5b.1.1 What do all Creative Commons licences have in common?

Comprehensive assignment of rights

Every CC licence grants comprehensive rights to use a work. In each case, the author grants, at the very least, the right of reproduction, the right to distribute, the right to make works perceptible and available, and the right to broadcast.


Distribution of a copy (e.g. selling it or giving it away) or a derivative version is always subject to the condition that attribution is provided to the respective author (BY element).

Licence to all interested parties

If a work is licenced under a CC licence, all interested users receive a licence. The CC licences apply worldwide and the respective rights to use are granted free of charge (without licence fees). A (purchase) price may be charged for transferring the work (e.g. book, CD, mp3 file, PDF file, etc.) to third parties unless the CC licence contains the NC element.

Prohibition of additional technical or legal measures

Every CC licence prohibits additional technical or legal measures which do not allow others to exploit the uses permitted by the CC licence.

Consequences in case of violation of a Creative Commons licences

If a distribution condition in the CC licence is infringed (BY, SA, NC), the licence is automatically terminated. Once the licence agreement is terminated, licencees lose all their rights to use the work. The use of an unlicenced right (in particular, the right to edit, which is not licenced in the case of a CC-ND licence) is a copyright infringement and liable to prosecution.


Different versions

All six CC licences are updated from time to time, which is why different versions exist (e.g. CC-BY 2.0, CC-BY-3.0; CC-BY-SA 3.0, etc.). The current version is 4.0. A work must always be used in the manner that is permitted in the specific licence version. Are the individual versions compatible with one another?

Distribution conditions

Uses of CC works which are permitted under copyright law are not subject to any distribution conditions. Indeed, the uses of CC works permitted under copyright law do not require a licence from the copyright holder, i.e. no contract is required; for this reason, authors cannot subject these uses to conditions.

No reversion

Once a work is distributed under a CC licence, this can practically no longer be reversed. In legal terms, all licence agreements would have to be cancelled with the consent of every person who has received a copy. The very task of finding everyone who owns a copy – on the Internet in particular – would be almost impossible. If there is only one copy of a work with a CC licence in circulation, there is a possibility that this work will be redistributed (e.g. sold or given away). Due to the CC licence, the recipients of this redistributed copy of the work receive the right to redistribute a copy of the work, etc. However, authors can also distribute their work under another licence than the CC licence or under different CC licences at the same time.


Prohibition of technical measures

The prohibition of technical measures relates primarily to DRM technologies (Digital rights management). DRM technologies restrict the use of a work, e.g. the distribution of a CD with copy protection that negates the right of reproduction, the right to distribute and the right to edit. Access restrictions are not covered by this prohibition, e.g. when a CC work can only be viewed with a password and username, as long as the user is free to copy and redistribute the work and also edit it upon gaining access to it.