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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.

Treatment in drafts

(expand to read Draft 1 treatment)

Draft 1

In this draft, we have not changed the ShareAlike condition itself. Instead, we have made changes to the definition of Adaptation that are intended to clarify (but not change) the applicability of SA. The definition now makes clearer that whether a work is an Adaptation (or not) depends on whether or not its creation requires permission from the licensor under licensor’s right to adapt the work under copyright, with three possible exceptions carried over from 3.0. Except for those three cases (and each is an exception only if applicable law wouldn’t treat the resulting work in the way the license does), what constitutes an Adaptation may vary slightly depending on applicable law. This is intentional: if applicable law provides that modifications infringe a licensor’s right to make adaptations, those modifications result in an Adaptation and requires licensees to ShareAlike in the SA (and in the ND licenses, a violation of the ND term). While this has been CC’s intention in prior versions, we wanted to make this clearer in 4.0. We look forward to feedback on the way we have revised the definition. We also look forward to a broader discussion about whether additional uses merit special mention in the definition as an Adaptation (or not) for purposes of SA and the ND licenses. See also the related discussion on the Treatment of Adaptations.

We also consolidated all provisions relating to marking and other obligations of licensees who (as permitted by the non ND licenses) create and distribute an Adaptations. These are aggregated in Section 3.

A somewhat related change is the removal of the defined term “Collection” as unnecessary. We included similar language in the definition of Adaptation to help clarify that a collection does not constitute an Adaptation. Removing the defined term is not intended to alter the scope or operation of the license in any way, but instead removes a term that we view as unnecessary for the sake of clarity and simplicity.

Note we have also added a bullet point addressing our treatment of each ShareAlike and compatibility proposal below.

(expand to read Draft 2 treatment)

Draft 2

The ShareAlike condition (and corresponding reliance on “Adaptation” as the trigger) remains unchanged in d2. A few serious proposals for expanding the scope of this condition have been proposed. Upon close consideration, we have decided not to pursue those alternatives for reasons explained below.

One proposal would require all other works included in a collection with an SA work to also use an SA license (or, alternatively, a license no more restrictive). This is problematic for several reasons.

  • First, the current language already forces this result when the other works are so closely tied to the SA work that the whole constitutes an Adaptation under copyright. This ensures the intent of SA is respected where most important, but where the current language doesn’t force this result because the works are insufficiently tied together, there is no SA imposed on the whole. Many collections have been and continue to be facilitated by this feature of our licenses and leverage both SA and non SA materials in educational and other settings. We are reluctant to disrupt those many reuse cases and possibly create a deterrent to the reuse of SA works.
  • Second, our definition of Adaptation is currently tied to copyright. While some reuses of an SA work that do not involve modifying the work itself could well be an Adaptation under copyright, other reuses that include trivial or de minimus changes would not. Rather than legislate that ambiguity (which will surely create still more confusion and uncertainty), we choose to leave our treatment untouched. This has the added benefit of not disrupting existing practices while holding firm to our commitment not to carve back on SA's reach.

The other proposal would require SA (or a license no more restrictive) to always apply to the collection itself (at the collection layer -- the selection and arrangement but not to the content therein) when an SA work is included. There are a few reasons not to make this change.

  • One is that the SA work is always required to be accessible for sharing and remixing regardless of the license on the collection. (And, like the reasoning in the above proposal, the current language already requires SA to apply where other material is so closely tied to the original SA work that the new work is an Adaptation of the original.)
  • The other is that it is more difficult to understand than the benefit derived. Copyright in collections (or compilations for that matter), as distinct from the copyright of the individual parts incorporated, is already something that few people understand well; this requirement would be difficult to enforce, challenging to educate around, and is not necessary to preserving the freedoms running with the SA work as stated above.

