Modifying the CC licenses

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CC recognizes that we cannot control or prohibit separate agreements or understandings that involve or affect our standard licenses. After all, CC is not a party to the licenses – they are agreements between licensors and licensees. However, we have long insisted that CC trademarks and branding not be used in connection with separate agreements, understandings, and interpretations that may cause confusion for the public, or create any ambiguity in or inconsistency with the standard terms and conditions offered by a Creative Commons license.

CC’s policy prohibiting use of our trademarks and branding in connection with such arrangements has been a long-standing part of our Trademark Policy. This page provides additional details on the scope of the policy, as well as guidelines for proper and improper use of our trademarks and branding in connection with any such separate agreements, understandings, or modifications. Note that this policy and guidelines also apply to CC’s other legal tools, such as the CC0 Public Domain Dedication.

License Modification Policy

1. If you make a change to the text of any CC license, you may no longer refer to it as a Creative Commons or CC license, and you must not use any CC trademarks (including the Creative Commons name) or branding in connection with the license.

2. If you place any restriction on use of a CC-licensed work that has the effect of limiting or further conditioning the permissions granted to the public under the standard CC license, you must not use any CC trademarks (including the Creative Commons name) or branding in connection with the license or in any way that suggests the work is available under a CC license. These restrictions often appear in terms of use on websites where CC-licensed content is hosted, or as part of terms for downloading CC-licensed content.

  • Example of impermissible extra restriction: You may not use our trademarks or branding if your terms of use provide an interpretation of a license term that contradicts the plain meaning of the standard CC terms, such as stating an interpretation of NonCommercial that hinges on the type of reuser (the definition of NonCommercial does not differentiate on this basis) as opposed to the purpose for which the work is used.
It is permissible, however, to have trademark guidelines that govern how your logo or other trademark may be used in connection with the CC-licensed work. It is also permissible to impose website terms of use that restrict access to the website by minors pursuant to applicable law. In neither case is use of CC’s trademarks or logo problematic so long as our Trademark Policy is followed.
  • Example of impermissible extra restriction: You may not use our trademarks or branding if your terms of use prohibit sharing of the CC-licensed work in certain formats.
It is permissible, however, to distribute your own CC-licensed work in a format that is not easily shared [though CC strongly discourages this) or to put your CC-licensed content behind a paywall.
  • Example of impermissible extra restriction: You may not use our trademarks or branding if your website terms of use impose attribution requirements that are more elaborate than those found in the standard CC license.
It is permissible, however, to impose terms of use that have the effect of increasing (or removing the conditions on) the permissions granted to the public under the standard terms, such as waiving the attribution condition or allowing translations of an ND-licensed work (see CC+)

NOTE: While providing "clarification" of license terms can make sense intuitively, it often runs the risk of crossing the line to become a modification of how the licenses work. CC generally discourages this practice, other than creation of educational materials about how the licenses work. If you decide to try to clarify a license term on your website or elsewhere, please respect the guidelines above.

Rationale for the CC policy: ‘‘the beauty of standardization’’

The above guidelines are designed to preserve the underlying principles and benefits of public licensing for licensors and licensees, by reducing conflicts and confusion that may ensue. One of the fundamental design principles of CC licensing is granting permission to the public in advance, thereby reducing transaction costs and facilitating reuse. CC licenses achieve this result through terms and conditions that are ‘’standard,’’ meaning the same terms and conditions apply for all content licensed under a particular CC license. The result is reduced friction for creators who want to allow certain reuses without negotiating and granting lots of individual permissions, and for reusers who want to make use the licensed content with minimal hassle.

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  • This page was last modified on 17 July 2014, at 14:54.