Putting your work in the public domain–which license to choose?

IT Stuff

Putting your work in the public domain–which license to choose?

As someone who puts all of their photographs in the public domain (except non-public shots of people), I recently spent a few minutes catching up on the state of public domain licensing, and thought it was a suitable excuse to post.

As anyone who’s ever fiddled with their Flickr permissions can attest, there are a bevy of options to pick from. That said, there are really only two options when it comes to putting your work entirely in the public domain, at least on Flickr. The first and oldest of these is simply labeled “Public Domain Work”. This has been around since the site’s inception, or very early on, I haven’t actually looked that up, and is about as basic of a declaration as you can get when it comes to expressing that you want your work to be in the public domain.

The second licensing option for public domain works is the CC0 license developed by the Creative Commons foundation. This means that like the types of license used for open source software (e.g. GNU GPL, Mozilla PL, etc.), declaring your work with that CC0 license specifically refers it back to a piece of legal documentation. This is designed to provide as clear of a declaration as possible of your intention for your work to be and exist in the public domain. The primary advantage here, I assume is that in any sort of a legal dispute, the fact that you’re referencing such a specific and explicit Declaration of public domain rights for the work, makes it very difficult for any judge to overturn such a declaration for any reason.

So the bottom line is really this. If you want to make sure that your work enters the public domain and stays there, and can be used by anyone for any purpose for at any point, then you should probably declare your works with a CC0 license.

If instead, you want to leave a little bit of wiggle room for your spoiled children and grandchildren to potentially sue themselves into something should your work obtain greater value after your death than during your life, you might want to stick to the older less explicit public domain.

If anyone has any questions , feel free to leave a comment and I will try to look it up for you. Thanks for reading