Creative Commons allows licensing of work to others, while not not relinquishing rights under copyright law.
All of us create copyrighted works every day in the course of our jobs and our personal lives. When an expression of an idea is captured in a tangible form, a copyright had been created. This brief article is an example of this concept. This article is copyrighted.
Many of us do not realize how many copyrighted works we create daily. When we do realize we have created a copyrighted work, often this is because the work seems "major." In other words, we put more effort into creating it than just writing an email. For some, the next issue is how to share this work with others without having to manage each and every request (think class related work either as a teacher or a student).
This is where the Creative Commons can be a help. The Creative Commons vision "is nothing less than realizing the full potential of the Internet - universal access to research and education, full participation in culture - to drive a new era of development, growth, and productivity."
Currently the Creative Commons has 6 options for licensing your work. They have a short, online questionnaire that helps step you through the decision process.
When using the Creative Commons to license your work to others, you are not giving up your copyright. You are exercising your rights under copyright law!