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Copyright Center for CPS Online (UNH Manchester Library): Reading the Symbols

Creators choose a set of conditions they wish to apply to their work. These conditions might be full copyright, with all rights reserved, or a creative commons license. A less frequently used symbol is for items in the public domain.

There are two key symbols that designate copyright. If they are NOT present, do not assume an item is not under copyright.

  This is the copyright symbol. Learn more about Copyright

  This is the Public Domain symbol. Learn more about Public Domain


No, that wasn’t a typo! The acronyms above are representative of the six different Creative Commons (CC) licenses. In Module 4 you were introduced to open licenses and how they differ from all rights reserved copyright. In this module, you will learn about the different conditions and permissions of these licenses.

The CC License Elements

The following four sets of terms or rights combine to describes each of the six main conditions offered when you choose to publish your work with a Creative Commons license. After the terms, the six licenses are listed starting with the most accommodating license type you can choose and ending with the most restrictive license type you can choose.


Attribution Attribution (by)

All CC licenses require that others who use your work in any way must give you credit the way you request, but not in a way that suggests you endorse them or their use. If they want to use your work without giving you credit or for endorsement purposes, they must get your permission first.

ShareAlike ShareAlike (sa)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and modify your work, as long as they distribute any modified work on the same terms. If they want to distribute modified works under other terms, they must get your permission first.

NonCommercial NonCommercial (nc)

You let others copy, distribute, display, perform, and (unless you have chosen NoDerivatives) modify and use your work for any purpose other than commercially unless they get your permission first.

NoDerivatives NoDerivatives (nd)

You let others copy, distribute, display and perform only original copies of your work. If they want to modify your work, they must get your permission first.

Below are the creative commons licenses you will commonly see and what they mean.