How to Publish Something Using Creative Commons

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 Adapted from my original article How to Publish Something Using Creative Commons.

Traditional copyright isn’t right for everyone. Whether it be the inherent flaws it’s carried since inception or the way it’s been twisted over the years, there are certainly reasons not to copyright your work. Luckily there’s an alternative – Creative Commons. The “copyleft” movement known as creative commons (or CC) will allow you to specify exactly what people can and can not do with your work. Best of all, properly applying creative commons is a quick and almost impossible to mess up. Well, if you read this article anyways. God these introductions are getting smug.


Step 1. I know you’re ready to jump to the part where you stamp your work, but it’s crucial to know your licenses first. If you gloss over this part, that’s where there’s room for trouble. Remember that creative commons licenses are non-revocable. Once you put your work out there under one license, that’s the license you’re stuck with. There are six basic types of CC licenses, all of which will require anyone using your work to give you credit and link back to you. You can get up to speed on the different licenses in my article on “How to Read a Creative Commons License“.


Step 2. Once you feel like you have a good handle on what each one does and does not do, it’s time to pick a license for your work. This is easily the hardest part. If your license is too open people could take advantage of your work in ways you may not have intended. If your license is too restrictive it may diminish potential free promotion and word of mouth. Think about what the goal of your work is. If you simply want credit for what you’ve done, use an Attribution (by) license. Maybe you don’t mind people messing with your work as long as they don’t try to profit off it. Then again, does profiting really matter here? It’s a lot to think about. One thing to consider is that you have the power to grant additional permissions on a case by case basis. People can contact you to get permission to remix on an nd license, but if you put something out that’s simply by-sa you can’t tell someone what to do with what they’ve created.


Step 3. Getting the creative commons license itself is a breeze. Head over to and click the “License Your Work” button. There is a brief form that will ask you a few questions. Do you want to Allow commercial uses? Modifications? Where will you extend the jurisdiction of your license to? Aside from the required fields, there are a few additional options to expand on the particulars of the license. These details will help those who use the work give attribution. You can include the title, name, attribution URL, source work URL, and a URL where people can go to find additional permission details.


Step 4. Once you’ve filled out the form and clicked “Select a License” you’ll be presented with your license. The site shows you several possible graphic representations of the license along with code you can place on your site. It also gives you ways to publish your work in the Internet Archive, register with the FCC, and follow the use of your work with FairShare. If your work is on your own site, the next step is as simple as pasting the code there. If you have a blog, there is a link to follow for further instructions on that final page. There’s also a link containing the creative commons text for adding to an offline project. If you’re on Flickr, there’s a creative commons option in the actual photo form for you to go change. Sites like DeviantArt and Bukisa also have creative commons options to select from.


Additional Tips

  • You can wave the conditions of you license for certain circumstances where you see fit to do so.
  • Remember that liscenses are requests for how your work is to be used. Laws like fair use are still in effect, and may allow people to use samples of your work for other purposes without your consent.
  • You can’t take your license back after you put it out there, so make sure you think hard about which license to use.

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