As the creator of an original work, you are typically granted far-reaching rights that govern and limit redistribution and -use of your creation by default. By applying a license to your work, you make clear what others can do with the things you're sharing, and also the conditions under which you're providing them. You can also require others who copy your work to do things in return.
You're free to draft your own terms, but it's common to apply a pre-made license template. There are several options to choose from that vary in their terms, and in their suitability for data and materials as opposed to source code.
- The public license selector helps you narrow down the applicable licenses through a series of questions.
- The Scientific Licensing Portal (German) provides an excellent review of the legal landscape around copyright and license options, with a focus on German law.
- A FAQ by the Leibniz Information Centre for Science and Technology addresses legal aspects of dealing with scientific data (German). A formal legal expertise around the current German legal situation (German) summarizes issues especially around digital archeology.
For all material except source code, creative commons licenses are the most common choice. They always require attribution to the original source, and optionally disallow commercial use and derivative works. You can also require others to share modifications under the same terms. The creative commons website will walk you through choosing a license.
The CC0 license helps you waive your rights as the originator of a creative work to the greatest possible extent, placing your material in the public domain.
Licensing materials and papers
Licenses for program code
Open licenses have been used for decades in computer science and software engineering, where sharing code has a long tradition. Therefore, a wider range of licenses specific to software code is available.