State of the Commons

I use @creativecommons almost every day ... I don't want to live without you.

- Julie Hiltz, NBCT @JulieHiltz


Creative Commons is the leading organization supporting the global movement for sharing and collaboration. We create, maintain, and promote the Creative Commons licenses — free, international, easy-to-use copyright licenses that are the standard for enabling sharing and remix.

We invigorate an international community of educators, activists, scientists, advocates, and creators to realize the benefits of the Commons. We build essential tools to make the Commons more discoverable, usable, and connected to communities everywhere.

The past few years have been transformative for Creative Commons. In 2015, we set out with an ambitious new strategy to nurture a vibrant, usable Commons powered by collaboration and gratitude. Our ambition is fueled by our technology projects and an energetic and productive global community. Each of CC’s initiatives works in support of this goal, unleashing the potential of the Commons through the work of our committed global communities.

In 2017, we hosted our largest Global Summit yet, organized by our community and supported by new sponsors and donors. With your guidance, we redesigned the Creative Commons Global Network in a massive, collaborative, international process, and we built new online infrastructure to support this unprecedented expansion of the movement for sharing. Our new engineering team shipped the CC Search beta and established new partnerships to expand our reach.

We launched an exciting certification program, meeting demand for the course from librarians and educators around the world. We fought against the TPP and for copyright reform in Europe, and helped national governments adopt open education policies. With our help, UNESCO made significant progress this year towards open education policies and support for member states. We moved the needle on these issues while still maintaining and defending our core tools: CC licenses, which have been used well over a billion times by creators and rightsholders looking to expand the range of creativity and knowledge available to everyone.

CC’s ambitious goals for the future will enable greater access and equality in education for everyone, accelerate innovation and discovery to cure disease, inspire delightful works of art and culture, and create deeper connections across cultures and communities. Our model is radically open, with community at the center.

We believe sharing and collaboration can unlock the full potential for the Web, and more importantly, for all of the individuals who use it.

It takes a group of driven, inspired, and talented humans to light up the Commons, and I feel privileged to work with them every day. You’ll see many of their stories in this year’s report — and that’s just a tiny percentage of the people who make this movement so powerful. We have the highest appreciation for those who make the choice to contribute to the Commons by freely sharing their work under CC licenses.

With gratitude,
Ryan Merkley
CEO, Creative Commons


Contribute today to Creative Commons

Support our projects in open education, open policy, and universal access to knowledge.

data icon

The Data


Creative Commons Licensed Works


Major Platforms sharing CC work


415.1 Million


49 million


46.7 million

Deviant Art

40 million

Wikimedia Commons

36.9 million


28.7 million


6.6 million

Internet Archive

3.1 million

DOAJ Directory of Open Access Journals

2.7 million


2.3 million


1.2 million



Jamendo Licensing




Free Music Archive


Our Movement
around the World

104 chapters across six regions

  • North America: 2
  • Latin America: 16
  • Europe: 42
  • Africa: 7
  • Arab World: 6
  • Asia Pacific: 30
cc search


Countries that used CC Search the most in 2017:

Site Visitors
Social Followers

Most popular languages in 2017:






Most popular shares on social media:

Fight for Net Neutrality
Net Neutrality
The Met Public Domain
Open Access
Open Access

Did you know?

Europeana Collections showcases 42 openly licensed, designer, and sometimes quite crazy pairs of sunglasses.

‘The Kiss’, sunglasses by Oliver Goldsmith Eyewear, 1958. Courtesy Victoria and Albert Museum, CC BY

the machine

The Tools

Technology, Discovery, and Collaboration Tools

A growing team with a broad scope and ambitious mandate is making the Commons more discoverable every day. Building a “front door to the Commons,” the revamped CC Search is the newest product in the CC Suite.

In February 2017 we launched our CC Search product, lauded by press and users as the new “front door to the Commons.” We continued to add more images and features throughout 2017 and are continuing to grow the team. Under the leadership of our new Director of Product Engineering Paola Villarreal, the CC tech team deployed three new sites – State of the Commons, the 2018 Global Summit site, and the Certificates Program. In addition, we released the new membership site for our revived Global Network, launched our new Termination of Transfer Tool, and assisted on the refresh of our licenses, updating them to Python 3.

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Creative Commons unveils a new photo search engine with filters, lists & social sharing: Finding free and legal images to accompany your web content has never been difficult, thanks to Creative Commons.”​
Open link

Did you know?