As for refinements, we have made the definition more user-friendly and descriptive by defining Adaptation as modifications to the work that result in a new work, rather than by those changes requiring permission (as in d1). This is not a change in scope of what constitutes an Adaptation, or change in the SA trigger, but a re-phrasing of the definition make more intuitive the concept for users.

As in d1, the definition and use of the term “Collection” in the license is still removed as unnecessary. The function of the definition in 3.0 has been to help define the negative space of when and where SA does not apply, and to make clear that licensees have the right to incorporate and reproduce the work in a collection. Neither of these are necessary as we understand copyright, and indeed have been a source of confusion for many using 3.0 given the unnecessary complexity found in the definition of Collection, among other things. This does not change (either through expansion or contraction) the trigger for or reach of SA from 3.0, which we reinforce through a new subparagraph (4) in the Section 3(b) ShareAlike condition. That new subparagraph providesthat for the avoidance of doubt, the SA conditions apply to Adaptations only.'

(expand to read Draft 3 treatment)

Draft 3

The general scope and treatment of ShareAlike remains unchanged under this draft. However, two proposals for compatibility with ShareAlike licenses in the post-d3 discussion period are detailed at the Compatibility page: the inclusion of a compatibility mechanism in BY-NC-SA, and the possibility of one way compatibility.

The language in 3(b) for sharing adaptations has been clarified about which rights are being licensed when sharing adapted material.

Draft 4

In this draft, we have added a provision in Section 2(a)(5) of the ShareAlike licenses that enables downstream licensees to refer only to the “Adapter’s License” (formerly the “Adaptation License” in prior drafts) when using Adapted Material that combines the work of multiple authors. In the ShareAlike context, the Adapter’s License is typically the same license as the license applied to the original, but it can differ slightly because ShareAlike allows adapters to apply a later version of the license to their rights in Adapted Material. The change in d4 is designed to minimize complexity for reusers so that they only have to refer to a single set of terms and conditions to reuse Adapted Material, rather than parsing the terms and conditions of the original and Adapter’s License to the extent the licenses differ. This change, which we believe comports with common practice under 3.0, will be one of the primary provisions on which we seek feedback on d4 but do not believe it should be controversial.

We also added language clarifying that the ShareAlike section only applies to those that adapt the licensed material, not anyone reusing Adapted Material. This is how Version 3.0 operates; we are simply making that clear.


There are roughly three issues that have been discussed for years that could potentially be addressed. Ideally, addressing one or more of these could increase clarity of relevant CC licenses, and increase range of and differentiation within CC license suite.

ShareAlike scope

Effectively, this has been treated as identical to potentially tweaking the definition of adaptations vs collections.

  • Version 2.0 added "For the avoidance of doubt, where the Work is a musical composition or sound recording, the synchronization of the Work in timed-relation with a moving image ("synching") will be considered a Derivative Work for the purpose of this License." (Please discuss this particular clarifying language on the License subject matter page.)
  • Many have wanted something similar added clarifying when use of an image creates an adaptation/derivative. This was visited especially during discussions with the Wikimedia community, leading to no immediate change, but an assurance that the scope of BY-SA's copyleft would only be increased, if changed at all in the 3rd point of CC Attribution-ShareAlike Intent

Relatedly, it has also been pointed out that CC license definitions of work/adaptation/collection are somewhat hard to read.

For further discussion, visit the Games, 3D printing, and functional content page.

Proposals relating to SA scope in 4.0

For ease of reference on discussion lists, please do not alter proposal numbers.

SA Proposal No. 1: Make no changes.

  • Pros:
  • Cons: Does not allow the creation to evolve. It is not made clear how to incorporate SA materials into otherwise licensed works.
  • Other comments: There is already a 'no derivatives' option. The concept of derivation could be made more clear with examples such as "remix, translate, integrate, aggregate, etc."
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.1: While we have not changed the scope of the ShareAlike condition itself, the language and format of the clause has been modified slightly for ease of understanding, as explained further below.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.2: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.3: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.4: Same.

