Creative Commons provides an easy way for creators to obtain licenses indicating how their work may be used. CC licenses are readable by machines as well as by humans. CC can simplify the process of relating and understanding permissions, for authors, publishers, and readers alike.
There are many CC licenses. Here are some options that are most likely to be useful for open access authors and publishers:
attribution-noncommercial-sharealike: this allows others to reuse your work, as long as you are appropriately attributed, but not to sell the work for a profit. Derivatives of your work are allowed, as long as the person making the derivative shares the work with others as you have with them. Rockefeller University Press just implemented this CC license (thanks to Peter Suber on
Open Access News).
attribution-sharealike: as above, but allows for commercial uses as well.
While I recommend the use of Sharealike to facilitate further dissemination of a work as open access, this element is not absolutely necessary for a creative commons open access license. attribution-noncommercial and just plain attribution are perfectly suitable as open access licenses, too.
There are other CC licenses that are perfectly compatible with open access, such as public domain, or that may be of interest, such as the GNU GPL (open source) license.
Many open access authors and publishers are beginning to use Creative Commons licenses. CC licenses cover a great many of the situations creators would like to cover - but not all. For example, the Sharealike element applies to derivatives; some creators (myself included) might like to see Sharealike applied to exact copies of the original, too. If CC does not quite fit, no worries - you can choose the closest license, or not use CC at all. What is important is making your work open access.