In the weeks following the launch of the Met Museum’s CC0 open access initiative, image downloads from the collection increased by 260%

Gift of Assunta Sommella Peluso, Ada Peluso, and Romano I. Peluso, in memory of Ignazio Peluso, 2003 CC0

Licenses and Legal Tools

Our legal tools and licenses form the backbone of our work. This year, we marked several milestones to increase the robustness of our legal frameworks and tools for sharing on the web.

In 2017, we welcomed seven new translations to the CC 4.0 license suite – Turkish, French, Italian, Swedish, Arabic, Croatian, and German, and three new translations of CC0 – Italian, Latvian, and Swedish. These languages are among the most spoken in the world, and the translation process is community-driven and draws on the expertise of our global network. As part of its stewardship responsibilities, CC closely tracked several disputes involving CC Licenses, intervening in one with a request to file an amicus brief to provide guidance on the proper interpretation of the licenses especially regarding the meaning of non-commercial. In each known instance, CC licenses were again enforced and interpreted properly, attesting to their robustness and clarity.

In addition, we redesigned our deeds and framing of the license pages with an appealing modern refresh, submitted an application to be included in unicode (approved in 2018), and launched the landmark Termination of Transfer tool, which you can read more about below. In particular, the unicode approval is an exciting addition to our already robust portfolio – creators will easily be able to mark their CC-licensed works with icons in text and users will be able to provide attribution for CC-licensed works they use with icons. We also participated in forums to develop policies for preprint publication of scholarly works and data, and continue cross organizational support for products in development, supporting and protecting our trademarks and brands.

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Project Profile

The Termination of Transfer (“ToT”) tool is a collaboration between Authors Alliance and Creative Commons that empowers authors to regain control of their work.

The tool enables authors to learn about termination of transfer provisions, which allow authors to terminate licensing arrangements they have made with publishers that have prevented them from sharing openly or otherwise re-releasing their works. Anyone, including artists, photographers, scholars, and scientists, can use this new tool to discover more about eligibility and timing requirements for the right to take back rights previously assigned away. While this tool is currently U.S.-based only, Creative Commons plans to internationalize it for use worldwide.

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Photo via Margorie Merel, CC BY

Community Profile

Margorie Merel

A self-proclaimed “apostle” of the movement for the Commons in Panama, Margorie’s involvement with CC began as part of her academic research in Law and Political Science.

As a steadfast advocate, Margorie has quickly become an integral part of the CC Network. This year, she appeared on Panamanian television to talk about the necessity of Creative Commons as well as presented her research to a number of local universities. For Margorie, “Teaching and sharing with teachers is the fundamental rock for me… I want to be part of a movement that believes in education, in the law; if we share we can build a better society with access to education. I like so much to teach, and CC provides the opportunity to get close to those people who can make a difference in my country.”

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CC Tools and Platforms

All over the world, commoners are celebrating, discussing, debating, and improving the Commons. With the kickoff of our new usability initiative, we’re ushering in a new phase of the Commons – one that makes it even easier to share.

Beginning an exciting year with the launch of the Met Open Access initiative, usability at CC entered a new phase to home in on what makes sharing meaningful and how we can update our tools for a new age of the Web. Our major events in San Francisco, New York, DC, and Thailand explored these questions with CC platforms, makers, artists, technologists, and more. In April, we published the Kickstarter funded book Made with Creative Commons, exploring a range of “pro-social” uses of CC across business, nonprofits, the arts, and more.

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With ‘Open Access,’ the Met Museum’s Digital Operation Has a Bona Fide Hit on Its Hands"

– Artnet, August 10, 2017
Open link

Photo by Scann, CC0

Community Impact Spotlight

Scann + Open GLAM

“CC has given me the space to help change the world I consider unfair and unjust. I want knowledge to be accessible for all and CC is a space where I feel I can achieve that.” - Evelin Heidel (Scann)

An integral, long-term member of our global community, Evelin Heidel (Scann) is one of the leading advocates for global Open GLAM in Argentina and a strong voice for diversity and inclusion in our network.

As a member of CC, Scann’s contributions to the Commons have been extensive and impactful: she’s helped build and install DIY Book Scanners at Argentine institutions to help them free their public domain books, translated articles, given workshops on digitization, organized the 2013 Global Summit in Buenos Aires, and helped to organize the Librebus Project in 2012. More recently, she was part of the Strategy Steering Committee and the Transition Committee for the CC Global Network. With a group of friends and colleagues, she works to maintain the public domain database of authors of Argentina. “One of the most important things about this community is that it has given me the chance to work with people and projects that I admire deeply, the kind of people and projects that I think have radically changed the way we see and have access to knowledge and culture,” says Scann. “Having the chance to work with those people and learn from them is one of the most astounding privileges I've had in my life, and for that I'm grateful.”

