These FAQs contain information that you should familiarize yourself with before using CC0. The information provided below is not exhaustive – it may not cover important issues that may affect you.
- 1 Questions about CC0 generally
- 1.1 What is CC0?
- 1.2 How does it work?
- 1.3 Are CC0 and CC’s Public Domain Dedication and Certification (“PDDC”) the same?
- 1.4 Which should I use if I want to dedicate a work to the public domain? CC0 or PDDC?
- 1.5 How is CC0 different from the Public Domain Dedication and License (“PDDL”) published by Open Data Commons?
- 2 Questions for those thinking about applying CC0 to their work(s)
- 2.1 Who can use CC0?
- 2.2 How do I apply CC0 to my work?
- 2.3 Does CC0 require others who use my work to give me attribution?
- 2.4 Does CC0 really eliminate all copyright and related rights, everywhere?
- 2.5 What kinds of rights am I waiving when I use CC0?
- 2.6 What are neighboring rights?
- 2.7 What are database rights?
- 2.8 Can I control how my work is being used once I publish it using CC0?
- 2.9 What about other IP related rights, such as trademark and patent rights?
- 3 Questions for those thinking about using a CC0’d work
- 3.1 Can anyone use a work that is distributed under CC0?
- 3.2 Do I have to attribute the person who applied CC0 to their work?
- 3.3 Why do some works indicate the jurisdiction from which the work is being published?
- 3.4 What rights do I need to use a CC0’d work?
- 3.5 How can I be sure that I have all the rights I need to use the work?
The FAQs are intended to supplement, not replace, our existing license FAQs. You are encouraged to review those FAQs as well as our list of issues to consider before using CC0 or any of our other legal tools or licenses. You should also read the CC0 legal code carefully and understand what it means before applying it to your work or using a CC0’d work.
Please note: Creative Commons does not provide legal advice. The information provided below is not a substitute for legal advice and is not complete. Please consult your own legal advisor if you have any questions or concerns about the information provided below, about CC0 or about Creative Commons licenses and tools generally.
Questions about CC0 generally
What is CC0?
Copyright and other laws throughout the world automatically extend copyright protection to works of authorship and databases, whether the author or creator wants those rights or not. CC0 gives people who want to give up those rights a way to do so, to the fullest extent allowed by law. Once the creator or a subsequent owner of a work applies CC0 to a work, the work is no longer his or hers in any meaningful legal sense. Anyone can then use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to rights others may have in the work or how the work is used. Think of CC0 as the "no rights reserved" option.
How does it work?
A person using CC0 (called the “affirmer” in the legal code) waives all of their copyright and related rights in a work, to the fullest extent permitted by law. If the waiver isn’t effective for any reason, then CC0 acts as a license from the affirmer granting the public an unconditional, irrevocable, non exclusive, royalty free license to use the work for any purpose.
Are CC0 and CC’s Public Domain Dedication and Certification (“PDDC”) the same?
No. PDDC was intended to serve two purposes – to allow copyright holders to “dedicate” a work to the public domain, and to allow people to “certify” a work as being in the public domain. Our experience with PDDC shows that having a single tool performing both of these functions can be confusing.
CC0 is a single purpose tool, designed to take on the dedication function PDDC has been performing, but in a more complete and legally robust way. CC0 is universal in its applicability, intended for use world-wide by anyone anywhere holding copyright or database interests in a work. PDDC is based on U.S. law, and the enforceability of its dedication function outside of the U.S. is not certain.
Which should I use if I want to dedicate a work to the public domain? CC0 or PDDC?
While you can use either, we recommend you use CC0 because of its universality and because it is a more robust and complete legal tool.
How is CC0 different from the Public Domain Dedication and License (“PDDL”) published by Open Data Commons?
Questions for those thinking about applying CC0 to their work(s)
Who can use CC0?
Anyone who owns copyright and neighboring and related rights (such as database rights) in a work can use CC0 to give up those rights. But please be careful. CC0 is a one-way street. Once you apply CC0 to your work you can’t change your mind later and re-assert copyright or database rights over the work. In some cases, it’s hard to decide if something qualifies for copyright protection (for example, a database of mostly factual data). Even then, CC0 is a useful way to assure others that you have committed to waiving any possible copyright protection you may have.
