories of how it has been successfully applied.

The Big Question

The saying “standing on the shoulders of giants” expresses a meaning of discovering truth or gaining new knowledge by building on work of previous generations. And today we discover and build new things much faster, be it science, innovations in education or cultural trends. Being able to get inspired, use and build upon works of others is crucial to our development more than ever.

Duty Calls

Duty Calls XKCD comic by Randall Munroe licensed under CC BY-NC

Try to think how today world would look like without open source powering the open web and mobile space (like what Mozilla Firefox, Google Chrome and Android does). Or how we might have to create everything from scratch without the world of open content made available under Creative Commons licenses and from public domain. All of this allows people not only to get inspired but to build upon.

Learning Outcomes

  • Give examples of licenses applied for different uses, intentions
  • Evaluate CC license choice for various projects/content
  • Discuss which CC licenses are acceptable to a particular community

Personal Reflection / Why It Matters to You

Looking for success stories in different areas we tend to seek the most visible examples from mass media, often forgetting about how many examples of something much more valuable can much closer, in our communities.

Think about your work environment (or passion) how it is influenced by open content, open source and public domain. Can you find any examples of Creative Commons and public domain content around you or find some that would be useful for you? Who is making them and how do they speak about being open? Are they local or maybe there is some unconventional connections like resources from another country popular in yours? Take a moment to search for any examples.


If you cannot think of any examples off hand, you may ask in your social media channels for less commonly known sources of open content. Consider adding your examples to the CC Certification Space (link) and what you can learn of the people/organizations who have shared them. Or explore what others have shared there


Acquiring Essential Knowledge

You can discover successful Creative Commons license use among major organizations, institutions, and government agencies, with the numbers increasing all the time.

In the first few months of 2017 The Metropolitan Museum of Art (The Met) and the European Space Agency (ESA) started using open licenses to make access to their resources open and easy.

But what is often unseen nor written about are the intentions of individual people and small institutions to start using Creative Commons (nor do we hear much about the consequences). We tend to seek huge and breaking stories about re-use when often small but incremental changes happen because something become open, available to use and modify, not only by other huge actors but maybe by school kids or independent artists.

Examples By Creative Commons License

Take a look at the Creative Commons overview of each license that includes examples of projects and people using those licenses:

More Examples

Cover image from The Power of Open

Cover image from The Power of Open PDF” by Creative Commons is licensed under CC BY

Published in 2011 by Creative Commons and available in nine languages (Chinese, English, French, German, Korean, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese and Polish) The Power of Open provides case studies of how Creative Commons is used around the world by not only artists, but also news providers, scientists, publishers, museums, and more. Reading the whole book might take a while but just looking at the examples may help you with identifying projects and people closer geographically and similar thematically to your personal context.

Under their Open Access Policy, The World Bank has chosen CC BY as thaeir prefered license, allowing adaptations and translations of reports just by attributing them.

For a deeper dive you can also review the Wikipedia article about major CC licensed works around the world.

State of the Commons by Media Type

from “State of the Commons (2015)” by Creative Commons licensed under CC BY

For a historical and big picture view of how use of Creative Commons licenses changes over time and what new actors come to play, visit the State of The Commons report from Creative Commons.

Thought Break

Are there examples here you find compelling? They might be worth sharing in the CC Certificates Community Space or adding to your Personal Toolkit

Media Platform Examples

Many platforms for hosting various types of user generated media integrate Creative Commons as an option for contributors. These platforms generally allow the user to choose to apply any of the six Creative Common licenses to their work.

Reviewing this may give you an idea of the breath of Creative Commons licensed content, and in some case, links to where they are used.

  • Pixabay and Unsplash publish high quality images form photographers who don’t require attribution (photos are put in to the public domain using CC0) — but you can always buy them coffee.
  • Wikimedia Commons hosts tens of thousands images under mostly open licenses incliding CC BY and CC BY-SA as well as Public Domain.
  • XKCD, one of the most prolific webcomics, uses CC BY-NC to enable reuse by its fans.
  • Author Cory Doctorow publishes most of his novels under CC BY-NC-SA licenses that makes fan-fiction remixes possible.
  • One of the earliest adopters flickr includes hundreds of millions of photographs and videos licensed under Creative Commons. Furthermore the flickr Commons includes a vast collection of images placed into the public domain from a large list of institutions.
  • SoundCloud, Bandcamp and Jamendo offer platforms for independent musicians to publish and share original music under Creative Commons licenses. And ccMixter is an ecosystem for musicians to share samples and create remixes all licensed under CC BY-NC.
  • While https://youtube.com/ provides options for sharing video content under CC-BY, vimeo offers the full range of Creative Commons licensing options for its members who upload videos.

Do you use any of these media sources already to find content you can use? How many are new to you? If they are useful, you might want to add them to your Personal Toolkit. Or after exploring these, you might share in your social media places an example of content you found that might be useful to your work or interests.

Applied Practice

Explore and complete at least one of the quests for this unit

Closing the Loop

By the end of this unit you should have taken in the view from perhaps some giant and ordinary shoulders. Consider what ideas you have gotten from seeing what they have shared.

You might think about collecting the valuable organizations, or places that included examples relevant to your field of work, and saving them to your Personal Learning Toolkit.

Examples are often shared within the Creative Commons Slack community #general channel — you can join this open community via https://slack-signup.creativecommons.org/.

Perhaps there are examples you might share with your colleagues, or your social network. If you do share, please use the hashtag #cccert.

Do not be surprised if the work you build upon someday is seen by someone else as shoulders worth standing upon.


Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license
Licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC BY-SA) version 4.0.

Except where otherwise noted, this content is published under a CC BY-SA license, which means that you can copy, redistribute, remix, transform and build upon the content for any purpose even commercially as long as you give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.
License details: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/

Creative Commons Certificates have been created with the kind support of Creative Commons, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.