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Ryan Merkley, Katherine Maher, and Mark Surman discuss the “Big Open” at MozFest 2017, London CC BY-SA 4.0

Project Spotlight

The Big Open

“As organizations, we have recently gone through processes to understand the future. What is interesting to me is that we have landed in a similar place, looking for the same thing.” – Katherine Maher, Executive Director, Wikimedia Foundation, 2017

As partners in the “Big Open,” we’re working together with other open organizations to usher in a new solidarity movement for the Commons.

A new wave of momentum for our broad movements kicked off at Wikimania in August 2017. Together with our partners in the movement, notably Wikimedia Foundation and Mozilla, we’re coalescing around our shared values to mobilize people to action. As a big tent for political work, the Big Open is a vision of what radical global participation could look like. “As individuals, we wear many hats at once,” writes Alek Tarkowski of CC Poland. However, “across the world, our communities overlap… with many goals and projects. It is this movement that needs to be strengthened by our collective action, rather than just particular projects and organizations.” Building on a vision of community-centered open movements, the Big Open strives to work collaboratively to support our communities across projects and organizations.

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It’s inspiring to see how creative people are when you make a collection like the Met’s accessible for them to use, share and remix without restriction.”

- Loic Tallon, Met Museum Chief Digital Officer


Mari Moreshead CC BY

CC Certificates, a course built as an Open Educational Resource, kicked off at the end of 2017 with its first cohort of 50 librarians and educators working toward a more open world.

In a two-year process culminating in 2017, CC built the curriculum for the CC Certificate, an online course targeted to librarians and educators to help them incorporate CC licenses and copyright education more effectively within their organizations and institutions. The team looks forward to expanding this program for other professions to meet the unprecedented demand for the course – the 50 person beta cohort was selected from more than 420 applicants. In addition to completing the course itself, the first group of participants gave week-by-week evaluations of the materials and assessments to help improve the course.

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The Community

Global Network

In 2017, a revised community-driven strategy laid the groundwork for the CC Global Network to organize, collaborate, and share at a global scale.

This year, we established four new organizing task forces for the global network: copyright reform, open education, GLAM, and community development. These platforms provide a new vision for the CC Network and a burgeoning era of awareness and advocacy for the Creative Commons. The process, organized over two years and including dozens of CC community members, created documentation to launch a revitalized membership program, providing volunteers the agency to self-organize at the local level with colleagues and peers working in the open.

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No tool is better than the people who use it.”

– Caroline Woolard, Artists in Conversation on Collaboration, Community, and the Commons


Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Sharing and the Commons: What’s next? The Global Summit, our annual gathering for the Commons, has become a sought-after event for Open Advocates around the world.

More than 400 Commoners from over 60 countries gathered in Toronto for an amazing weekend of community, coalition building, and planning for the future of the CC Global Network. This year’s summit welcomed a record breaking 90 scholarship recipients – nearly a quarter of total participants. Highlights included over 100 sessions, 4 keynotes from internationally recognized activists, 5 tracks, and the incredible, 200 pound 3D replica of the Palmyra Tetrapylon presented by re:3D and the #NEWPALMYRA project.

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Ken Bauer 2017/365/284 Uncommon Women CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Project Spotlight

UnCommon Women

As part of the UnCommon Women initiative led by CC Canada Public Lead Kelsey Merkley, summit attendees were greeted with a coloring book of the faces of some of the most inspiring women from the Commons.

In Kelsey’s words, “I started UnCommon Women because I wanted to celebrate and amplify the many strong, brilliant, and busy women of the Open Movement, across libraries, CC, Mozilla, academia, and Wikipedia.” UnCommon Women is building an uncommon community around the globe, facilitating conversations and connection around the need for women’s voices to be amplified in the Open Movement, tech, and beyond.

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We're looking forward more than backward – taking this place that's a symbolic battleground for control over the Syrian cultural identity and its people, and freeing it, digitally."

- Barry Threw, "How a 3D-printed piece of Palmyra landed in Toronto," CBC, May 02, 2017
Open link


We support progressive policy change by advocating for copyright reform in the public interest, promoting open access to scientific research and educational materials, protecting net neutrality, and calling for transparency and a rebalance of copyright rules negotiated via trade agreements.

