How to Apply a Creative Commons License to Text

While most of us are most accustomed to seeing Creative Commons licenses associated with images (perhaps because so many people use, and therefore attribute, those images across the web), these licenses work splendidly with text.

Applying a Creative Commons License to text:

  • Gives audiences a clearcut means of quoting you or using aspects of your text elsewhere online
  • Encourages others to use your text in a controlled manner (e.g. should you give your text a CC-BY-NC-ND license, those publishing it elsewhere have to attribute it and link back to your original content, cannot alter it, and cannot use it for commercial purposes)
  • Encourages people to link back to your original content

Giving Text a Creative Commons License

Choose a Creative Commons LicenseTo give your text a Creative Commons license:

  1. Visit Creative Commons’ “Choose a License” page on which you will find an interactive form (pictured to the right) that helps you build your license
  2. Specify whether you want to allow your work to be modified
  3. Specify whether others may be allowed to use your work for commercial purposes
  4. Select your license jurisdiction (we recommend sticking with international)
  5. Give your work a title, specify the name you would like people to use when attributing the work, and specify the URL to which people should link when attributing your work
  6. If your work is a derivative of something else, also provide the source work URL
  7. Should you like others to complete additional actions when using your work, publish a page on your site specifying them, and include the URL for that page in the “More Permissions URL” box
  8. Select text as the format of your work
  9. Select “HTML + RDFa” as the license mark type if your content is being published online. Select “XMP” if you are publishing your work as a PDF.
  10. Select the icon type you would like in the bottom right box, then copy the HTML
  11. Paste the HTML in a convenient place on the page featuring your now Creative Commons-licensed content

Should you be using WordPress and prefer to automate the process of applying a Creative Commons license to your work, consider one of the WordPress plugins described below.

WordPress Plugins for Applying a Creative Commons License to Your Work and Website

Creative Commons Configurator

Creative Commons Configurator is best if you want to apply a Creative Commons license to all of your site’s content in one fell swoop.

Using this plugin, you can add relevant Creative Commons licenses and metadata to your website from your WordPress admin panel. Creative Commons licenses are visually displayed at the end of pages and posts, but are also added to RSS feeds and your site’s header (not visible to readers).

Easy CC License

Easy CC License enables you to insert a Creative Commons license into a post using a convenient shortcode. Simply by entering [ezcc] into your text, you can display a Creative Commons license that includes Creative Commons’ visual badge. Should wish to apply Creative Commons licenses to all of your posts, pages, or posts and pages, you can also use this plugin to automatically apply the license to the end of each specified page type.

A nice additional feature of the plugin is that if you uninstall it, you can instantly remove all of the Creative Commons licenses it added to your work (either by bulk of on a shortcode-by-shortcode basis). Just be warned that this plugin has not been updated since March of 2012.

Creative Commons Suite

The Creative Commons Suite provides a quick means of applying a text-only Creative Commons license on your WordPress site’s front page, posts, and/or pages. The manner in which the text is presented can be customized through the suite’s configuration page.

This plugin is a good option for those who want a text-only, very simple tool. Be warned that the plugin’s designated website no longer exists and the plugin has not been updated since May of 2012, so it is not likely to get future updates or fixes.

Important Consideration Before Applying a Creative Commons License to Text

While you can remove a Creative Commons license from your content at any time, you cannot revoke the rights people exercised through the license during the time at which it was associated with your work.

In other words, if Finn Human used your Creative Commons-licensed poem on his site (meeting the requirements you stipulated in the license), you have no grounds to ask him to take that content down should you later decide to remove the license from that poem.