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Creative Commons: Understanding Adaptations & Collections

collection is the assembly of separate and independent works into a collective whole. An adaptation, also called a derivative, mixes or remixes a copyrighted work to create a new original copyrighted work. It sounds simple, but it's tricky.



Stock photo of a fruit smoothie

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels


An adaptation, also called a derivative work or remix,  is something created from a copyrighted work, and that creation is sufficiently original to be protected by copyright.

This concept can be illustrated with a smoothie. Individual fruits are blended together and result in a new creation. The individual ingredients are no longer distinguishable. Nevertheless, attribution for the individual works is still required.

Under copyright law, the original creator of a work may make adaptations. Some Creative Commons licenses allow others to make adaptations or remixes. It's important to understand what an adaptation is and the limitations based on copyright law and the terms of the various Creative Commons licenses. The Creative Commons FAQs provide examples and explantations.

Examples of adaptations include:

  • a screenplay based on a novel
  • a book translated from one language to another 
  • a chapter in an open textbook that blends multiple open educational resources.

The new work must be derived from the copyrighted work. 

It can get confusing.

Some changes to a copyrighted work do not result in the creation of an adaptation. These changes include spelling corrections and using the work in a different format such as a print publication that is digitized.

Note that NoDerivatives (ND) licenses permit remixing or adaptations for private use only, according to Creative Commons. The remixed work cannot be publicly shared or distributed. Pre-4.0 licenses do not permit remixing at all, except as allowed by exceptions and limitations to copyright. All CC licenses allow remixes, but there may be limitations and conditions. 

Adaptations with ShareAlike licenses must be licensed under the same terms.

When in doubt of if you have questions, refer to Creative Commons' FAQs for guidance.

Fruit as Art title page

Fruit as Art: A Collection

Cover art: Gallery image by Eri Panci on Unsplash altered with a cut-out. Apples image by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay

Contributors list

Edited by Michele Nicole Johnson, featuring works by Dominka Roseclay, Aleksandar Pasaric, Tracy Lundgren, Neal Johnson, Pineapple Supply Co.,, and Kirill Kgnatyev.

Introduction slide


Fruit comes in a variety of colors, shapes, textures, and flavors. This collection celebrates the beauty of fruit, featuring images that are licensed through Creative Commons and other free/open sources.

Photograph of red dragon fruit

Red Dragon Fruit

Photograph by Aleksandar Pasaric from Pexels

Photograph of oranges


Photograph by Dominika Roseclay from Pexels

Photograph of a Passion Fruit Flower

Passion Fruit in Bloom

Passion Fruit Flower by Neal Johnson. Licensed under a CC BY-NC 2.0 

Photograph of apples


Photograph by Tracy Lundgren from Pixabay

Photograph of a pineapple


Photograph by Pineapple Supply Co. on Unsplash

Photograph of peaches


Photograph by from Pexels

Photograph of strawberry tree fruit

Strawberry Tree Fruit

Strawberry Tree Fruits by Kirill Ignatyev. Licensed under a CC BY-NC 2.0 


Stock photo of a fruit bowl

Photo by Josh Sorenson from Pexels


A collection is the assembly of separate and independent works into a collective whole. Each work in a collection retains its copyright protection and licensing terms. As always, it is important to provide attribution for the work(s) used in the collection.

While an adaptation can be compared to a smoothie, a collection is more like a fruit salad. Each work -- the strawberries, blackberries, apples, etc. -- is part of the collection which is the fruit salad.

Each individual work in a collection must have attribution and licensing information.

While a separate copyright exists for the collection, it only applies to the new contributions to the work such a the cover, the introduction and the actual arrangement of the selected works (think about the fruit choices you might make for a fruit salad to create your own unique combination of flavors). 

Examples of collections include:

  • anthologies of writings by various authors;
  • encyclopedia;
  • a coffee table book featuring photographs by various photographers; and,
  • an album compilation of '80s pop hits.

As with adaptations, the licensing of a collection must be compatible with the copyrights and licenses of the individual works. The license for the collection does not alter the licenses for the works in the collection. For more information, consult the Creative Commons FAQs.