SA Proposal No. 2: Make work/adaptation/collection definitions easier to read, but strive to not make any effective change.

  • Pros: Will clarify terminology.
  • Cons: New observations based on experience with current CC licenses may bot be taken into account.
  • Other comments: Explain that the Share Alike clause discourages exploitave commercial uses while still allowing commerce in the commons and OER landscape.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.1: Incorporated change. See note below regarding removal of the defined term “Collection.”
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.2: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.3: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.4: Same.

SA Proposal No. 3: Expand scope of adaptation (thus SA) specifically for some class of use of images, analogous to synching added in 2.0.

  • Pros:
  • Cons:
  • Other comments: Also allow certain exceptions such as mixing CC-by-SA with GPL or similarly spirited licenses.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.1: Not addressed in this initial draft. Further input needed.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.2: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.3: Same. Note proposals under Compatibility for additional information about the possibility of combining CC-BY-SA and GPL or similar works, as well as the general information on treatment of adaptations.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.4: Same.

SA Proposal No. 4: A more aggressive expansion of SA, including some collections, except those that are mere aggregations (see GPL).

SA Proposal No. 5: Share the wealth clause, requesting that commercial gain (e.g. profits) be shared back to the original creator(s).

  • Pros: gives financial incentive to release assets under Free Culture Certified licenses. Reduces concern about commercial (ab)uses of creative works.
  • Cons:
    • May be hard to figure out proportional income distribution. Perhaps a general guideline could ease this process.
    • Introduces some of the issues raised by the NC term - namely, confusion over what is commercial use ('profits' are mentioned in this proposal) and could be a disincentive to share and remix works where otherwise allowed. NC is often adopted out of a (perhaps largely misguided because SA addresses it) concern for commercial exploitation. If 'share the wealth' becomes a new trend ('Yeah, of course I want to choose the option to receive money from others who use my work!') it may heavily reduce the cultural value of any works under that license.
  • Other comments:
    • Create a table of fair share profit distribution (perhaps percentage based) to guide the reciprocative process.
    • Difficult to determine how to share profits. May need a public directory of CC licensors and their payment details. Perhaps link this in with profile pages on the CC site, creating an incentive to register your works here. (However, my understanding is that this costs the user a (albeit minimal) yearly fee, reducing access to this service.)
    • My take is that if this is put in it should always be voluntary on the part of the licensee. Let the licensor give suggested details.(For instance I might suggest that someone kick back to me when they are making more per hour from my works than they make per hour at their regular job or when they make more per hour from my works then I make per hour on average.)
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.1: Not included. This is a proposal perhaps better accomplished through a norm of sharing back commercial gain rather than as a requirement of the license.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.2: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.3: Same.
  • Treatment in 4.0 d.4: Same.

Please add other SA proposals here, and number them sequentially.

Source-requiring SA

(Note that scope and whether source required are independent of each other.)

Some would like a copyleft for creative works that requires not just sharing adaptations under the same license, but making preferred form for modification available, as the GPL does for software. FDL includes a weaker requirement of providing copies in "transparent" formats. Especially the former may be too far for BY-SA to go (but costs/benefits could be listed to see). Could possibly be addressed via compatibility, see next.

Compatibility with other copyleft licenses

Directly related to the interoperability goal of 4.0. The following licenses have been discussed at various points, regarding compatibility with BY-SA:

Some things to consider in 4.0 process:

  • What could be done to bring BY-SA into better alignment technically with these other licenses where they are in the same spirit?
  • Should explicit compatibility with any of these be aimed for? In theory this could be a post-4.0 discussion assuming compatible licenses hook remains, but in practice, if compatibility is to be possible, 4.0 changes should be considered in that light
  • Discuss with stewards of each of above licenses, with regard to BY-SA 4.0, future versions of their licenses, alignment, and explicit compatibility statements
  • Similar to above, discuss with other stewards possibility of agreeing on/promoting common license text

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 below.