The short version of the recommendation here is: if you don't expect to earn royalties on your work (or if can afford to forgo them) use CC-BY[1] or CC-BY-SA. This would mean that for the questions "Allow commercial uses of your work?" and "Allow modifications of your work?" - the answer is "Yes".

CC-BY as a good option as it gives more flexibility for the content users, including non-commercial and copyright end-uses.

This is the most free of all the Creative Commons licenses. The only restriction that is applied is the requirement for attribution.

Types of licenses[edit | edit source]

There are a few different types of free licenses you can use on Appropedia.

CC BY-SA: This means it's an "Attribution-ShareAlike" license.

CC BY: This means you want to get credit for work, including remixes and modifications, but you don't care if the new work is shared under the same license.

CC0: This means you release your work with no restrictions whatsoever. They can modify, reuse, and sell the work without giving you credit or following a similar license.

When you’re looking for images online, you may also see that people have created a “No commercial use” license: CC BY-NC-SA. This license means the creator has forbidden that work from being sold. That kind of license is NOT allowed for images on Appropedia.

Appropedia is a website that anyone can use for any reason. People might use copies of articles to include in textbooks, or as examples in a book about their topic. A Non-Commercial license means that people can’t use the image in anything that could be theoretically sold. That’s why these licenses can’t be used on Appropedia.

Another license to avoid are Non-Derivative licenses or ND. This restriction says that people can't make something new out of the image, under any circumstance. That's not something we can promise on Appropedia, so this type of restriction isn't allowed.

What about public domain?[edit | edit source]

You can also share works you find that are in the public domain.

A work in the public domain is not covered by anyone's copyright. Usually, these are works created and shared with no restrictions, for example, by government agencies. They also include works where the time limits on copyrights has expired; in the USA, works published before 1924 are in the public domain.

How and when works enter public domain varies by country. For a reference guide, visit Help:Public domain, or enter that term into the search bar of Wikimedia Commons.

A few tips on the public domain:

  • Just because you don't see a copyright notice doesn't mean it isn't under copyright.
  • Just because something is older than the internet doesn't mean it isn't under copyright.
  • Copyright is transferrable, so even if the author has died, the work may still be under copyright.
  • If the work is freely available, that doesn't mean it's free to use.
  • Publicity shots — for example, of celebrities — are usually not public domain.


Original content producers[edit | edit source]

Let's consider the case that you're producing original content and want it to be freely used. If you do publish content by others, it will be clearly cited with the license or copyright made clear.[1]

For this case, the CC-BY license is good. This gives a lot of freedom to people using your work, only requiring attribution.

This also allows it to be used in CC-by-sa. It also allows others to use the work in a more restricted context, including mixing it with their own copyrighted material, or using a non-commercial license (NC). For example, the NC clause is often used in an educational context which you would probably want to support, even if you prefer a more open license. The CC-BY is good for allowing that usage.

See also this explanation of all CC licenses which explains the various options.

One of Appropedia's partner organizations is AIDG, and now that they've switched to the CC-BY license, Appropedia pages can use their content, with attribution.

Argument for CC-by-sa: keeping ideas free[edit | edit source]

Discussion. (This section should eventually be rewritten as an article, with the original discussion moved to the talk page.)

Consider a practical case. I develop a design which works for me. I put full details on Appropedia, every component. You take this design and adapt it to suit the conditions where you live - different climate, different quality raw materials. You want to start a little business making and selling the improved design. CC-BY-NC would prevent you selling the stuff you make. CC-BY-SA or GFDL (so called share-alike or copyleft licenses) would let you do this but would require you to let your customers make copies of your adapted design and would encourage (but not require) you to post your improvements back to Appropedia. CC-BY would let you sell improved versions of the design and would let you sue anyone (even me - the author of the original design) who makes a copy of your improvements. I believe the share-alike licenses (CC-BY-SA and GFDL) are the most appropriate for Appropedia. 23:44, 16 June 2008 (PDT)

Great point. I wonder if this is a significant issue with content apart from designs? --Chriswaterguy 04:28, 17 June 2008 (PDT)
I believe it is a significant issue for most of the information on Appropedia. The great thing about share-alike licenses is that each user can build on the contributions of previous users. What starts out as an idea can develop into a theory, an experiment, a design, a product, a business, an industry and the information stays available for all to use at every stage. I wouldn't want to contribute to Appropedia if I thought someone could take my contribution and use it and not share there developments with me. 10:49, 17 June 2008 (PDT)
Over at we have more or less decided that we are going to follow Wikipedia's lead. When they move to the GNU FDL 2.0 license we will too, and then hopefully it will be compatible with the CC-BY-SA license, and interchangeable. Mark Charmer from Akvo discussed this with Andrew Lamb of Appropedia the other day and wrote a blog post about it. --Bjelkeman 18 June 2008

How to apply a license[edit | edit source]

To apply a Creative Commons license, go to and click "Share Your Work" at the top, then follow the steps.

If you want the CC-BY license, for the questions "Allow commercial uses of your work?" and "Allow modifications of your work?" the answer is "Yes".

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. A citation should mention that it's copyright, or GFDL, or CC-BY-SA or whatever... most people don't worry about this on the web, and for small "fair use" extracts it probably doesn't matter. But being clear about licenses & copyright (when using reasonable chunks of content) is especially important on a site that uses an open license by default. It's not clear what a reasonable chunk is, but it almost certainly isn't an issue for just a sentence or two.

See also[edit | edit source]

FA info icon.svg Angle down icon.svg Page data
Authors Chris Watkins
License CC-BY-SA-3.0
Language English (en)
Related 0 subpages, 0 pages link here
Aliases Which free license should you use?, Appropedia:Which free license should you use?
Impact 1,165 page views
Created May 11, 2008 by Chris Watkins
Modified June 9, 2023 by StandardWikitext bot
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