Even though are you not making any warranties of copyright ownership under CC0 (see Question 19), keep in mind that you are still responsible to any third parties who may have existing rights in your work. For example, if your work contains another person’s work provided to you under CC-BY, you will need to identify that work separately and provide the license. Likewise, for any other license(s), you will need to ensure that you are in compliance. Of course, if you do not have a license to distribute a work for which the copyright belongs to someone else, you will need to seek appropriate permission from the copyright holder.
How do I apply CC0 to my work?
Our chooser will lead you through process. When completed, you will be provided with HTML code that you can copy and paste into your website. Please be aware that it is up to you, the affirmer, to publish your work using CC0 by posting it to your website or elsewhere. Creative Commons does not publish any works and cannot accept responsibility for doing so.
Does CC0 require others who use my work to give me attribution?
No, and that's a big difference between CC0 and our licenses. Unlike our licenses, there are no license or other conditions attached to CC0. Just like anything in the public domain, it will be possible for others to use or adapt it however they wish, even without attribution. However, this does not mean that you cannot request attribution in accordance with community or professional norms and standards.
When you choose CC0, requests for attribution are not binding through legal requirements (i.e., as a condition of a copyright license) but can be based on ethical and professional norms, such as those that apply to scholarship and science. These norms can be well articulated, widely held, and self-policing, as is the case with citation standards in the academic community (which are based on ethics and professional reputation not legal conditions). However, in some instances, as with new technologies or emerging disciplines, the exact implementation of these norms in a particular context requires further consensus-building and articulation. That’s why beginning in 2009, Science Commons will initiate a community process, convening major scientific database projects, to articulate a set of voluntary principles and best practices for sharing public domain data and databases (including those under CC0). These standards will address citation, provenance, data integrity, and much more, and will be published as an extension of the existing Science Commons Open Data Protocol [link].
Please don’t take the 0 (zero) in the name “CC0” literally – no legal instrument can ever eliminate all copyright interests in a work in every jurisdiction.
CC0 doesn’t affect two very important categories of copyright and related rights. First, just like our licenses, CC0 does not affect other people’s rights in the work or in how it is used, such as publicity or privacy rights. Second, the laws of some jurisdictions don’t allow authors and copyright owners to waive all of their own rights, such as moral rights. When the waiver doesn’t work for any reason CC0 acts as a free public license replicating much of intended effect of the waiver, although sometimes even licensing those rights isn’t effective. It varies jurisdiction by jurisdiction.
So while we can't be certain that all copyright and related rights will indeed be waived everywhere, we are confident that CC0 lets you sever the legal ties between you and your work to the greatest extent legally permissible.
What kinds of rights am I waiving when I use CC0?
In the U.S., you are waiving your copyright and your neighboring and related rights in a work, including any database rights you may have. You are also waiving your publicity and privacy rights, so if your image is included in the work, for example, you cannot later complain that someone is using it in violation of those rights. In other jurisdictions, you may not be able to waive all of your copyright and neighboring and related rights. Moral rights and unknown rights are two examples of rights that may be difficult to waive in some jurisdictions. When waiver isn’t possible, those rights are licensed under CC0 to the extent allowed by law, although again, sometimes those rights cannot be licensed in advance or at all.
What are neighboring rights?
Neighboring rights consist of a hodgepodge of rights granted by statute in addition to traditional copyright. Performing artists, record producers and those involved in radio and television broadcasting are often holders of neighboring rights. When you waive your neighboring rights using CC0, you do not impact the copyrights or related rights of others, though. For example, if you apply CC0 to a sound recording to which you hold copyright, you waive your exclusive right to digitally perform that sound recording. But your use of CC0 would not affect the copyright, if any, retained by the composer of the music. Neighboring rights differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
What are database rights?
Databases contain facts that, in and of themselves, are not protected by copyright law. The copyright laws of some jurisdictions cover database design and structure, however, and some jurisdictions like the European Union have enacted special laws to protect databases when they are not protected under applicable copyright law. CC0 is intended to cover all copyright and database laws, so that however database rights are protected (under copyright or otherwise), those rights are all waived.
