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Creative Commons provides free, easy-to-use legal tools that give everyone from individual creators to major companies and institutions a simple, standardized way to pre-clear copyrights to their creative work.

CC licenses let people easily change their copyright terms from the default of “all rights reserved” to “some rights reserved.”

Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They sit as a tool on top of copyright, so you can modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs. We’ve collaborated with intellectual property experts all around the world to ensure that our licenses work globally.

How are Creative Commons licences designed?

In order to make the licences easy to understand and legally binding, and the licensed works easy to find, Creative Commons licences have a three-layer design.

Legal Code: Each licence begins as a traditional legal tool, in the kind of language and text formats that most lawyers know and love.

Human-Readable: Since most creators of works are not in fact lawyers, Creative Commons also makes the licences available in a format that non-lawyers can read – the Commons Deed (also known as the ‘human-readable’ version of the licence). The Commons Deed is a handy reference for licensors and licensees, summarizing and expressing some of the most important terms and conditions.

Machine-Readable: In order to make it easy for the Web to know when a work is available under a CC licence, Creative Commons provides a ‘machine-readable’ version of the licence – a summary of the key freedoms and obligations, written into a format that software systems, search engines and other kinds of technology can understand. You can use Google, Yahoo, Flickr, Wikimedia Commons etc. to search for Creative Commons content. This is why CC-licensed works include a link back to the licence text (e.g. http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/); search engines use the licence URL to identify CC-licensed resources on the Web.