Open Licences

Where a copyright owner allows you to copy or reuse their work either freely, or to a certain extent without having to ask permission, an 'open licence' will apply.

Your use will be subject to the terms of the particular open licence granted and you should always attribute the source. Check the copyright statement, or website terms of use to see if the copyright holder grants any such use.

In addition to open licence materials, some creators may choose to waive all copyright and allow free and unrestricted use by placing a work in the public domain. Works can also enter the public domain because copyright has expired.

Types of Open Licences

Creative Commons Licences

Creative Commons licences can be applied to your own original work, or you may wish to reuse material which has been made available under a Creative Commons licence. 

Types of Creative Commons Licences

The following Creative Commons licences are commonly seen:

CC BY, Creative Commons Attribution licence

This is the most permissive licence used in publishing, specifying that if others use your work they should attribute it to you.


CC BY-NC, Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial licence
This limits the above licence to re-use in non-commercial contexts.  

CC BY-NC, Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial licence

CC BY-NC-ND, Creative Commons Non-Commercial No Derivatives licence
This is a variant of the CC BY-NC licence. It specifies that others cannot create changed versions, or 'derivatives' of your work.

CC Non-Commercial No Derivatives Licence

CC BY-NC-SA, Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike licence
This is a further variant of the CC BY-NC licence. It specifies that if others do create changed versions of your work, then these should be released under the same licence.

CC BY-NC-SA, Creative Commons Non-Commercial Share Alike licence

Creative Commons images by Creative Commons are licensed under CC BY 4.0.

There are different types of CC licences – to learn more you can visit the Creative Commons website.

Re-using content

Many creators of original works make their work available for reuse under a Creative Commons (CC) licence. This enables you to reuse the material – subject to the terms of the particular licence applied, and provided it is properly attributed.

Applying to your own work

Your funder may have requirements around which licences should be applied. Your funder may have requirements of the license you select as part of the conditions of funding the cost of the APC. Check our University and funder open access policies webpage for more details. 


Open Government Licence

The Open Government licence allows copying and reuse of Crown copyright works. Crown copyright covers materials created by civil servants, government departments and agencies, civil servants and ministers. This includes government publications, legislation, and many public records.

The National Archives administers Crown copyright and is responsible for licensing a wide range of Crown copyright information through the Open Government Licence.

See the Open Government Licence for full details of what you can do. You must always acknowledge the source and where possible provide a link to the Open Government Licence.


Open Parliament Licence

This licence covers Parliamentary Copyright materials produced by the House of Commons and House of Lords. It is similar to the Open Government Licence and requires you to acknowledge the source and where possible provide a link to Open Parliament Licence.

See the terms of the Open Parliament Licence for the full details of what you can do and any exclusions.


Open Justice Licence

The Open Justice Licence applies to Court Judgments and Tribunal decisions. 

You can use this licence to re-publish judgments or decisions on your own website. For example in a blog post. Computational analysis of judgments including basic search indexing is not permitted under this licence. 

You do not need to apply for this licence however you should be aware of the responsibilities you have. 

See the terms of the Open Justice Licence for more information.


Open Software Licences

Software licences are a specific set of licenses which allow you to set out the terms of use for your software. These licences will typically licence the software itself as well as the underlying source code. 

There are different licence options depending on how you wish to make your software available. For help in choosing your licence we recommend using choose a license

For more information see our open software webpages


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Non-commercial Licence Provisions

Provisions of licences are sometimes limited to non-commercial purposes. This may require you to determine whether the copying or re-use you propose can reasonably be defined as non-commercial. 

The University of Nottingham is a registered charity. However not all activities associated with the University are non-commercial (an obvious example being spin-out companies). 

To determine whether an instance of copying or re-use is legitimate under non-commercial licence provisions, ask yourself whether it is “… not primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation.”

This is the definition of non-commercial where NC is a feature of a Creative Commons licence. Note that the intention that motivates copying matters more than the context of the organisation where copying happens.

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Finding Open Licensed Materials

Here is a selection of websites where you can find open licensed materials, but there are many more available. When a site says it provides 'free' collections, they may only be free for certain uses. A site might also have a mixture of open and protected materials.

Always read the terms of use, or licence restrictions for any resource you decide to copy or reuse.

All Materials Types

  • Creative Commons Search - Allows you to search a number of websites for material licensed under Creative Commons.
  • Google Advanced Search - You can restrict your searches to content licensed for reuse, by selecting from the usage rights field.
  • EUscreen - Offers free online access to videos, stills, texts and audio from European broadcasters and audiovisual archives. Explore selected content from early 1900s until today.
  • Wikimedia Commons – Images, sounds and videos to which anyone can contribute

Open Educational Resources

  • Jorum – “Free learning and teaching resources, created and contributed by teaching staff from UK Further and Higher Education Institutions”
  • Xpert – Search for open learning resources with 120,000 learning objects from over 8000 providers. Offers a facility to search for Creative Commons images, and automatically embeds terms and attribution.
  • OER Dynamic Search Engine – A wiki page of OER sites with accompanied search engine (powered by Google Custom Search)
  • University Learning = OCW+OER = Free custom search engine - A meta-search engine incorporating many different OER repositories (uses Google Custom Search)


There are many websites offering images under Creative Commons licences, for example:

  • CC Search is a tool that allows openly licensed and public domain works to be discovered and used by everyone. Creative Commons, the non-profit behind CC Search, is the maker of the CC licenses. CC Search searches across more than 300 million images.
  • Pixabay allows the sharing of copyright free images and videos by creators. All contents are released under the Pixabay License, which allows use without asking for permission or giving credit to the artist. Check the Pixabay licence and FAQs to see what is allowed.
  • Flickr – Search and browse images available under different Creative Commons licences.
  • The Commons – A Flickr project to make images in public collections and institutions that have no known copyright restrictions
  • FreeImages – Lots of free images in various galleries
  • VADs – Visual arts collections comprising over 100,000 images that are freely available and copyright cleared for use in learning, teaching and research in the UK
  • MorgueFile - Access to some free reference images.
  • Xpert – Search for open learning resources with 120,000 learning objects from over 8000 providers. Offers a facility to search for Creative Commons images, and automatically embeds terms and attribution.

Also see our Images page.



  • Free Music Archive - music available under Creative Commons and other licences
  • Jamendo - music available under Creative Commons licences.
  • dig.ccmixter – music available under Creative Commons licences for download and remixing

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