I am a young guy in high school, and I make web templates. I release them with no copyright because I believe in free (as in: freedom) code and software. I don't care if someone else uses my work or steals it and claims it as their own; I'm flattered that they would use it, and that's all that matters (at this point).
However, I've been thinking about this lately, and I really really want to go to college for web design and make my own business doing freelance web-work for companies. Obviously when that happens though I won't release my work to the public.
When I apply for college, I want to show them the work (templates) that I've done, which I keep neatly archived on my portfolio website. What I'm asking is when I apply and put my portfolio on my application, would it matter if I released the templates to the public without a copyright? If so, what can I do to keep my work application-friendly and free to the public at the same time?
1 Answer from Attorneys
A major problem with our copyright system is that copyright is automatic. That is, you may have thought you were publishing your work without copyright, but by law, copyright attaches automatically, as in "all rights reserved," unless you do something in writing to change that. It is, in my view, a serious imbalance that abridges freedom of speech, but it has not yet been challenged or changed.
So, the works you already made are copyrighted by you unless you specifically dedicate them to the public domain and leave a paper trail to that effect. (Billions of people create copyrighted works on a regular basis, and might love for their work to "go viral," yet never stop to think that, under the current system, others may not dare reproduce them or otherwise disseminate them for fear of getting sued for thousands of dollars in "statutory damages."
Your "free software" objective (free as in freedom, not free as in beer) is laudable, but because of the way the copyright system is biased, you will have to take measures to make sure your works are treated the way you want. One approach is to consider a "Creative Commons" license. There are many kinds, and the website is pretty straightforward in describing them. These are licenses that allow you to tell the world what you are licensing, from limited to everything. See http://creativecommons.org/.
But if free software is your focus, I also commend to you the Free Software Foundation, which has a wealth of information relating specifically to software licensing, with a focus on GNU GPL (GNU General Public License). See http://www.fsf.org/licensing/.