Licences explained


Creative Commons licences make it easy for you to share your copyright works. The six Creative Commons licences ensure that others can copy and distribute your work, provided they give you credit — and only on the conditions you specify.

There are hundreds of millions of items made available under a Creative Commons licence. Licence users include the White House and the New Zealand Government. For examples of other New Zealand licence users, you can read our case studies of licence users. You can read case studies specific to your area of interest via our projects pages.


Each Creative Commons licence is expressed in three ‘layers’:

  • Commons Deed. This is a ‘human-readable’ plain-language summary of the licence, with relevant icons. This means that others will be able to easily understand the range of permissions you are allowing.
  • Legal Code: This is the ‘lawyer-readable’ licence, with full legal terms.
  • Digital Code: This is a machine-readable translation of the licence that helps search engines and other applications identify the licensed work, ensuring that others will be able to find your work.

Versions and Ports

Every few years, Creative Commons has revised its licences to ensure that they are completely up-to-date. The 4.0 International licences are the current version.

Many countries around the world have also ‘ported’ the licences, to make sure that the licences are compatible with local copyright and other law.

We recommend that New Zealanders use either the 4.0 International licences or the 3.0 New Zealand licences, which were produced by the Creative Commons Aotearoa New Zealand legal team. Both licence sets are internationally valid. You can read more about versions and ports here.

If you work at a government agency, please note that the New Zealand Government Open Access and Licensing (NZGOAL) framework  Version 2 adopts the 4.0 International Creative Commons licences but does not require retrospective updating of content which has adopted the 3.0 New Zealand licences. For a comparison of the 3.0 New Zealand licences and the 4.0 International licences, read NZGOAL Guidance Note 5.

Licence Elements

There are four Creative Commons licence elements.



This means that others must credit you as the original creator of the work. All Creative Commons licences require users to provide attribution. More information on how to provide attribution can be found here.



This means that others may not share, adapt or reuse use your work if their use is primarily intended for commercial advantage or monetary compensation. More information on the definition of Non-Commercial can be found here.



This means that others can share your work, but they must not change it. Note that users still have the range of Fair Dealing rights granted to them under the Copyright Act 1994.



This means that those who adapt or remix your work must use the same Creative Commons licence on any derivative works. Before remixing works that have different licences, check this licence compatibility chart.


The Licences

These four licence elements combine to make six Creative Commons licences. They are free for anyone to use. You can read more about the Creative Commons licensing approach on the Creative Commons international website. If you want to know how to licence your work using a Creative Commons licence, we explain how to do that here. If you already know how to do this, visit the Creative Commons Licence Chooser directly.

ATTRIBUTION [English] [Te Reo Māori]

This licence lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation.


This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially with credit to you (their new works must also be non-commercial).


This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


This licence lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


This licence allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along unchanged and in whole, with credit to you.


This licence is the most restrictive of our six main licences, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

See Also

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