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Open Educational Resources: Understanding Licenses

How Creative Commons Licenses Help in Using and Sharing Content

This 5 minute video explains in detail how Creative Commons licenses help using, reusing and sharing content online.

Different Types of Creative Commons Licenses

While all of the resources recommended in this guide can be freely accessed, not all can be reused, modified, and redistributed. Fortunately, most of these platforms clearly spell out the licensing (usually determined by the author) which will determine whether you are able to reuse and modify the work. 

Authors who make their OERs open available usually do so via Creative Commons (CC) licenses. There are a variety of CC licenses with varying terms of use so please be sure to take note of which type applies before reusing/modifying the work.


Below is a brief overview of the types of CC licenses. If you would like to learn more, please see our dedicated library guide for CC licenses or the Creative Commons website

Image source: JoKalliauer; foter, CC BY-SA 3.0 , via Wikimedia Commons

Attributing Creative Commons Licensed Content

All work under Creative Commons licenses require attribution to the creator when reusing it. Generally, a good rule of thumb is to include:

  • Title & Source - Name of the OER and URL hyperlink (if available).
  • Author - Name of the creator.
  • License - Type of Creative Commons license work falls under.

You can also make use of this web tool which helps generate attributions for you to easily copy and paste:

To learn more, please refer to this Best Practices for Attribution guide with ideal and incorrect examples for attributing CC-licensed work. 

Modifying & Adapting Creative Commons Licensed Content

If you change the original work in any way, (e.g. cropping an image/video, changing colours or words), you will be creating a remix or derivative work of the original. General rule of thumb regarding derivatives:

  • Always attribute original work
  • Examples of attributing original work when modifying or adapting:
    • "Adapted from *attribution to original work*"
    • "This work is a derivative of *attribution to original work*"
    • Multiple sources: "Adapted from the following sources..."

NOTE: Materials with non-derivatives license terms (CC-BY-ND, CC-BY-NC-ND) can only be reused and cannot modified or adapted.

Related CUHK Library Guides

Check out these related CUHK library guides to learn more:

Faculty Liaison Librarian (Faculty of Arts)

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Sue Fung
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The Chinese University of Hong Kong
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