Licensing Your Work
The Internet succeeded in no small part thanks to the humble hyperlink. The link enabled it to flourish as a network rather than languish as a series of closed silos, which led to its widespread adoption and the prevalence it enjoys today. Although a disturbing trend of centralization has emerged in recent years, many people have made great efforts to combat it; they may yet succeed. Their efforts have relied on the link to bring users together, re-focusing the spotlight on this unassuming yet important tool and highlighting the importance of attribution as both the currency and the lifeblood of the Internet.
COVID-19 has given me plenty of time to revisit many of my projects over the last few weeks, which prompted me to revisit my license as well. As the sole means through which creators can attempt to enforce attribution — and through it, the continued growth of the decentralized Internet — I consider a strong yet permissive license critical.
Although by default creators retain all the rights to their work, specifying a license defines explicit terms under which others may use it — or, perhaps even more importantly, the ways others cannot. Consider the GPLv3 license, for example, which gives anyone the right to do anything with a developer’s code as long as both it and its derivatives stay open-source. GitHub hosts the fantastic Choose a License website with other, similar licenses for those in the open-source community. As more of a writer than a coder, though, most of those suggestions do not quite fit my needs.
I wanted to find a license that permitted sharing under the condition that the original author receive credit for the work, that also prevented that work from becoming a cog in a commercial enterprise; I found just this in the Creative Commons family. I now license all of my work under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. As you can read on my disclaimers page, this license:
- Allows readers to share (copy and redistribute this material in any medium or format) my work.
- Allows readers to adapt (remix, transform, and build upon the material for any purpose) my work.
- Requires that anyone who uses my work gives me appropriate credit, provides a link to this license, and indicates if changes were made. Appropriate credit is defined as, at a minimu, my name, the name of this site, and either a link back to this site or its URL.
- Requires those who remix, transform, or build upon my material to distribute their contributions under the same license as the original.
- Prevents anyone from applying legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything this license permits.
- Prevents that credit from in any way suggesting that I endorse those who use my work or the purposes for which they use it.
- Prevents anyone from using my work for commercial purposes.
For those with different needs, the Creative Commons website has a handy tool to help you find the license that suits your needs the best. I believe everyone should own their platform, and thanks to modern cloud services, anyone can for free. Do not forget to license your work, though, to both foster the growth of the decentralized Internet and receive credit for your hard work, too.