Suppose I have an image of a piece of paper on which I wrote. I publish this image under an open source CC-BY license on my website.

My question:

Is the text in the image now also licensed under a CC-BY license? Or is just the image itself licensed?

2 Answers 2


In this specific example, the text "I publish this image under an open source CC-BY license on my website" is below the threshold of originality, which means that it is not entitled to copyright protection. A public license can only be applied to a work if it eligible for copyright protection, so the answer is clearly "no".

However, let's assume that the text on the photographed paper is an original poem or some other literary work that is above the threshold of originality. In that case the photograph of the text is a derivative work of the original (literary) work. In that case, applying a CC license to the derivative does not retroactively enforce the license on the derivative on the original.

This should be blatantly obvious if the photograph is a photograph of somebody else's literary work.

And the law does not work differently, even if your photograph your own literary work.

Creating a derivative work requires permission from the rights holder. This is permission usually simple to obtain if both the original work (literary text) and derivative work (photo) is both created by the same person.


I would say no, but this might depend on local rules. But this doesn't mean you don't have a copyright on the text.

The copyright of an image is always at the person who made the image and is restricted to the image itself. That means: lights, color-filters, position of things you have on your picture etc.

Whereas the copyright of the piece of paper you made a photo from is still at the original author of the piece of paper, which is you too.

Also who is having the copyright of the piece of paper can also disallow/allow you to make a picture. This is depending on local law rules as a good example is e.g. the right to make a photo of a building/location and share it as currently discussed inside EU called freedom of panorama.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.