With more than 40 blog posts and whitepapers published this year alone, we’re a crucial voice in the conversation around the issues that matter most on the web – and getting stronger with the support of our Global Member Network. This year, we worked together to produce expert policy analyses and respond to public consultations on copyright matters. We contributed to relevant working groups and coalitions, including Communia, and we participated in a variety of key policy conferences and events, like Mozilla Festival, Rightscon, and WIPO.

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Fundación Karisma, Colombia

Community Impact Spotlight

“Sharing is not a crime!” CC Supports Diego Gómez

“Compartir no es delito!” “Sharing is not a crime!” The rallying cry was heard around the world, sounded by the civil society organization Fundación Karisma in support of Diego Gómez, a Colombian conservation biologist who was prosecuted for sharing a research paper online.

Together with other organizations including EFF, Derechos Digitales, and SPARC, we provided crucial solidarity and support for this campaign, writing nine blog posts in English and Spanish, promoting on social media, and helping develop a crowdfunding campaign to help offset Diego’s massive legal costs. This year, Diego was acquitted on all charges, bringing a three year legal battle over the right to share to a close.

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Foto de la charla "Ciberactivismo feminista" del Encuentro de Feministas Desorganizadas by Celeste Korol CC BY-SA 2.0

Community Profile

Mariana Fossatti

“I like to be a part of a community where I can act in a broad spectrum field that includes activists, artists, politicians, librarians, teachers, students, academics, and journalists. They have in common the fight for a more just world and an interest in social justice." Mariana has considered herself a free culture activist since she began using CC licenses for her own work ten years ago.

In 2013, she joined with other activists and free culture organizations to found the CC Uruguay chapter, now one of the most active and prolific Creative Commons communities, and is a part of a collective of social organizations called Derecho a la Cultura. She is currently involved with a number of collaborative projects with CC UY, including for public domain works, the free music catalog Musica Libre, film and music festivals, and workshops about copyright and licensing. In the last few years, Mariana participated in the public campaign “Todos ganamos derechos” to support copyright reform in Uruguay. Mariana says, “Being part of a global movement allows activists to think and act locally, with tools that are useful for working with a large university or government, as well as with a local library or a collective of artists.”

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Did you know?

PLOS counts 7,000 editorial board members and 70,000+ volunteer peer reviewers each year, all working under CC Licenses

Open Education

Our open education work focuses on advocacy and awareness-raising, open practices and policies, mentoring new leaders, co-leading the movement, and creating new OER production and adoption models.

This year, Open Education celebrated a range of accomplishments all over the world, including: the 2nd World OER Congress and 2017 Ljubljana OER Action Plan; Cape Town Declaration +10; OER Policy Brief for the Commonwealth; Open Licensing Playbook for Government; national open education strategies in Romania, Morocco, South Africa, Kyrgyzstan, Slovenia, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and more; open licensing policies in the European Union, British Columbia and Alberta, and in US states and federal departments. Together with our community, we’re celebrating over 700 members in our new CC Open Education Platform, driving open education forward every day.

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Community Profile

Amanda Coolidge

“I see CC individuals as leaders of change and I believe that this community will determine the direction our society is heading.”

Amanda Coolidge is the Senior Manager for Open Education at BC Campus and works with all 25 public post secondary institutions in British Columbia to advocate for open education in Canada. A member of the CC Open Education platform, Amanda started the popular Twitter hashtag #500andcounting (now #700andcounting), a visibility campaign and call to action to champion the voices of the Open Education Movement, connecting open educators globally and help them spread the word. “I really love the passion of CC community members,” says Amanda. “The diversity of perspectives and the immense knowledge sharing is what draws me to this community. I love that the people involved in CC are involved because, like me, they believe that knowledge should be made accessible to all and that by sharing information we become better.”

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Community Impact Spotlight

CC Tanzania

The Tanzanian CC Community has established a strong legal and advocacy framework to educate their community about the necessity of open access to knowledge.

By conducting workshops, trainings, and meetings as well as building partnerships with aligned organizations, CC Tanzania has reached thousands and built the framework for continued partnership and cooperation within Tanzania and beyond. This year, CC Tanzania provided trainings for students, young librarians, and lawyers and promoted Open Access and Open Data in Africa through their accelerated community building work.

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Community Building

Since its launch in June of 2017, the Community Activities Fund has funded 27 projects across the globe and provided more than $17,000 for community projects.

