Best practices for avoiding defamation on social media

As the use of social media websites continues to grow, so to do the legal risk associated with them. While Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and the like are valuable resources for sharing your thoughts and opinions, it’s important to recognize the legal pitfalls that await uninformed social media users. Now more than ever, social media sites can serve as breeding grounds for rumors and falsehoods, some of which could have potentially serious consequences. Below is a brief explanation of some of the relevant law to be aware of, as well as a few tips to consider when communicating online or via social media. While some of the suggestions might seem basic, they can go a long way in avoiding unwanted legal trouble.

So what is Defamation Anyway?
To begin, it’s important to understand the point at which statements normally protected under free speech cross the threshold of defamation. Generally speaking, defamation occurs when: (1) someone makes a false statement that is harmful to another’s reputation; (2) the statement appears to convey a fact, not just an opinion; (3) it is published or communicated to a third person (online posting counts); (4) the person making the statement is at fault; and (5) the subject of the statement is harmed as a result.

Consider the following example: John, suspicious of his co-worker, Jane, but knowing he has no evidence of any wrongdoing goes on Twitter and tweets, “Jane Doe has embezzled thousands of dollars of company funds.” Several people read the statement, including Jane’s boss, who soon after decides to let Jane go. Now jobless, Jane spends months frantically trying to repair her reputation and find new work. Suppose that John was mistaken, and Jane had never actually embezzled money.

Jane would have a strong claim for defamation against John for the following reasons: 1) John made a false statement about Jane that hurt her reputation because she did not actually embezzle money, and the statement affected her boss’ opinion of her; 2) the statement appeared to convey a fact because there was no indication that John was voicing his opinion about Jane’s actions, or that he was joking; 3) the statement was published to a third party because it was posted online where several people read it, including Jane’s boss; 4) John was at fault because he used incorrect information knowing that it had no factual basis whatsoever; 5) Jane was harmed financially because she lost a important source of income, and possibly emotionally from any mental anguish caused by John’s false statement.

With just a little extra effort and care, this situation can easily be avoided. Below are some important points to remember and actions one can take to avoid liability on social media.

1.  Think carefully about what you’re writing.
Before you post or tweet, take a second to read it over. Then, consider how it might effect someone’s reputation. It might be useful to ask yourself, “How would an reasonable person interpret this?” If the message clearly targets the reputation of a particular person or group, it might be wise to revise it.

2.  Be specific.
It is important to avoid ambiguity where possible. The last thing you want is for an angry reader to accuse you of saying something that you never intended in the first place. For example, suppose you post the following statement: “The Big Bacon Burger at Bob’s Tavern = emergency room. It’s baaaadd!!” While it may seem innocuous, several meanings can be implied here. The statement could be a hyperbole, meant to emphasize just how filling and delicious the Big Bacon Burger is, but it could also mean that the “Big Bacon Burger” literally causes food poisoning and will result in a trip to the hospital. Interpreted this way, the post may be considered defamatory. Make every character count in order to avoid ambiguity.

3.  Don’t post anything when you’re angry or emotional.
Many of us say and do things we don’t mean, especially in the heat of the moment. If your feeling fired up, wait until you’ve cooled off and are thinking clearly before clicking “send.” A few extra minutes could go a long way in preventing backlash from disgruntled readers.

4.  If it looks like a fact… make sure it’s actually true before posting.
At the heart of every strong defamation claim is a factual statement that turns out to be false. With that in mind, it’s not enough to believe what you’re saying is true—the information should also come from a reliable source. For example, if you suspected that an online author used copyrighted content without permission in his latest article, you wouldn’t want to post a message saying that he “plagiarized his material” unless you had the facts to back it up. To help back your point up, you might also consider inserting a link to source material if it’s available.


5.  Make it clear when a statement is opinion or joke rather than fact.
In order to avoid having your opinion mistaken for fact, try prefacing statements with language that clearly tells the reader that your message is opinion-based. For instance, instead of calling the leader of a Wall Street investment corporation a “corrupt businessman” or a “thief,” begin the sentence with “I think,” or  “it seems.”  Ideally, you should still specify which facts provide the basis for your opinion, i.e., “I think that he’s a thief because he has made billions of dollars from the retirement funds of the public employees he claims to protect.”

