Modifying the CC licenses
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. (For the avoidance of doubt, this includes translations of CC licenses that have not been made and approved by CC in accordance with the Legal Code Translation Policy.)
- 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.
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.
- 17 April 2015: added clarification that policy covers license translations that are not made according to official policy
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.