A Creative Commons license allows creators to specify in advance the conditions under which others may use their works, without the need to negotiate individual permissions each time. Basically, the license tells the public “you may use this work in the ways specified here”.
Creative Commons (CC) is a non-profit organization that provides free copyright licenses to allow creators (such as artists, writers, musicians and others) to easily share their works with the public by setting clear terms for how others may use those works.
Creative Commons License Types
There are several Creative Commons licenses, and each allows different levels of use:
- CC BY (Attribution): This license allows others to distribute, modify, create from a work, even for commercial purposes, as long as original authorship is acknowledged.
- CC BY-SA (Attribution-ShareAlike): Allows you to use the work as in the previous case, but if someone creates a derivative work, you must distribute it under the same license as the original work.
- CC BY-ND (Attribution-NoDerivativeWorks): You can redistribute the works, commercial and non-commercial, but you cannot modify them or use them as a basis for creating derivative works.
- CC BY-NC (Attribution-NonCommercial): You can modify and create from the original work, but not for commercial purposes. The new work does not have to be licensed on the same terms.
- CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike): You can modify and create from the original work, but not for commercial purposes and derivative works must be licensed on the same terms.
- CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs): This is the most restrictive license. It only allows works to be downloaded and shared as long as the author is acknowledged, but they cannot be modified or used commercially.
What is the CC0 License?
The “CC0” or “CC Zero” license is a Creative Commons tool designed to allow creators to waive all their copyright and related rights in their work, to the extent permitted by law. This means that the work can be used by anyone for any purpose without any restrictions.
Basically, when a creator applies CC0 to their work, they are saying “you can use this work for any purpose, and you don’t have to give me credit”. It is, in essence, a way of donating a work to the public domain.
Here are some of the key features of CC0:
- No Attribution Required: Unlike the other Creative Commons licenses, CC0 does not require that credit be given to the original creator.
- No Restrictions: Works under CC0 may be used for any purpose, whether commercial or non-commercial, and may be modified or adapted without restriction.
- Global: This license was created to be applicable worldwide, regardless of local copyright laws. However, due to differences in copyright laws in different countries, it is not always possible to waive all copyrights in all jurisdictions. In such cases, CC0 acts as an ultra permissive license.
Why use Creative Commons licenses?
The use of Creative Commons licenses offers a number of advantages for both creators and the public. Here are some reasons why a person or organization might be interested in distributing their work under one of the CC licenses:
- Promote Sharing and Dissemination: CC licenses allow creators to share their works with a wider audience, making access and distribution easier and legal.
- Clarity of Rights: CC licenses provide a clear and understandable way to communicate which rights are reserved and which are granted to others, reducing uncertainty for those who wish to use or remix a work.
- Flexibility: The different CC licenses offer various levels of permissibility, allowing creators to choose the license that best suits their wants and needs.
- Encourage creativity: By allowing others to modify, remix or build upon an existing work, CC licenses can spur innovation and the creation of new content.
- Recognition and credibility: Licenses that require recognition ensure that creators always receive credit for their work. This can help build their reputation and credibility in a community or industry.
- No cost: CC licenses are free to use, which means that creators do not have to incur additional costs to legally share their works.
- Promoting education and research: Many educators, academic institutions and research projects use CC licenses to share resources, allowing wider access to educational materials and encouraging collaboration and learning.
- Responding to technological and cultural changes: In the digital age in which we live sharing is easier than ever, CC licenses provide a legal framework that recognizes and adapts to these changes.
- Community building: Around CC licenses, a global community of individuals and organizations interested in open access and sharing has formed. These communities often collaborate, share resources and support the principles of the free culture movement.
- Alternative to traditional licenses: CC licenses provide an alternative to the often strict restrictions of traditional copyright, allowing a balance between the rights of the creator and the needs of the public.
How to Register your work with a Creative Commons license
Registering your work with a Creative Commons license is a fairly simple process and does not require any formal registration process as such. Let’s describe the steps you should follow:
- Decide which license to use: Before licensing your work, you need to decide which Creative Commons license is right for you. As I mentioned above, there are several CC licenses, each with different conditions and restrictions. You can use the “license selector” on the Creative Commons website to help you decide which is the best option for you.
- Marking your work: Once you have chosen a license, you must “mark” your work with the corresponding license. This is usually done by adding a Creative Commons license “button” and a link to the license terms. You can obtain these buttons and links from the Creative Commons website. If you are publishing online, you can usually embed the HTML code provided. If it is a printed or physical work, you can simply print the license statement and logo on the work.
- Inform your users: Make sure the license is clearly visible so that those who encounter your work know under what terms they can use it. This can be as simple as putting the CC logo and license information near the work, on a credits page, in a video description, or any other relevant place.
- No need to notify Creative Commons: Unlike some other licensing or registration systems, you do not need to inform Creative Commons or send them a copy of your work. By simply marking your work with the CC license, you are communicating to the public the conditions under which they can use it.
- Preserve your rights: Although you are granting certain rights to the public with the CC license, you still retain all rights that you have not explicitly licensed. This means that you can continue to use your work as you wish and you can also grant different licenses or permissions to other people on an individual basis.
It is very important to remember that using a Creative Commons license is not a substitute for formal copyright registration if that is something you want or need to do. CC licenses simply offer a way to grant permissions to the public based on the rights you already own as a creator.