I want to dedicate a work I created to the Public Domain using Creative Commons CC0 PD Dedication, and I was wondering how the fact that I'm the author of the work is affected.

I understand that anybody could use or redistribute my work for any purpose, and that they don't need to give me credit. However, I was wondering three things:

  • Can someone claim that I'm not the author of the work?
  • Can someone claim they are the author of the work?
  • Can some take a verbatim copy of my work and relicense it? (I'm asking this on the assumption that only the author or copyright holder of a work can apply a license to it)
  • 1
    For your last question, please note that there's nothing in the CC0 license that forbids a downstream user from applying her own terms and/or additional restrictions of her own. So it seems more a question of semantics -- you might say she "relicensed it" but she could simply say she's using you work fully in accordance with the CC0 terms (i.e. she's not breaking any of the CC0 rules, which you licensed to her). In technical terms we say it's "compatible" with another license. I.e. CC0 is 'compatible' with CC-BY-ND, for example.
    – Brandin
    Jan 17 at 10:39
  • Thank you, I understand. I'm more concerned about the other questions tough. I do not personally care if someone redistributes my work under CC-BY-ND or even a closed license, but, I am concerned whether someone could own or act like they owned the copyright by, for example, selling the rights to my work to a third party. I understand that CC0 is compatible with other licenses, but, if license A is an exclusive license, i.e., incompatible with other licenses, can my work be licensed under Licensed A by some licencee of the original work? Jan 17 at 11:00
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    If you want to give away your copyright though (which is what PD really means), then I don't quite understand what you mean by "act like they owned the copyright". Technically, I could make trivial changes to the public domain work and then I have a rightful copyright on my version with the changes applied. You say you don't want to be credited but in fact it sounds like you do at least want some kind of notice retained. So I'd look into the other permissive licenses available that require this.
    – Brandin
    Jan 17 at 11:25
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    @ComputerUser121212 No, you absolutly can remove the "by shakespeare" but everybody would still recognize it, because it is famous. Legally, you absolutely can claim "I wrote King Lear" - just nobody would believe you. And you could sell Disney a script for a King Lear screenplay for 100 million, just they would prefer to just chuck 15 bucks at Penguin Randomhouse and buy a copy, then have their own authors write it.
    – Trish
    Jan 17 at 13:17
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    @ComputerUser121212 It's typical for a publishing contract to include a clause establishing the author as the sole owner of the work, that they have exclusive ability to transfer publishing rights, and that the work is not libelous, public domain, or a host of other things that would make the work legally or commercially unpublishable. You could sell Disney a copy of King Lear and possibly even claim you wrote it, but you'd be committing fraud if you claimed you were selling them the exclusive publishing rights to the work. Jan 17 at 18:51

1 Answer 1


PD means you have no rights

No as in not a single right. CC0/PD means they can do anything legally: they can take the work, make a trivial edit and put their name on it [at least in addition] and you can't do anything. They can take the work, put a new cover on it, and put that work on amazon for 99.99 and using an ultra-restrictive other license. That's all covered under CC0:

The person who associated a work with this deed has dedicated the work to the public domain by waiving all of his or her rights to the work worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law. You can copy, modify, distribute and perform the work, even for commercial purposes, all without asking permission. See Other Information below.

By putting something in the public domain, you give up all the rights you have to the work and simultaneously give everybody the right to do with the work however they please - including any changes and relicensing.

The only way to prevent this requires you not to use CC0 PD but instead a copyleft license that requires attribution. Such as CC-BY-SA.

But.... Author's Rights?

What I wrote above is true for the United States, but there are several countries that have a concept of un-sellable Author's rights - usually called moral rights. In those countries, claiming that someone else wrote the work isn't legally possible. Among those is , and the law there includes the right of attribution under the unwaiveable moral rights. Such laws are why I italicized a portion of the CC0 license deed: Not all countries allow you to give up all the rights, and the waiver is limited

to the extent allowed by law.

  • 5
    @ComputerUser121212 This is precisely what CC-"BY"-SA is before. Note that there are two versions -- there is a CC-BY and a CC-BY-SA ("sharealike"). The ShareAlike version is commonly called "copyleft" because the requirement to give downstream people the same rights on your version is retained in future versions. However the CC-BY license without the SA does not have such a requirement, i.e. with that license you allow others to incorporate your materials into a (say) proprietary license (a non CC one).
    – Brandin
    Jan 17 at 13:08
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    The -BY is an abbreviation for "attribution required" (i.e. it's 'by' me).
    – Brandin
    Jan 17 at 13:10
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    In Germany, that is not the case. The author is the author, and that cannot be changed. The author may give rights to use the work, including without attribution, but giving a false attribution is different from giving no attribution.
    – o.m.
    Jan 17 at 18:33
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    The US does have some moral rights. However, they are waivable, unlike in some other countries, so CC0 likely does succeed in waiving them (the legal text of CC0 lists moral rights as "related rights" that are waived to the extent possible).
    – Kevin
    Jan 17 at 18:54
  • 2
    If (as suggested in the question) someone claimed publicly that you were not the author of the work, and that in fact they were, could there potentially be a cause of action for libel? As in, they are, falsely, calling you a liar/plagiarist, and thus damaging your otherwise good reputation?
    – psmears
    Jan 18 at 15:18

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