License Versions

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This page identifies some of the improvements to the Creative Commons license suite from the publication of the first licenses in December, 2002, through the current version 3.0, and highlights important similarities among the major license versions released to date.

License blog posts

The chart below presents the major license versions, their launch dates, and blog posts calling for public comment, announcing the launch of a license suite, and explaining changes to new licenses. It also includes posts referencing unfinished version 3.x (3.01, 3.5) licenses, which are not in active discussion and may or may not ever be published. Version 3.0 is most up to date Creative Commons license suite, but the 3.x license discussions address further potential upgrades and changes that may be folded into a new version 4.0 license. The License Errata page, to which you should feel free to contribute, catalogs minor bugs in the licenses like typographical errors.

License version* Release date Call for public comment Launch announcement Explanation of changes from prior version
1.0 2002 Dec 16 n/a n/a
2.0 2005 May 25
2.5 2005 June n/a
3.0 2007 Feb 23
3.01 n/a n/a
3.5 n/a n/a
  • Note that CC also released a version 2.1 suite for jurisdictions like Spain, Australia and Japan, whose localized ports of the 2.0 suite contained errors.

International license development processes

Creative Commons develops, releases and updates its public copyright licenses (and other legal tools) via an open and inclusive process of engagement with Creative Commons’ global network of attorneys and affiliates, as well as varied communities and constituents, that includes the publication of drafts, formal comment periods and transparent decision-making. This process culminates in the publication of the preferred, most up-to-date set of CC licenses for use around the world. Creative Commons released its latest version of the licenses in February 2007. Those licenses are known as the 3.0 international (also called the 3.0 “unported” and formerly referred to under version 2.0 as the “generic”) license suite.

While each set of licenses produced by CC is drafted to conform with copyright law, many of the improvements to the version 3.0 license suite brought the licenses further into line with international copyright law. However, CC still embarked on its typical process of localizing the licenses to each of the jurisdictions. Once a suite of licenses is released, Creative Commons grants permission to legal experts around the world under formal agreement to adapt (or “port”) the licenses where necessary to more fully align the text with the laws of different legal jurisdictions and translate the licenses to the local language(s). Fore more information, see In each instance, the resulting ported licenses are intended to have the same legal meaning and effect as the international (unported) licenses and the ported licenses of other jurisdictions at the same license version. Porting follows the same open and inclusive processes used to produce the international licenses: publication of drafts, comment periods, engagement with communities and constituents who use the licenses, and transparent decision-making processes. It also involves close oversight and review by CC staff.

License suite version chart

The chart below and explanations that follow detail some of the improvements and important similarities among Creative Commons license versions and ports. Some of the explanations contain links to further information on the topic.

License Suite Version 1.0 2.0 2.5 3.0
All international (unported/generic) and ported licenses
Nomenclature (for unported licenses) Generic license Generic license Generic license International (unported) license
Technological measures by users of CC licensed works prohibited Yes Yes Yes Yes
Attribution to author required Not all licenses Yes Yes Yes
Attribution to others contemplated No No Yes Yes
Requests for removal of attribution contemplated Yes Yes Yes Yes
Collecting societies regimes addressed No Yes Yes Yes
Representations and warranties by licensor included Yes No No No
"No endorsement" clause included No No No Yes
Moral rights clause included No No No Yes
Adaptations (if allowed) must be marked as such No No No Yes
Definition of "NonCommercial" unchanged in all versions Yes Yes Yes Yes
Use of licenses for copyrightable compilations of data anticipated Yes (implied) Yes (implied) Yes (implied) Yes (explicit)
International (unported/generic) ShareAlike licenses
Compatible licenses may be used for adaptations of works originally offered under CC ShareAlike licenses No CC only CC only Yes
Licenses ported to jurisdictions with sui generis rights
Sui generis rights in data addressed No Some ports only Some ports only Yes

Nomenclature (for unported licenses)

Before the launch of the version 3.0 licenses, the international (unported) licenses were called the “generic” licenses. The generic licenses were drafted to conform with U.S. law and conventions. Starting with version 3.0, Creative Commons drafted its core suite of licenses to conform to relevant international treaties and drafting conventions. In this sense, the version 3.0 international (unported) license suite is jurisdiction-agnostic: it does not mention nor is it drafted against any particular jurisdiction's laws or statutes, but rather it is intended to function without adjustment in all jurisdictions around the world. You may access the jurisdiction database and compare the international (unported) license to the ported licenses of various jurisdictions.

Technical measures by licensees prohibited

All CC license versions prohibit licensees (as opposed to licensors) from using effective technological measures such as “digital rights management” software to restrict the ability of those who receive a CC licensed work from a licensee to exercise rights granted under the licenses. To be clear, encryption or an access limitation is not necessarily a technical protection measure prohibited by the licenses. For example, content sent via email and encrypted with the recipient's public key does not restrict use of the work by the recipient. Likewise, limiting recipients to a set of users (e.g., with a username and password) does not restrict use of the work by the recipients. In the cases above, encryption or an access limitation is does not violate the prohibition on technological measures because the recipient is not prevented from exercising all rights granted by the license (including rights of further redistribution).

This treatment was re-evaluated during the public process leading to release of the version 3.0 license suite. CC considered arguments in favor of such measures, coupled with an obligation of parallel distribution. However, those arguments were ultimately rejected.

