Creative Commons is a great way to explicitly declare what others can do with your work. Rather than reserving all rights (the default - others have to ask you to do anything with your content/layout/code/etc), Creative Commons allows you to give permission for specific things.
While this is sorely needed - a Creative Commons license is one simple and easy way to make sure the copyright status of your work is known - it is not the only way, nor always the best way. However, it can add value to the content or service, as the possibilities are available and visible. A CC license means re-use is allowed, under the condition that it is attributed, for example, or not used for commercial purposes. Rather than having to contact the copyright owner to find out these things, a CC license indicates what is allowed straight away.
Using a CC license can also indicate that the author/copyright owner recognises that their work may be used in ways they would never think of, or form the basis for future works. In essence, they know they are part of a larger body of works, and they want their work to be able to contribute to others’ work as readily and easily as possible.
One useful by-product of this is that CC licenses are intended to be human-readable, but still have a valid legal backing. The value of this is shown in the backlash to Facebook’s updated then reverted Terms of Service. The response convinced them to take a different approach to how their “country is governed”. Here is what Creative Commons had to say.
In a similar vein, Creative Commons has had it’s own issues. It is widely recognised as a useful tool in societies where copyright is established, and can often pose barriers to sharing due to the automatic application of copyright to copyright-able works. This is not the case for any and every work or society. Introducing Creative Commons to areas or cultures where a much more open approach existed before can have negative effects. For starters, CC works within copyright by “putting a nice, much friendlier face on it” rather than trying to reduce or change it. If a content creator who previously knew nothing about copyright has the concept explained, “most of the time those people realise what they can do about control and making money and eventually go for full copyright, instead of the ‘open’ solution.” It is even less relevant in places where the people are too poor to care about copyright over simply surviving, or countries that might have copyright in law, but in practice ignore it or dismiss it as irrelevant (techradar.com: The case for and against Creative Commons).
Creative Commons Licenses are a great tool for giving both authors and consumers more power, control and understanding. CC promotes a two-way street, giving and receiving, which can only be good for creativity, innovation and preserving culture. Like all “hammers”, however, it needs to be critically applied. To the right nails, though, it is a blessing.