CC0 and Public Domain
In addition to the Creative Commons licenses, the Creative Commons organization has put forward two other resources that enable sharing of creative works.
The CC0 Tool is not a license. It is a legal tool for waiving copyrights and related rights, as much as possible under applicable laws. It is sometimes called a "public domain dedication" tool, or the "no rights reserved" option. You must hold a copyright in a work, in order to apply the CC0 tool to that work.
Some rightsholders may want to relinquish rights to many of their works, if they have objections to the way copyright law and related laws function. Others may simply want to ensure the broadest possible distribution of one particular work, and may only rarely rely on the CC0 tool. Sometimes, too, the CC0 tool is used to ensure that materials that do not have recognized copyright-like rights in some legal jurisdictions, but do in others, are equally accessible across all jurisdictions - this is common with some types of data.
It is quite difficult in many jurisdictions for rightsholders to relinquish all rights in a work - in some jurisdictions, there are some rights you simply cannot transfer away. Most commonly, the un-relinquishable rights arise from "moral rights" theories of copyright, but even where moral rights are not heavily emphasized (as in the U.S.), courts have often tended to limit the ability to waive copyrights. The CC0 tool gets as close as is possible to full relinquishment of copyright and related rights, for the relevant jurisdiction.
Public Domain Mark
The Creative Commons' Public Domain Mark is also not a license, but it is also not a legal tool for rightsholders. Rather, it is a symbol that is intended for use when someone believes that a work is in the public domain; i.e., that there are no existing rights in the work. Rightsholders cannot apply a Public Domain Mark to their own work, as it is only to be used on works for which there is no rightsholder.
Since it can be very difficult to conclusively determine that there are no existing copyrights in a work, this mark is primarily used only on very old materials, where the rights status is uncontested worldwide.
- Creative Commons' Frequently Asked Questions about the CC0 Tool
- Creative Commons' Frequently Asked Questions about the Public Domain Mark
Unless otherwise noted, all content on the Copyright Information section of this site is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial License.
This web site presents information about copyright law. The University Libraries make every effort to assure the accuracy of this information but do not offer it as counsel or legal advice. Consult an attorney for advice concerning your specific situation.