Can I control how my work is being used once I publish it using CC0?
Not really. CC0 is about achieving the effect of placing works in the public domain. Just like anything in the public domain today, anybody will be able to use your work for any reason, even in ways you may find distasteful or objectionable. They can also make money off of your work, and they may give you credit or they may not. One aspect you retain control over, however, is the use of the work by others with your trademarks. CC0 does not waive any trademark rights you have. If others want to associate your trademark with a work you distribute under CC0, they should ask your permission first as required by trademark law.
If you are worried about how your work will be used, if you want to legally require attribution, or if you don't want people to make money off of your work, then you should not use CC0 and instead consider using one of our licenses.
CC0 very clearly states that trademark and patent rights of the affirmer are not waived – CC0’s sole reach is copyright and related and neighboring rights, including database rights. Trademarks rights are not waived because creators who use CC0 should be able to protect the quality of products that are associated with their trademark (for example, by preventing a subsequent user of the work from leading others to believe the work in its subsequent use and/or form is associated with or endorsed by the affirmer). So if your primary concern is to ensure the quality and integrity of products associated with your name or your project, then trademark, combined with CC0, may be an option for you.
Patents are fundamentally more challenging. One of our goals at Creative Commons and particularly in our Science Commons and ccLearn projects is to encourage use and dissemination of information in a way that encourages others to build upon it, sometimes in surprising and unexpected ways. We can accomplish that objective through a copyright-only solution, without introducing the complexities associated with waiving patent rights. We also wanted to keep CC0 as simple as possible, consistent with its original design goals. We concluded that any perceived benefits of including a patent waiver were significantly outweighed by the downsides of its inclusion.
Questions for those thinking about using a CC0’d work
Can anyone use a work that is distributed under CC0?
Yes. CC0 doesn’t restrict who can use a CC0’d work. Once applied, anyone can use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to rights others may have in the work or how it’s used, as well as subject to any other legal requirements that may apply (see Questions 3.3 and 3.4, below).
Do I have to attribute the person who applied CC0 to their work?
No, there is no legal requirement that you attribute the affirmer, only an expectation that you will voluntarily do so if requested.
Why do some works indicate the jurisdiction from which the work is being published?
The CC0 license chooser gives affirmers the opportunity to indicate the jurisdiction from which the work is being offered. If provided by the affirmer, this information is included in the rendered CC0 text that is placed on the work as well as included in the machine-readable code.
The jurisdiction from which the work is being offered is one fact that helps users know what they can and cannot do with the work. There are other important facts that impact what rights the affirmer is surrendering and what rights the user has (another, for example, is where the user is located), but the jurisdiction from which the work is offered is one of the more important pieces of information that helps users usefully take advantage of a CC0’d work.
Be careful, though. The jurisdiction, if selected by the affirmer, is not a choice of law or forum selection clause (there are no choice of law or forum selection clauses in CC0). Nor should it be relied upon as definitive for purposes of determining what rights you, as a user of the CC0’d work, may have. It is just one of many facts (if properly selected by the affirmer) that you should take into account before using a work dedicated to the commons using CC0. Whether or not the affirmer indicated the jurisdiction from which the work was published, you may wish to contact the affirmer to learn more about the work as well as consult your own legal advisor about your rights.
What rights do I need to use a CC0’d work?
That depends. If you want to use the affirmer’s trademark, you need to get permission first since CC0 doesn’t affect trademark rights. You may also need to get permission from other people who have rights in the work, such as privacy or publicity rights of persons whose likeness or image appear in a photograph or in another work.
How can I be sure that I have all the rights I need to use the work?
CC0 contains a disclaimer of warranties just like our licenses, so there is no assurance whatsoever that the affirmer (the person who applied CC0 to the work) has all the necessary rights to grant permission to use the CC0’d work. The person applying CC0 to their work is not guaranteeing anything about it, including whether she owns the copyright or has cleared any uses of third-party content that her work may be based on or incorporate. If you are in doubt, then we strongly recommend you not use the work until you have taken all the steps and precautions you feel you need to before doing so, which may include contacting the person who applied CC0 to the work and consulting legal counsel.