As facilitators of the Creative Commons movement, CC prioritizes the funding of community-led projects, including meetups, team building events, guidebooks, and salons. In addition, we’ve worked with a number of African community members to facilitate the growth of CC Communities across West Africa and in Zimbabwe, and to reinvigorate our work in Jordan and Venezuela.

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Photo by joi Ito CC BY 2.0

Project Spotlight

Bassel Khartabil Fellowship and Memorial Fund

On August 1, 2017, we received the heartbreaking news that our friend Bassel (Safadi) Khartabil, detained since 2012, was executed by the Syrian government shortly after his 2015 disappearance.

Khartabil was a Palestinian Syrian open internet activist, a free culture hero, and an important member of our community. In honor of his contributions to the Commons, Creative Commons and its partners launched both the Bassel Khartabil Memorial Fund and Free Culture Fellowship to continue his legacy. In less than a year, the memorial fund has raised $260,000 for free culture projects, programs, and grants to support individuals advancing collaboration, community building, and leadership development in the open communities of the Arab world.

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Moh'd El Hafez Photography

Community Impact Spotlight

CC Jordan

The revitalized CC Jordan community is a hub for Creative Commons activity in the Arab World.

As advocates for a renewed Creative Commons presence in their local community, CC Jordan has been active with other organizations including Wikimedia Levant, TechWomen, Princess Sumaya University for Technology, and I-Dare organization. This year, CC Jordan restarted their country team with the help of our global Community Activities Fund and communications tools. Through meetings and events, they are building a network of members and volunteers, with one successful public gathering this year and more to come.

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Did you know?

Wikimedia Commons has over 42 million files – all of them freely licensed.

Credit: Basotxerri CC BY-SA 4.0




Expense by program
2016 Audited Financials

International / Affiliates
Culture, Communications, Platform Support


Income by Category
2016 Audited Financials

In-kind Donations

In 2016, Creative Commons received a transformative contribution of $10,000,000 from the The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, which will be expended over a multi-year period to support the work of CC’s renewed organizational strategy.

Thank you

Creative Commons is grateful to our global community of foundations, sponsors, and individual donors who share our vision and make all our work possible. On behalf of the entire Creative Commons community – Board, staff, affiliates, and contributors from all over the world – thank you!


We gratefully acknowledge support from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation as well as our lead community of donors, including Anonymous, Arcadia Fund, Argosy Foundation, Brin Wojcicki Foundation, Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, CouponFollow, eCampus Ontario, Eric Saltzman and Victoria Munroe Charitable Fund, Ford Foundation, Google, Institute of Museum and Library Services, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Mozilla, Private Internet Access, Re:Create Coalition, Samuel H. Kress Foundation, Stewart J. Guss, Attorney at Law, and the Vadasz Family Foundation.

We would like to acknowledge the following individuals and organizations for their contributions to this year’s State of the Commons report. Thank you!

Growth Data

Erin Simon & team, Google
Eleanor Kenny, Europeana
Liviu Iorgulescu, Jamendo
Lila Bailey, Internet Archive
Brian Carver, YouTube
Danielle McKay, DeviantArt
Cheyenne Hohman, Free Music Archive
Ross Oldenburg, Free Music Archive
Frank Polcino, Makerbot/Thingiverse
Catherine Snow, Makerbot/Thingiverse
Sylvia Ng, 500px
Rommil Santiago, 500px
Neil Quinn, Wikimedia Foundation
Ed Erhart, Wikimedia Foundation
Alex Feerst, Medium
Simon Steinberger, Pixabay
Matt Lee,


Coming soon.


Attribution information is directly beneath or next to most images in the report. Any images that were not attributed directly in the report are listed below

KPA_6840 Creative Commons Summit 2017 Photo by Kristina Alexanderson CC BY-SA 2.0

KPA_6833 Creative Commons Summit 2017 Photo by Kristina Alexanderson CC BY-SA 2.0

KPA_6770 Creative Commons Summit 2017 Photo by Kristina Alexanderson CC BY-SA 2.0

terBurgDSCF0489 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Megan with made with CC summit Photo by Jennie Rose Halperin CC BY 2.0

CC Summit 2011 Warsaw Photo by Kristina Alexanderson CC BY 2.0

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Cable Green, Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Regina Gong CC BY 2.0

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Photo by Rebecca Lendl, CC BY

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Creative Commons Global Summit 2017 by Sebastiaan ter Burg CC BY 2.0

Noun Project Icons

Created by Nirbhay from the Noun Project

Created by Eucalyp from the Noun Project

Created by Prasad from the Noun Project

Created by Icondesk from the Noun Project

Created by from the Noun Project

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