DRAFT ShareAlike Statement of Intent

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This is a DRAFT ONLY for community discussion. This draft is expected to be finalized in February 2014; please comment on the license development mailing list.

Introductory notes

From post to public license development list:

Because of the new provision in the license that allows for SA licensees to use SA works in Adapted Material under the conditions of a later license, we will be publishing a statement of intent for these licenses which will publicly commit to some elements that we intend to keep constant in future versions. We hope that such a statement will address some concerns raised about what may happen with future versions of SA, and what it means for them as licensors. Many of you are familiar with the existing statement of intent on the scope of ShareAlike. This statement will not replace the existing document: it will be in addition to the commitments made there.

A few important points:

  • There are some things in this draft that we are proposing for discussion, not because we expect them to meet with universal agreement, and we hope that it will start discussion. It is unlikely that the final document will have the same list of commitments.
  • One issue for consideration is whether this should be a continuation of the previous statement of intent, and combined with it, or a separate document. Another is whether the commitments in this document should apply to both the BY-SA and the BY-NC-SA licenses (some of the previous commitments are obviously applicable to BY-SA only, but this could be addressed).
  • We expect this is an incomplete list. Some suggestions for additional topics are already mentioned in the document; please mention others that you think should be included.


With the publication of version 4.0, which allows Adapted Material to be used under the conditions of a later license (instead of, and not in addition to, the original license applied), it has become important to make a public commitment to uphold important attributes of the ShareAlike licenses and their key conventions and processes. This is in addition to the previous commitment we made, expanding upon it to specifically address concerns around the way licensed material may be used in adaptations under a later version of the ShareAlike license.

While we intend to ensure that future license versions (including any potential ported licenses) maintain the same spirit and general operation as the previous versions, with this change to the license we think it is important to clarify further what users of our licenses can expect. Many of these commitments apply to all of CC’s licenses, not just ShareAlike, but it is in this context that they are currently most important to name.

This is not the same list as the criteria for compatibility. While we expect that many of these will also inform considerations of license compatibility, there may be reasons for a compatible license to differ--for example, while we believe it is important to have a public drafting process, there may be licenses drafted privately which should nonetheless be candidates for compatibility.

This is a commitment to the license-using community for post-4.0 versioning efforts of the ShareAlike licenses and any of its official translations. (It also applies to any ports of version 4.0 and ports of later versions.) It is possible that in the future, CC will decide to create a copyleft license that deviates from the statements expressed here and in the prior statement; if this happens, it will not be called a ShareAlike license.

