4.0/Attribution and marking

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This page presented an issue for consideration in the CC license suite 4.0 versioning process. The discussions have now concluded with the publication of the 4.0 licenses, and the information on this page is now kept as an archive of previous discussions. The primary forum for issues relating to the 4.0 versioning process was the CC license discuss email list. You may subscribe to contribute to any continuing post-launch discussions, such as those surrounding compatibility and license translation. The wiki has been populated with links to relevant email threads from the mailing list where applicable, and other topics for discussion were raised in the 4.0/Sandbox. See the 4.0 page for more about the process.

Page summary: This page aggregates discussion topics involving attribution and marking requirements, as the two are closely related and have never been clearly or uniformly differentiated. Attribution has been a standard feature of all CC licenses since the version 2.0 suite. Currently, attribution requirements are primarily contained in Section 4 of the 3.0 licenses. Marking requirements are interspersed throughout the license, including (in version 3.0) in Section 3(b), 4(a) and 4(b) of the licenses permitting adaptations, and in Section 4(a) of the two ND licenses (BY-ND and BY-NC-ND).


The current 3.0 licenses require users of a work to implement the following in any reasonable manner: [1]

  • keep copyright notices intact; and
  • reasonable to the medium or means used by the licensee,
    • provide the name the original author (or her pseudonym, or other attribution party, when provided);
    • provide the title of the work if supplied;
    • include the URI associated with the work (if it refers to the copyright notice or licensing information); and
    • where an adaptation is created (when permitted by the license), include a credit stating that the work has been used in the adaptation [2]

All 3.0 licenses allow licensors to request removal of the credit when their works are reproduced in a collection, as well as when their works are adapted (where permitted by the licenses). Specifically, all six version 3.0 licenses provide: [3]

If You create a Collection, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent practicable, remove from the Collection any credit as required by Section 4(__), as requested.
And in BY, BY-SA, BY-NC-SA, and BY-NC, additionally:
If You create an Adaptation, upon notice from any Licensor You must, to the extent practicable, remove from the Adaptation any credit as required by Section 4(__), as requested. [4]

The attribution requirement is reflected on the CC deeds as:

Attribution – You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor (but not in any way that suggests that they endorse you or your use of the work).

A few legal decisions have successfully enforced the attribution requirement.

The attribution requirements have drawn some criticism:

  1. General difficulty understanding what is required on the part of licensees, in part due to the “reasonable to the medium or means” language but also because the language is difficult to parse.
  2. Are too onerous and do not align with community practices.
  3. The requirements insufficiently anticipate or account for analog distributions and performances, making it challenging to comply (same criticism is equally applicable to other marking requirements, below).
  4. Absence of a mechanism for requesting or permitting removal of a credit for reproductions of an unmodified work when not reproduced as part of a collection.[5]

Note: For criticisms, issues and proposals relating to attribution requirements for adaptations, please see the 4.0/Treatment of adaptations page.

Proposals for attribution in 4.0

[Note: these proposals are not necessarily mutually exclusive]

  • Consolidate the attribution requirements into a single location within the licenses (e.g., Section 4) and simplify language, including all other marking requirements (see below), such as providing the URI for the license.
    • Pros:
    • Cons:
    • Other comments:
  • Introduce further flexibility into the requirements, to bring them closer into alignment with community practices.
    • Pros:
    • Cons:
    • Other comments:
  • Expand the existing mechanism for requesting removal of the attribution credit so licensors can request removal for any reuse.
    • Pros:
    • Cons:
    • Other comments:
  • Create a mechanism in the license allowing licensors to waive attribution completely.
    • Pros:
    • Cons:
    • Other comments:

Please add other proposals here.

Marking requirements

Beyond the marking requirements related to attribution described above, the CC licenses contain additional requirements for properly marking a CC-licensed work:

  • in those licenses that permit adaptations (BY, BY-NC, BY-SA, BY-NC-SA), if an adaptation is made (including any translation in any medium), the licensee must take reasonable steps to clearly label, demarcate or otherwise identify that changes were made to the original Work"; [6]
  • for every copy of the work distributed or publicly performed, the licensee must: [7]
    • include a copy of, or the Uniform Resource Identifier (URI) for the license;
    • keep intact all notices that refer to the license and to the disclaimer of warranties;
  • for every adaptation of the work that is distributed or publicly performed (where adaptations are permitted), the licensee must: [8]:
    • include a copy of, or the URI for, the license (for the original work); [9]
    • keep intact all notices that refer to the license (for the original work) and to the disclaimer of warranties.

These marking requirements have attracted some criticism:

  1. For adaptations, lack of clarity or uniformity as to placement of the mark or label indicating that changes were made to the original work.
  2. Absence of flexibility (such as through a reasonableness requirement) for inclusion of the URI.

Note: For proposals relating to marking requirements for adaptations, please see the 4.0/Treatment of adaptations page.

Proposals for marking requirements in 4.0

* Making the inclusion of the URI subject to a "reasonable to the medium or means" requirement

    • Pros
    • Cons
    • Other comments

Please add other proposals here.

Related debate

We encourage you to sign up for the license discussion mailing list, where we will be debating this and other 4.0 proposals. HQ will provide links to related email threads from the license discussion mailing list here.

Relevant references

Please add citations that ought inform this 4.0 issue here.


  1. See the Marking Page for further information.
  2. Per Section 4(b) of the license, in the case of an adaptation or collection, where a credit for all contributing authors appears, the credit required must be at least as prominent as the credits for other contributing authors.
  3. See Section 4(a) of the licenses.
  4. See Section 4(a) of the licenses that permit adaptations.
  5. Although, a licensor may always enter into a separate agreement with licensees to have attribution waived.
  6. See Section 3(b) of the licenses that permit adaptations.
  7. See Section 4(a) of the licenses.
  8. See Section 4(b) of the licenses that permit adaptations
  9. The international (unported) BY-SA and BY-NC-SA incorrectly refer to "Applicable License" in Section 4(b). This is a known error.