You can use copyright material, without infringing on the rights of the creator, by agreeing to a licence.
What is a licence?
A licence grants you “permission to use intellectual property in a way that would otherwise be a breach of the owner’s statutory rights” (Encyclopaedic Australian Legal Dictionary). Typically, a licence covers:
- exclusivity — an exclusive licence means only the licensee is allowed to use the work
- duration — how long you are allowed to use the material for
- purpose — what kinds of things can you do with the item (i.e. is the use for personal or commercial reasons)
- restricted uses — outlines restrictions on the use of the item (e.g. using an image with a model in such a way as would bring them into disrepute)
- attribution requirements — the way in which the creator is credited.
Public copyright licence
A public copyright licence, or public licence, is a type of copyright licence popularised by Creative Commons and the open software movement. This type of licence is open to the public at large and is non-exclusive (i.e. it is available to more than one person at a time). Most public copyright licences are written in a way that is easy to understand for non-lawyers.
Creative Commons has popularised the use of public copyright licences. Their licences are built by using a combination of four main conditions.
Attribution is the act of crediting an author or creator for their work. Attribution is similar to academic citation and referencing, a practice you may already be familiar with. Creative Commons licences indicate the attribution should include:
- title of the work – with a link to the original source
- creator’s name – with a link to their page, if available.
- licence the work is made available under – with a link to the licence deed
- any copyright notices associated with the work.
Example: “Creative Commons 10th Birthday Celebration San Francisco” by tvol is licensed under CC BY 2.0.
Read How to give attribution for CC licensed materials.