Legal Code Translation Policy

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Creative Commons has established the following Official Legal Code Translation Process and Policy (“Legal Code Translation Policy”) to facilitate adoption and understanding of our licenses as tools for sharing creative works and data. This Legal Code Translation Policy was established as of 2013 October 29 and is updated and revised by Creative Commons in its discretion. Any non-trivial revisions will be logged and dated at the bottom of this page.

Watch this explanatory video:



The legal code for the international Creative Commons licenses and for CC0 is designed for use worldwide, without any need for adaptation to local laws. For these tools to reach their fullest potential, CC encourages linguistic translations of the legal codes and deeds into as many languages as possible. This page describes the policy and process for developing official translations of Creative Commons legal code.

The process for developing new translations (each is called a “translation project”) is coordinated and overseen by CC’s legal team in collaboration with the global network team. Creative Commons reserves the exclusive right to approve and host official translations of its legal tools, as well as to modify this process and adjust translation projects at any time. Per our policy, each official translation is hosted at a specified uniform resource indicator on CC’s website. The English original and the official translations will all be treated as equivalents. Translations of CC licenses that are not made in accordance with this policy are unauthorized modifications of our licenses per the License Modification Policy.

Translation process

Step 1. Beginning new translation projects.

Anyone may initiate a translation project with CC. To express interest, please email legal [at] creativecommons [dot] org identifying the language you would like to coordinate.

Note that CC’s policy is to publish a single, official translation for any given language unless an important reason exists to allow more than one. This mirrors CC’s policy for translations of deeds. Anyone wanting to coordinate translation projects is expected to accommodate and encourage participation of others in the CC community, including from other jurisdictions where the language is spoken. CC will help coordinate this collaboration.

Once a new translation project is begun, CC will update its public tracking chart and create and populate a language-specific translation page for public tracking, which will be continually updated by CC throughout the translation process.

Step 2. Preparing the translation draft.

Please refer to the legal tools translation guide while creating your translation because it contains information about common issues that arise when translating the text of the licenses and CC0. When translating the 4.0 license suite, please begin with BY-NC-SA using the worksheet here. Typically, teams begin only with BY-NC-SA and defer creating the other five licenses until after the public comment period. If you are translating CC0, use this worksheet.

Once the draft is complete, the translation team should send it to legal[at]creativecommons[dot]org, along with a writeup of the following:

  • Explanation of word choice for the following terms:
    • For version 4.0:
      • Adapted Material
      • Copyright and Similar Rights
      • Downstream recipients
      • Licensed Material
      • Share
      • ShareAlike
    • For CC0:
      • Copyright and Related Rights
      • Affirmer
      • Work
      • License
      • Waiver
  • Description of which concepts were challenging to translate and how decisions were made
  • Explanation of variations compared to terminology used on deed translation
  • Explanation of variations compared to terminology used in ports of same language
  • Names of translators

CC Legal will use this explanation during their Step 3 review, and will add it to language wiki page as part of public documentation of translation process.

Step 3. Review of draft.

CC Legal will conduct a review of the draft translation using the following checklist:

  1. Use Google Translate to read through from top to bottom, looking for glaring errors like commercial uses allowed in NC license, for example.
  2. Use Google Translate to ensure there are no references to specific local legislation.
  3. Check that numbering and ordering of sections matches the English.
  4. Check that cross-references within text are correct.
  5. Make sure each defined term is in the same order as the English, and uses same capitalization throughout document.
  6. Go through relevant issues list, checking draft on each point using Google Translate and asking questions of team as needed: 4.0 issues list here, CC0 issues list here
  7. Check draft license translation against translations of deed to see if any notable changes in terminology. If yes, ask team for more information.

CC Legal will correspond with the translation team to clarify questions and make changes until a final draft translation is completed. Note that this step will reveal whether there are updates needed for the deed translations. The translation team is responsible for ensuring that the deed is fully translated. For help translating the deeds, see the instructions here.

Step 4. Public comment period.

The public comment period is designed to ensure the highest quality linguistic translations possible. The translation team posts the draft on the CC wiki and in appropriate channels for public comment and feedback for a reasonable period of time (typically about 30-45 days, but may be shortened or extended if circumstances warrant). We encourage teams to seek as much input as possible, including by reaching out directly to local experts where possible.