  1. Any license that CC calls a ShareAlike license must adhere to these commitments, in addition to any previous commitments.
    The following commitments are to elements of substance and process that CC considers essential to the ShareAlike licenses. Any license CC stewards that deviates from these commitments will not be called a “ShareAlike” license, and would not be automatically compatible with previous versions of ShareAlike.
  2. The SA licenses will always themselves be revised through a public process just as with our other licenses and legal tools.
    We believe that community input and development in the open is essential to the development of widely-used public licenses, especially where future decisions of the license steward will affect the expectations of current licensors. Creative Commons is committed to continuing to develop the ShareAlike licenses using a public process, with input from the community of license users and other stakeholders. All decisions CC makes on the substantial elements of the license will be publicly documented, and open to public or private feedback before the text is final.
  3. Compatibility with ShareAlike for licenses not stewarded by CC will always be determined by a public, transparent process.
    Because licensors are granting permission for their works to be distributed as part of Adapted Material reused under the conditions of any compatible Adapter's License, it is important that any such license not stewarded by CC be named only after consultation with the license-using community, just as CC licenses are developed through a community process.
  4. The scope of rights covered by the licenses will never be narrowed, but it may expand.
    Future users of the material should have all of the rights and freedoms that a licensor intended to grant them, and should know that they have them. Ideally, this wouldn't need to change between versions. However, new legislation continues to be enacted which has an impact on the rights granted under copyright, and which creates new rights that have similar effects. We've seen this in the relatively recent past with the creation of the sui generis database right and with various broadcasting rights, and we expect this to continue.
    While CC and many in its global network will continue publicly opposing such expansions of copyright-like rights, we need to preserve the ability to address them in the licenses where they do come into effect. The 4.0 licenses are intended to cover all of the copyright-like rights that may affect a licensee's ability to exercise the core right licensed, copyright--which is why they are licensed alongside the copyright itself. For this to continue to be true, the scope of the license may need to expand, either by licensing or waiving/not asserting these new rights, as the legal environment in which our licenses operate evolves. (However, were we to expand the scope of rights licensed, those newly included in subsequent versions would not be automatically considered to be granted by the licensor.) Rights not asserted in the 4.0 license, including both those explicitly not licensed and those not mentioned at all, may be included as licensed rights in future versions, but may not become reserved rights.
  5. The ShareAlike licenses will always be designed to operate as internationally as possible.
    Early versions (pre-3.0) of the licenses were drafted against U.S. law, which created complications for material created in and shared across many other jurisdictions. With the 3.0 suite, CC made its first effort to internationalize the licenses, creating a version that licenses rights across the globe. With 4.0, still further improvements to internationalization have been made. Future versions will also be drafted with this principle in mind, addressing the existing and changing legal environments around the world, to better reduce barriers to worldwide sharing; this may necessitate many small changes in newer versions to address these needs.
  6. The ShareAlike licenses will never attempt to override exceptions and limitations, or regulate uses of material in the public domain.
    While copyleft is a valuable tool for creating a commons of free works, exceptions and limitations to copyright are essential to free expression and upholding the balance that copyright strikes between authors and the public. We do not believe any public copyright license can or should attempt to override these through contractual or other means. To that end, no ShareAlike license will attempt to extend its reach to control uses that are in the public domain, uncopyrightable, or protected by recognized exceptions and limitations to copyright and other rights covered by the licenses.
  7. The ShareAlike licenses will always require some manner of attribution, and permit anonymity.
    The attribution requirements have changed across versions, including greater flexibility to allow for many different types of usage, but proper attribution will always be required by the license, particularly an element or mechanism by which the author or creator can be identified. (But anonymous and pseudonymous authorship will always be permitted--an author may waive this condition, decline to provide a name, or supply a pseudonym to be credited by.)
  8. The ShareAlike licenses will always be compatible with later versions of the same ShareAlike licenses.
    Any license that shares the same name should be one that has essentially the same features and intended effect as a previous version, even if its exact terms accommodate new situations and new knowledge. Because of this, when you have material under any post-1.0 ShareAlike license, all future versions will be permissible adapter’s licenses.
    (Backward compatibility with previous versions is not, however, guaranteed--candidates for backward compatibility will be evaluated case-by-case and listed on the compatibility page where applicable.)
  9. The ShareAlike licenses will always prohibit sublicensing.
    While we believe that allowing the flexibility of complying with conditions of a later version or a compatible license improves the usability of the ShareAlike licenses, we think it's important that the license always flows directly from the licensor to any reusers. It is the original licensor granting the permissions that a user gets, and not anyone who has received the material in between.
  10. No further restrictions or conditions on reuse will be added to the ShareAlike licenses.
    The conditions in the ShareAlike licenses are limited to those we think necessary to allow works to be shared and adapted freely using the copyleft mechanism and avoid neutralizing parts of the license. To avoid introducing additional friction to reuse, future versions of ShareAlike will not impose any other conditions on exercising the licensed rights.

The following comments come from the discussion page. To add a suggestion, you may also comment there.

Suggested additions

  • Won’t impose any further restrictions/conditions on reuse.
  • Won’t include a choice of law or forum selection.
  • License will always terminate automatically if violated?
  • How to accomodate for licenses which require the release of source code (e.g. GPL)?