CC0 is not so much a license as it is a waiver. It is an attempt by the Creative Commons organization to improve upon its public domain dedication system by making it both more international-focused and rectify many of the challenges and problems that come up when trying to simply place a work on the public domain.
The idea is that, rather than licensing your work with certain terms and restrictions, you are instead waiving as many of your rights as possible, including all related rights (including moral rights). Though it isn’t the same as placing a work in the public domain, it would, theoretically, have much the same effect.
The question is how much will the license be used and whether Webmasters, many of which are already wary of the terms CC licenses place on their work, will be willing to waive all of their copyright interest.
How it Works
Obtaining a CC0 waiver for your site is much the same as getting a regular CC license. You visit the CC0 page, input the information for the work you want to license (Note: This is optional but, as with CC licenses, the data you put in is embedded in the license itself).
The one element that is different is that the CC0 waiver does have an active “clickwrap” element that requires the user to agree to both waive their copyright interest and that they have read the terms of the license and understand it. This is, assumedly, to ensure that there are no misunderstandings with users and that no one who doesn’t intend to waive their rights uses this system. It also, likely, helps with enforceability as the person waiving their rights has electronically “signed” a contract indicating as such.
However, even after that, the process then again does one last check to ensure that the user is certain they wish to waive their rights and cautions artists that depend on copyright for their income against using the service.
Once you’ve completed that, you are then presented with a familiar set of HTML and button options for marking your work. You can then take that code, paste it into your site or otherwise affix it to your work. Otherwise, the waiver has not been completed as the CC0 licensing procedure is NOT a registration process and nothing is stored by the Creative Commons Organization.
The most common button will look like the one to the left (or above in your RSS reader). Please note though that this is meant to be used as a sample of the CC0 button and is not designed to indicate that this article or anything on this site is licensed under a CC0 license. All content on PT is underneath the BY-SA license.
The Advantages of and Problems with CC0
Though CC0 isn’t designed to replace the public domain dedication service, it is designed to improve upon it. The CC0 system works better internationally, is likely more legally valid (since one can not dedicate their works into the public domain in many countries and there are questions about doing so in the U.S.) and, if the icon and meaning becomes recognizable enough, more clear.
The problem is that there hasn’t exactly been a rush to use the public domain dedication system and it hasn’t been the legal issues that has kept others at bay. Those that have used CC licenses have favored other licenses overwhelmingly and those that have wished to license their work in the public domain have usually just done so without the aid of CC.
Though the CC0 waiver system is a potentially useful tool for those that want to waive their rights and certainly preferable in most cases to either a CC Public Domain Dedication or a similar dedication of their own, it seems unlikely that the “license” will catch on in a big way, that is, barring a major shift in the attitudes of writers and artists.
It seems that, for most who want to give up most of their rights, the CC-BY license is more than open enough.
There’s little doubt that the CC0 waiver system is a major step forward for the Creative Commons Organization in terms of their public domain efforts. Even though it isn’t a true public domain dedication, it only waives the rights as far as they can be waived (Note: Moral rights, in many countries, can not be outright waived), it opens up what is likely as close to a public domain option as practical under the current legal climate.
Though it doesn’t seem likely that this license will be widely used, trying to get willing copyright holders to license their works with the terms that they want, or no terms at all, is a big part of their effort so having this waiver available likely means more than the number of likely licensors would indicate.
To say the least, it is an interesting project that has been over a year in the making. It is nice to see it reach its version 1.0.