At the conclusion of the public comment period, the translation team sends CC Legal a written summary of input received and how issues were resolved, along with the revised translation. CC Legal reviews the public comment summary from the translation team and asks questions as needed.

Step 5. Creating the rest of the license suite.

Note that this step only applies to translation of the version 4.0 CC license suite. Once all open issues are resolved with CC Legal after public comment, the translation team should create the other 5 licenses in the suite. For help in this process, refer to this guide. Please consult CC Legal if you have any questions about word choices or anything else when creating the rest of the suite.

Step 6. Readying files for staging server.

At this point, the team converts the file(s) to HTML and sends the HTML file(s) to legal [at] creativecommons [dot] org. CC puts the file(s) on the staging server and sends the link(s) to the translation team.

NOTE: To create the HTML files, we recommend using the English legal code pages - et. al. - as templates for your own. You can access the HTML page for each license in Github, where the files are stored with comments.

Copy and paste the appropriate license text into a file using a text editor or HTML editor. Then, copy and paste your appropriate translation text over the English text, being careful not to copy over the existing HTML tags, and re-check the code to ensure that there are no mistakes. Please ensure that all the XHTML files are saved using UTF-8 encoding, which generally will be the default. Then save each file separately according to the following convention:

  • CC0:
    • zero_1.0_[language code].html

(For example, "zero_1.0_fr.html" would be the naming for the French translation.)

  • 4.0
    • by_4.0_[language code].html
    • by-sa_4.0_[language code].html
    • [...]

Step 7. Final review.

The translation team and CC Legal conduct a final review of all files on the staging server. This review should involve a check of both the substance and formatting of the files.

During this final review, CC Legal will use the following checklist:

  1. Use Google Translate to read through from top to bottom, looking for glaring errors like commercial uses allowed in NC license, for example. [Note: in the case of 4.0, this may be the first time the translations of licenses other than BY-NC-SA have been reviewed, so pay special attention to the changes made to those files.]
  2. Pay special attention to the license titles - are they correct and consistent throughout each file? Compare to titles on license deeds.
  3. Check that formatting appears correct as compared to English (same number of provisions, identical section numbering, bold font)
  4. Check that language list contains all published translations, including English
  5. Check all links in the files
  6. Check that deeds are fully translated
  7. For version 4.0, cut and paste each file into a Word doc and run the following comparisons:
    • BY-NC-SA to BY; compare to this
    • BY-NC-SA to BY-SA; compare to this
    • BY-NC-SA to BY-NC; compare to this
    • BY-NC-SA to BY-ND; compare to this
    • BY-NC-SA to BY-NC-ND; compare to this

This stage continues until all identified problems are resolved.

Step 8. General Counsel sign-off.

Once the translation team and CC have signed off on all files, CC Legal sends the file(s) to General Counsel for final sign-off. CC Legal will coordinate details for blog post announcement with translation team at this point.

Step 9. Publication.

CC will alert the translation team and publish announcement on the CC blog and social media. CC Legal will update wiki tracking sheet with publication dates. Translation team should update Transifex so that deeds link to published translation rather than English legal code.

Key Resources


  • 2019 September 17: Moved formatting check to Step 7 since that is when bold and other formatting is added; changed instructions for converting to HTML
  • 2019 September 3: Revised process to better reflect current practice in terms of who and how translations are initiated, and added far more detail about different steps in the process.
  • 2018 May 26: As of January 2018, the Affiliate Network transitioned to a Global Network, where everyone - individuals and institutions - are welcome. This policy reflects the new structure.
  • 2017 March 14: Moved "Creating the files" from Legal tools translation guide to this page
  • 2016 November 21: Removed the obligation to send the translation proposal using the forms
  • 2016 November 4: Added detailed new steps to the translation process
  • 2015 April 17: Clarification that unofficial translations violate License Modification Policy
  • 2015 February 4: Change in supplemental material requirements, added CC0 translation worksheet
  • 2014 February 4: Additional supplemental material requirements, new version of internal checklist posted
  • 2014 January 24: More detailed summary.
  • 2013 October 29: Policy established.