If you post material that makes a joke about a person or business, consider whether the average reader would be able to tell you are joking; if they could mistake your joke for fact, it’s probably better not to post it. Also, keep in mind that on social media folks are likely to read your post quickly, so a joke that would otherwise be okay could still be problematic if a quick skim wouldn’t reveal it to be a joke.


6.  Avoid making criminal allegations or associating people with terrorist/hate groups.
If you accuse someone of a crime or associate them with an undesirable group such as a terrorist/hate group, you need to have strong evidence that they committed that crime or are associated with that group. It tends to be safer to talk about their conduct, rather than to label it. For instance, instead of saying “Bob Smith committed fraud,” highlight the facts that you know for sure, i.e., “Bob Smith was misleading when he assured customers they would get their money back.” Similarly, rather than identify a police officer as a “Nazi,” or “white nationalist,” explain instead that they “brutally injured an African American during a recent arrest.”

7. Be cautious when writing about private citizens.
Generally, the law is less forgiving when you write about private citizens than it is for public figures. But even for public figures, the law prohibits you from knowingly making a false statement, or recklessly disregarding the truth of the statement (i.e. the facts were available but you actively avoided looking at them before posting).


8.  Be careful when adding hashtags to the end of your tweets.
It’s possible that adding a hashtag to a tweet could alter the context of the original message enough to make it defamatory. For example, if you tweeted out “Actor Mike Jones was arrested on Tuesday for domestic violence,” the statement would be perfectly acceptable so long as the arrest actually took place. However, if you added the hashtag “#rapist”, the statement could now be considered false and possibly defamatory. Using something like hashtag “#Speakup,” could help call attention to the issue while minimizing liability on your end. Also it’s a very good idea to search a hashtag before adding it to the end of your post, just in case that hashtag has taken on a new and offensive meaning.

9.  Avoid modifying photos & videos in order to portray a person or business in a negative light.
It’s common to come across viral photos and videos that have been modified in order to make someone look bad. While some of these are funny and harmless, the same can’t be said for others. Generally speaking, the less obvious and absurd the changes are, the more likely they will be considered defamatory. For example, suppose you want to create an Internet meme by modifying an image of a popular athlete. If you altered the image to depict the athlete wearing a diaper and holding a rattle, it may be acceptable as a parody. In contrast, consider an image that depicts a popular athlete holding hands with his wife. If the image were distorted to make it appear that he was beating his wife, it could now be considered defamatory. If you’re looking to expose a person for unlawful or immoral activity, stick to original images and unaltered footage.

10.  Avoid posting re-used clips that are taken out of context.
For those of you who make films or shorts, you may be aware that it is often acceptable to re-use copyrighted works when your video brings new meaning to the borrowed clips under fair use. However, video clips that are fair use in the context of your video as a whole may no longer receive the same protection if posted out of that context or individually. For example, suppose that after proper analysis, you determined that it was fair use to include a short clip of a Rolling Stones performance in an hour-long documentary that comments on how their song helped to shape pop culture in the 60’s. Your use of this video clip would likely not be protected if you then decided to post that same clip online as a teaser for the rest of your film.

11. Chose appropriate thumbnails for you online videos.
Thumbnail photos can be helpful in peaking a viewer’s interest in a video that you have created. Because they are the first images people see before clicking “play,” thumbnail photos should not only be relevant to video content, but should also reflect their messages. For example, a photo of a celebrity who has admittedly undergone numerous plastic surgeries may be an appropriate thumbnail for a video that sheds light on cosmetic surgery addiction, whereas a photo of a random man in a park would not be an appropriate thumbnail for a video about child abduction.

12.  Be prepared to issue a correction or apology.
From an ethical standpoint, it looks a lot better if you can show that you acted responsibly after a mistake was made. Correcting posts and apologizing for mistakes can also go a long way in easing tempers. In these situations it’s also best to address matters as soon as they arise—not weeks or even months later.

While it might seem like a lot of information to remember at first, the main idea is rather simple: it’s best to take a careful and measured approach when expressing your thoughts and opinions on social media. By understanding the types of posts and tweets that are problematic, one can go a long way in avoiding unwanted legal trouble.

This guide will serve as a useful reference for those who have questions about how the content of their posts could affect the reputations of others. However, it’s worth noting that the above suggestions are not a substitute for legal advice, but simply best an assortment of best practices that can help one avoid liability.

Special thanks to NMR Intern Nick Petruolo for his hard work putting together this guide!


