Creative Commons No Rights Reserved Licenses: Giving Up Copyright

Creative Commons No Rights Reserved Licenses: Giving Up Copyright
Page content

Creative Commons License - No Rights Reserved

It seems a little odd when you think about it; a need to license giving up all the rights to your work. The reason Creative Commons created this license is because in many countries, creators are not allowed to just say,“I am releasing this work into the public domain.”

The way many copyright laws work, in different countries, is that intellectual property which can be copyrighted is automatically copyrighted by being created. This license is Creative Commons’ best attempt to legally allow creators to give a creation a no rights reserved status. Their lawyers

worked to try and make the language applicable to as many countries and copyright laws as possible.

This Creative Commons license allows the creator to open use of their work to everyone, for anything.

Material released under this license is being made available to anyone, for any use, in any way. It basically says the copyright holder is giving up all their rights in the copyright of the work. Creative Commons calls it dedicating the work to the commons.

This license is particularly useful to scientists, artists, or anyone who wants their creation to be used and transformed by anyone interested, without restriction. If it is part of a project, the license is only applicable to the material in the project created by the person selecting that license. Use of the work does not require attribution to the creator, and the material should not be presented in such a way that the creator appears to agree with the use, if there is attribution.

The license for No Copyright can be found at this link:

In the case of my imaginary poem, My Favorite Toy, if I applied this license to it, my name does not have to be kept with the poem, and it can be used in any way that the user wants – even if it is a way I might not have preferred.

If my poem about stuffed animals had a reference in it to cuddling my toy while I was sick, a portion could be posted on a site along with an article which advocated taking toys away from sick children so they would not get over excited by playing with them. Personally, I think that taking a toy away from a sick child is more likely to upset them than calm them, but I gave away my rights to say how that poem could be used. However, that site could not put my name with the poem and imply that I agreed with their position.

On the next page we discuss public domain certification, and explain proper use of Creative Commons icons, symbols and buttons.

Please see the reference section at the end of the second page of this article to understand the restrictions on the use of Creative Commons icons and symbols. They are not under the cc-by license.

This license can be used to certify that a work is in the public domain or to dedicate a work by a creator to the public domain. This license does remove you from liability if you certify something is in the public domain when it in fact is not. What this license is meant to do is allow people to bring attention to material which is in the public domain, but might not be obvious or well known. When used with the license for public domain, it can indicate to search engines that the material is copyright free, and that may bring it to the attention of people who might not have otherwise found it.

Using Public Domain Certification

Creative Commons has a worksheet on their site for Public domain tools. After you indicate you do want to certify material as in the public domain, Creative Commons takes you to a new page for Public Domain Certification. Creative Commons has quite a bit of information for you to read before you are at the point where you are certifying a work as in the public domain. They also allow you to opt out of the process. If you follow through, they give you a section of HTML for the web page where what you are certifying resides. The HTML code means that search engines crawling the site find that page and can read the work is in the public domain, if some one is searching for public domain materials.

They also have a place to get text, if you are certifying something not on the Internet.

The text tells you the work in question is under the Creative Commons Public Domain certification. Then they give a URL for the Public Domain certification information: , or tell you to “send a letter to Creative Commons, 171 Second Street, Suite 300, San Francisco, California, 94105, USA.” *

* This text on this page is here for example purposes only, and does not indicate that this specific web page is in the public domain.

For work which would normally be copyrighted, they tell you to use the first licence discussed on this page, the No Rights Reserved licence. This means it would be inappropriate to put my hypothetical poem under a public domain license.

What would be appropriate is if I found in my attic an unknown work by Ben Franklin, which I publish on the web to let the world know about it, with that Creative Commons certification. The work could then freely be published in a book of Ben Franklin’s writings, but the book’s commentary or any text about the work written by a living person would fall under copyright law. The hypothetical work itself could be published or used freely anywhere, as the author is dead, and the time for all applicable copyright laws about the length of a copyright would have passed. In fact, my finding that work would not give me any rights to it at all.


Creative Commons has not put their icons and images indicating various licenses under a no rights reserved license, or under the license covering most of the rest of their web site.

All images used in this article are from the site, and are downloaded from their site with the understanding that their Creative Commons trademark icons only be used to refer to Creative Commons licenses, or link to those licenses. They request that people who want to use CC icons download them directly from them, so they stay in a high quality format. Other than these images and any specifically noted material, all Creative Commons information and licenses are useable under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license.

Information about the licenses created by Creative Commons used in this article came from the Creative site, and is, as specified by the website, useable under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license, - which is the license requiring you to give attribution to the source.

This post is part of the series: Creative Commons Licenses

Whether you want to choose a Creative Commons License for your published work, or you want to understand the license on a work because you’re considering using it, you should know what various Creative Commons Licenses mean. Here at Bright Hub we explain all 6 main licenses and ‘No Rights Reserved’.

  1. Understanding Creative Commons Licenses
  2. Creative Commons Licenses for Commercial Use Explained in Plain English
  3. Examples of Non-Commercial Creative Commons License Usage
  4. Creative Commons Licenses for Releasing Copyright