Attribution to author required

The version 1.0 suite is unique because it contains some CC licenses that do not require attribution. All subsequent license suites make attribution a standard requirement unless the licensor specifies otherwise. The required mode of attribution differs slightly among the versions, and is progressively more flexible with each subsequent version.

Attribution to others contemplated

Prior to the version 2.5 suite, CC licenses contemplated attribution to the author only. Versions 2.5 and 3.0 allow licensors to identify another party or organization for attribution, called the “Attribution Party.” This feature was introduced in part to alleviate burdensome or difficult attribution situations, such as may be the case when many people contribute to a wiki article or other multi-author, collaborative effort. In versions 2.5 and 3.0, licensors may designate another party for attribution purposes -- such as a sponsor institute, publishing entity or journal -- in addition to or instead of the author. You may review some of the concerns raised when CC proposed this change.

Requests for removal of attribution contemplated

All license versions after version 1.0 require attribution. However, legislation in many countries gives authors the right to control the use of their name in association with their works. Therefore, CC licenses require licensees to remove (otherwise required) attribution to the creator from collections or adaptations to the extent practicable at the creator’s request.

Collecting societies regimes addressed

Many users of Creative Commons licenses are also members of collective rights societies like ASCAP and BMI, which manage copyright on behalf of owners. Every version from the 2.0 suite onward contains clauses that account for the existence of those arrangements. They provide, for instance, that for works offered under a NonCommercial license, the licensor retains the right to collect royalties for commercial uses of the work. The structure of the provisions in the 2.x licenses (2.0, 2.1 and 2.5) differs from that in the version 3.0 licenses. The 2.x licenses specifically regulate music, sound recordings and webcasting. As those licenses were ported to different jurisdictions, those provisions were adjusted to conform to the local collecting society situation.

The version 3.0 licenses employ a broad, harmonized strategy to collective rights societies. This strategy still allows jurisdictions to adopt an approach that best aligns with local law and society structure, but also ensures that the approach is implemented consistently across jurisdictions. In the international (unported) license, as regards compulsory royalty collection, the licensor reserves the right to collect those royalties in jurisdictions in which collection cannot be waived. In those jurisdictions in which compulsory royalty collection can be waived, the right to collect royalties is waived completely for those licenses that permit commercial use and reserved for commercial uses in those licenses that permit NonCommercial use only. For voluntary royalty schema, the licensor reserves the right to collect royalties for commercial uses in those licenses that permit NonCommercial use only, and completely waives the right to collect such royalties for licenses permitting commercial use. This clause covers both individual royalty collection and, in the event that the licensor is a member of a collecting society that collects such royalties, collection via such societies. Some affiliates porting the version 3.0 licenses to interface with local collective rights regimes have chosen to include only those clauses which address the particular situation in the jurisdiction. Others have adopted all the language from the international (unported) license in hopes of international harmonization, or out of concern that their jurisdiction’s regime may change. You may compare how different jurisdictions implemented this section of the license.

Representations and warranties by licensor included

In the 1.0 license suite, the licensor extends warranties, for instance that the work does not infringe the work of another. These warranties were eliminated in all subsequent license versions. All post-version 1.0 suites explicitly offer the work “AS IS” and disclaim all liabilities. Notwithstanding, some ports have included warranties where required under local law. You may compare how different jurisdictions implemented this section of the license.

"No endorsement" clause included

While attribution is required in all licenses post-version 1.0, a licensee may not provide credit in a way that suggests endorsement or sponsorship by the licensor. In some jurisdictions, wrongfully implying that an author, publisher or anyone else endorses a particular use of a work may be unlawful. While this has always been the case, the version 3.0 licenses for the first time explicitly prohibit endorsement or sponsorship without the consent of the licensor.

Moral rights clause included

While the existence and extent of moral rights differ by jurisdiction, the most consistently present rights are those of attribution and integrity (the right to prevent or halt the prejudicial use of one’s work by another). The 1.0 and 2.x generic licenses were drafted to conform to U.S. law, and because U.S. law recognizes moral rights in only very limited circumstances, the generic versions of those licenses suites do not address moral rights of authors.

Reflecting the global, harmonized approach of the version 3.0 license suite, CC addressed the issue clearly in the international (unported) licenses. Since moral rights are not waivable in most jurisdictions, CC did not include a waiver of those rights in the international licenses. Instead, the licenses specifically instruct users that they “must not distort, mutilate, modify or take other derogatory action in relation to the Work which would be prejudicial to the Original Author's honor or reputation.” This mandate forbids licensees from making uses that would otherwise violate authors’ moral rights of integrity. The attribution requirement is intended to satisfy the right of attribution. In the porting process, some jurisdictions slightly adjust this provision with CC’s permission to specify that moral rights are waived to the extent necessary to effect the license to the degree a waiver is possible under applicable law. You may compare how different jurisdictions implemented this section of the license.

Adaptations (if allowed) must be marked as such

Definition of "NonCommercial" unchanged (same in all versions)

Use of licenses for copyrightable compilations of data anticipated

Compatible licenses may be used for adaptations of works originally offered under CC ShareAlike licenses

Sui generis rights in data addressed