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Stephanie Trejos

Clinical Intern

Joined NMR in: 

August 2015

Stephanie studied International Relations at Florida International University where she was member of Amnesty International. Her sense of justice and love of law led her to work for Rubenstein Law in Miami, FL for two years before embarking on her own journey to become a lawyer.

Beginning her second year at California Western School of Law, Stephanie is the Vice-President of the International Law Society and student member to the Intellectual Property Law Association. Her love of technology, entertainment and social media has driven her to study intellectual property law. This past summer she interned for INAPI, the Chilean National Institute for Intellectual Property, where she was able to learn foreign intellectual property law and compare it to our own rules and regulations.

Outside her studies, Stephanie enjoys cooking, traveling and exploring her new home, San Diego.

New Media Rights and KEI tell the US Trade Representative not to adopt measures that could expand the “20th­ century digital black hole"

Today New Media Rights joined the Authors Alliance, Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Knowledge Ecology International in calling for the US Trade Representative not to agree to measures in the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TTP) that could greatly reduced our ability to make orphaned works more accessible to the public.

The current language proposed in the TTP would make it much harder for the US to to reduce the damages that could be awarded against certain good faith users of orphan works. With proposed copyright terms extending to life +100 years, this reduction is absolutely critical. As authors pass away and companies close, finding the owner of some copyrighted works has become an impossibility. By lowering damages and taking other measures to allow for the reuse of orphan works, we give Americans the tools they need to help works from falling into the “20th­ century digital black hole,” and being lost to us forever.

The complete letter can be found below.

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Diana Ekins

Clinical Intern

Joined NMR in: 

August 2015

Diana is a former entertainer, producer and advertiser, currently in her second year at California Western. She is the new Student Ambassador for the National Jurist and pursuing a career in entertainment law.

Diana began playing music and doing theatre as a kid. Born and raised in Reno, NV, she began playing saxophone in a professional setting at 15. She studied Journalism and Theatre at UNR, where she also studied abroad in Torino, Italy, joined Alpha Psi Omega, co-founded the UNR Broadcast Club, and worked in costume design and set construction for the Nevada Repertory Company. She graduated in 2007.

Upon graduation, some of her jobs include working as a TV producer; singing and playing saxophone in cover and original bands and recordings; acting and assisting production on a feature film; commercial acting and promotional modeling; and as an account executive for a high-end commercial photography studio. Diana also co-owned Guerilla Productions, which produced and promoted art and music festivals, fundraisers, rock concerts, fashion shows and helped bands book gigs and go on tour; she was also an amateur MMA fighter, studying the art of Krav Maga, jiu jitsu and boxing.

Cara Laursen

Clinical Intern

Joined NMR in: 

August 2015

Cara Laursen attended the University of Nevada, Las Vegas on an academic and Miss America scholarship majoring in Business Management and Entrepreneurship.  While attending UNLV, Cara served as a product spokesperson representing major corporations including Sony, LG and Sharp.  She also appeared in several Las Vegas theatrical productions.

While serving her community as Miss Las Vegas 2011, she raised funds for local and national charities, made public speaking appearances encouraging the youth to “Find a Passion—Make a Difference.”  Her philanthropic work also included six years with National Charity League volunteering throughout the Las Vegas Valley where she received many awards for her contributions.

Cara’s experience in the entertainment industry lead her to law school where she is pursuing a career focusing on entertainment and media law.   She is now in her second year at California Western School of Law.  Cara is a member of the Dean’s Academic Honor List 2015, recipient of Academic Excellence Awards, and was selected as an Academic Tutor for incoming  1L students.

Her favorite past times include training for and running marathons.

Leopoldo Gabriel Estrada

Clinical Intern

Joined NMR in: 

August 2015

Gabe studied history at the University of California, San Diego. His field of studies had an emphasis on war, revolution and social change, which inspired him to make a social impact through a legal career.  Now in his second year at California Western School of Law, Gabe is an active member of the Moot Court Honors Board and enjoys public debate.  He excelled in the study of property and developed a keen interest for intellectual property and internet law.

Outside of school, Gabe is married and has two wonderful children that he intends to make big Star Wars fans like himself.  Although often faced with their pushback, he loves taking them to comic and fan conventions to expose them to the world of geekdom.  He is a member of the R2-D2 Builders Club and has a fully operational life-size R2-D2 as well as a collection of movie props.  Additionally, Gabe is very active in the San Diego music and art scene.  He aspires to use his legal knowledge to help artists achieve and protect their dreams.

