Licensing your work under one of the Creative Commons licenses provides many benefits.
Once you've applied one of the Creative Commons licenses to your work, you can refer all potential users to the License Deed. If the license you chose permits what a user wants to do, she doesn't need further permission from you.
The Creative Commons licenses can be machine readable. If you mark your licensed works with HTML code provided by Creative Commons, search engines know how it can be reused. They can communicate that to their users.
Releasing your work under a Creative Commons license decreases financial barriers to access. It can also help decrease technical barriers. Organizations working to increase access will be able to aggregate and reformat your work.
When others can copy your work freely, it's easier for them to build on it. If you choose a license that permits derivatives, users can also distribute adaptations they make of your work.
Before applying a license to a work, be sure that you hold the copyright. Under US law, the initial copyright holder is the author of the work. In most cases, copyright law treats the creator(s) of the work as the author(s). Authors who create a work jointly share copyright in it. If someone creates a work as an employee (or in certain cases, as a contractor), that person’s employer is considered the author of the work. More information about who holds copyrights is available in our Copyright Basics guide.
If you were the initial copyright holder, consider whether you have transferred or licensed your copyright to others. If you have, the terms of that agreement may impact your ability to license the work now under the Creative Commons license you have selected.
University of Michigan Standard Practice Guide 601.28 governs who holds copyright in works created at or in affiliation with the university. More information about SPG 601.28 is available in our Copyright Basics guide.
The Creative Commons License Chooser can help you select a license for your work. It asks you about your licensing preferences. Based on that information, it selects a license. It also provides HTML code or text that you can use to mark the work with the license. If you provide attribution information for the work, the HTML code includes that information as machine-readable metadata.
If you will be posting the work on a website you edit, mark your work with HTML code generated by the License Chooser. This makes the license machine readable. It also includes the icon associated with the license and a link to the License Deed.
To use the License Chooser to generate text you can use to mark offline works, click on "Help Others Attribute to You!" For "License Mark," select "Offline" from the drop-down menu. This will generate text that includes a URL for the License Deed. It will also give you a link to download the license icon, which you can include when you mark the work.
To mark other types of works offline, follow the examples laid out on Creative Commons's page on Marking your work with a CC license.
Creative Commons maintains a list of Publishing Platforms that allow users to upload their work and mark it with a Creative Commons license. These licenses are usually machine readable.
CC0, the Public Domain Dedication, is not included in the License Chooser. To mark a work with the Public Domain Dedication, use the CC0 Waiver Tool.