Today we join more than 90 organizations in asking President Obama to open up taxpayer funded educational materials to the public

Today, New Media Rights along with a broad coalition of more than 90 education, library, technology, public interest, and legal organizations, called on the White House to take action to ensure federally funded educational materials are made available as Open Educational Resources (OER) that are free to use, share, and improve.

This letter comes in response to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy’s (OSTP) request for ideas to strengthen the U.S. Open Government National Action Plan, which is currently under development. The executive action envisioned by the coalition would build upon the Administration’s strong leadership in advancing public access to publicly funded resources with a strong Executive Branch-wide policy for the open licensing of educational, training, and instructional materials created with federal funds. In the letter, the coalition outlined five core principles for Administration policy on this issue:

  1. Adopt a broad definition of educational materials;
  2. Provide free access via the Internet;
  3. Create conditions for resources that enable reuse;
  4. Require prompt implementation; and
  5. Regular reporting of progress and results.

Members of the public can join the call for opening up taxpayer funded educational materials by tweeting with hashtag #OERUSA. The full letter can be found at the bottom of this post.

WhiteHouseOERLetter0804150000.pdf239.3 KB

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Basic features of all Creative Commons licenses

On this page of the Citizen's Guide to Creative Commons, we'll go over the most basic features shared by all Creative Commons licenses, and cover the responsibilities and privileges given to those using CC licensed work.  To begin with, all Creative Commons licenses have some important features in common.

Every license will:

  • Help you retain your copyright, and;
  • Allow the public to use your work in some regard, provided they comply with the conditions of the license.

Every license Requires licensees:

  • to get your permission to do any of the things you choose to restrict — e.g., make a commercial use, create a derivative work;
  • to remove attribution at the original authors request; -  e.g., if someone makes a legally authorized derivative of your work that you don’t like, you can ask them to remove your name from the attribution,
  • to keep any copyright notices intact on all copies of your work;
  • to link to the license used for the work;
  • not to alter the terms of the license, and;
  • not to use technology to restrict others lawful uses of the work.

Every license Allows Licensees, (provided they live up to your conditions):

  • to copy the work
  • to distribute it
  • to display or perform it publicly
  • to make digital public performances of it (e.g., webcasting)
  • to shift the work into another format as a verbatim copy

Every license:

  • applies worldwide
  • lasts for the duration of the work’s copyright, and;
  • is not revocable.


Now that we've covered some of the most basic features of CC licenses, let's move into the meat and potatoes! Click through to continue on our Citizen's Guide to Creative Commons, where we'll go over the intricacies of each CC license, and walk you through what exactly you can require in your Creative Commons License!


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Choosing a Creative Commons License

Unless otherwise indicated, anything found on New Media Rights’ website is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License. At first glance, deciphering what that means may seem intimidating, but in fact, it all comes down to the simple question of how you’d you’re your work to be used. Remember, offering your work under a Creative Commons license does not mean giving up your copyright. It means offering some of your rights to any member of the public, but only on certain conditions. In this article we’ll break down the various conditions you can require in your CC license or need to understand when reusing CC works.

Conditions You May Require In Your CC License:


You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your copyrighted work — and derivative works based upon it — but only if they give proper attribution to you, the author, or the title of the original work. If you wish to remain anonymous you can, just use the word “anonymous” in place of your name.

Example: Christy publishes her photograph with an Attribution license, because she wants the world to use her photographs, as long as they give her credit. Ben finds her photograph online and wants to display it on the front page of his website. Ben puts Christy’s picture on his site, and clearly indicates Christy’s authorship.

What NMR says about it:

Note that ALL Creative Commons licenses require attribution, unless the creator has waived that requirement, not supplied a name, or asked that her name be removed. The license itself tells the user to include the name of the original author, the title of the work, and a link to the legal code in the license. CC licenses also require that users “keep intact all copyright notices,” so when publishing your work under a CC license, make sure to clearly indicate the name you’d like to be credited as. You can also add suggestions on how you would like to be attributed, but these suggestions are not enforceable parts of the license.

For example, here is what the creative commons license says about attribution when using our content.

“Attribution. Where you reuse our work YOU MUST, 1. Attribute the work to "New Media Rights" (but not in any way that suggests that New Media Rights endorses you or your use of the work), 2. State the original title of the work, and 3. link to the text of the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License which can be found here.

  • We also request that you provide a direct link to the original content on (if appropriate in the medium you are using the work).

Note that the sub-point is just something we request but it isn’t mandatory.

We have more information about how to properly attribute someone’s CC licensed work later in our “Best Practices” section of the guide, if you’d like to jump ahead!


You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform your work — and make derivative works based upon it — but for noncommercial purposes only

Examples: Jamie publishes his photograph on his website with a Noncommercial license. Julie prints Jamie’s photograph. Julie is not allowed to sell the print photograph without Jamie’s permission.

What NMR says about it:

If you don't want people to be able to make money off of your work without your explicit permission, then you likely want to require uses to be noncommercial on your Creative Commons license.

This is an effective way for artists and creators (especially those that are new or emerging) to get their creative work to a larger audience, because the creative work can be redistributed non-commercially on noncommercial blogs, podcasts, social media websites, and elsewhere. Your photograph, song, story, or other creative work can gain the attention of the public, but it can't be used for an advertisement, sold by a record label, or turned into a television sitcom without your permission and compensation.

Of course, the question can and does come up of whether or not a use is commercial. Consider, for example, Shauna, who licenses her photographs under a CC-Attribution-Noncommercial-ShareAlike license. Francesca, an independent blogger, uses her photograph in an article on her personal blog (that is not ad supported), attributes Shauna correctly, and licenses that webpage under the same exact CC license. Unfortunately, Francesca also has a “tip jar”, a button which lets users “tip” her online to support the website. This injection of commercialism can complicate the question of whether she is violating the terms of Shauna’s CC Noncommercial license. To be safe, in these borderline cases best practices dictate that Francesca should try to get in touch with Shauna to see if her use would be permitted.

No Derivative Works

You let others copy, distribute, display, and perform only verbatim copies of your work, not derivative works based upon your work.

Example: Lionel licenses a recording of his song with a No Derivative Works license. Wendy would like to cut Lionel’s track and mix it with her own to produce an entirely new song. Wendy cannot do this without Lionel’s permission (unless her song amounts to fair use).

What NMR says about it:

Derivative works are creative works that build upon previous works. If you do not allow derivative works, then, as stated above, the only thing that can be distributed, copied, displayed, or performed is your exact original work (except for users' fair use rights).

This is a condition to carefully consider. For instance, imagine that Gus, an independent musician hoping to have his work heard, licenses his songs under a CC Attribution Non-Derivative license. Jenny, a filmmaker, wants to include the song during an exciting car chase scene in her upcoming film, but doesn’t want to play the entire six minute song. Unfortunately, because Gus elected to not allow derivative works to be made from his work, Jenny would be unable to include the song in her film without Gus’s permission. Not that this is a necessarily a bad thing. Jenny could still contact Gus and negotiate their own license.

It’s important to keep in mind that allowing derivative works does not mean anyone can necessarily profit off the work without your explicit permission. Even if you allow others to create a derivative work, say recording and distributing their own version of your song, they cannot exploit the song commercially if you have chosen to require uses to be “noncommercial,” as discussed above.

On the other hand, allowing derivative works can often mean  helping to provide a great building block for grassroots culture. Projects like Wikimedia, Flickr, and even YouTube at least have options to use CC licenses for submitted works, and as a result, creators today have access to a wealth of freely available material to remix, reuse and build upon. With that in mind, unless you want to restrict any adaptations of the work and only allow distribution of identical copies, you might consider allowing derivative works in your CC license.

Share Alike

You allow others to distribute derivative works only under a license identical to the license that governs your work.  Note: A license cannot feature both the Share Alike and No Derivative Works options. The Share Alike requirement applies only to derivative works.

Example: Joe’s photo is online and licensed under the Noncommercial and Share Alike terms. Julie is an amateur collage artist, and she takes Gus’s photo and puts it into one of her collages. This Share Alike language requires Camille to make her collage available on a Noncommercial Share Alike license. It makes her offer her work back to the world on the same terms Gus gave her.

What NMR says about it:

This condition requires that any use of your creative work carry the same licensing terms as you chose for your work. This can ensure that others use your content with the same spirit of sharing that you embraced. The “share alike” requirement does, however, place some additional restrictions on the user of the content, because they have no choice in the licensing scheme for a work that incorporates your work.

For example, let's return to Gus, our struggling musician. Imagine Gus composes and records a song, then shares it under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license. This license does not restrict commercial use of Gus’s song, so anyone can use his song commercially so long as they give him attribution. Now let's say Jenny is making a film, hears Gus’s song, and wants to include it in her film. To use the song, Jenny has no choice but to make her entire film available under the same CC Attribution-ShareAlike conditions, which allow anyone to commercially exploit her film so long as they give her attribution. Jenny, as a result, chooses a different song to include in her film.  If Gus did not choose the “sharealike” condition, Jenny could have used the song in her film, respect Gus’ wishes by attributing the work to him, and then offering the film under any conditions she chose, for instance a Creative Commons license requiring noncommercial use only.

One important note for reusing and remixing “share alike” content: Remember, even if your website uses a creative license, when you reuse or remix other creative commons material that has the “share alike” requirement, you want to clearly label the Creative Commons licensed content you are using with exactly the same license that was specified by the copyright owner. This is because your site might not have the same license as the content you are using. For instance, you may allow people to use your content with attribution as the only condition, where as the content you are using may require attribution, noncommercial use, and have the “sharealike” requirement. In that case you should label the license terms for the content clearly.

Types of Creative Commons Licenses:

(The following list was originally published on About The Licenses by Creative Commons under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License and has been edited for clarity by New Media Rights )


This license lets others distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon your work, even commercially, as long as they credit you for the original creation. This is the most accommodating of licenses offered. Recommended for maximum dissemination and use of licensed materials.


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work even for commercial purposes, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms. All new works based on the original will carry the same license, so any derivatives will also allow commercial use. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under the same or similar license to this one.


This license allows for redistribution, commercial and non-commercial, as long as it is passed along whole and unchanged, with credit to the original author. Any licensee using the work may not, however, alter, transform, or build upon the original.


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon the work non-commercially, and although their new works must also acknowledge the original author and be non-commercial, they don’t have to license their derivative works on the same terms.


This license lets others remix, tweak, and build upon your work non-commercially, as long as they credit you and license their new creations under the identical terms.


This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you. Licensees may not use the work for commercial purposes, and can not alter, transform or build upon the original.


Using the Creative Commons License Chooser:

As you can see, although CC licenses can seem intimidating at first, in reality it all comes down to what license works best for you. Hopefully the information above helped provide a clear answer, but if not, Creative Commons has created a simple web app that can be used to help walk you through choosing a creative commons license. Simply answer the questions by selecting the buttons that most accurately describe how you would like your work to be used, and the app does the rest, providing you with a proper license and HTML code that can be included wherever your content is published.


Public Domain Tools:

Creative Commons also offers two other creative licensing choices. Only CC0 is still an actively supported license but since The Public Domain Mark is very prevalent online we also cover it below. 


A universal tool for copyright holders to waive their interest in their own copyrighted work to the greatest extent allowed by law. This is a particularly good license to use if you would like to freely share your work without requiring attribution.

The Public Domain Mark-

The Public Domain Mark (PDM) is a mark used exclusively to identify, or label, a work that is completely free of known copyright restrictions around the world, and is already in the public domain (typically only very old works). Critically, the PDM should not be used as a license, or by a copyright owner or author seeking to change a work’s current status under copyright law. The PDM is not a legal instrument like CC0 or other CC licenses.

As such, if you, a creator, want to completely relinquish your copyright in your work, you would identify the work as CC0, not a Public Domain Mark. Also if you are using works that have been marked as public domain, you should do your own research to ensure those works are actually in the public domain. We have seen a large number of false positive public domain marks. The confusion surrounding the Public Domain Mark has led to it being retired in recent years, and in fact use of the PDM is no longer recommended. Creative Commons now encourages artists to use the CC0 license in its place.

Open Source Software specific licenses:

The Open Source movements have long embraced the spirit of sharing at the heart of Creative Commons, but as a rule of thumb, software should not be licensed under CC. There are a wide variety of open source software licenses which you can read more about in our guide here.


Now that we’ve gone through the different elements of CC licenses, and have walked you through selecting your own license, in the next section of our guide we’ll cover the best practices for using someone else’s CC licensed work!



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