I plan to create YouTube videos where the idea is to explain current affairs using the following approach.

  1. Use of animations, text content and images as the visual part.
  2. The voiceover which narrates my own analysis on a topic of current affairs.

Now sometimes this would mean the need to use images of certain individuals and entities during a portion of video. However the image is not the core subject or topic here.

During this process, if an image is licensed under Share Alike then does it mean the video also need to be licensed under Creative Commons Share Alike as well?

The issue is certainly not about attribution as I will give it at the end of the video with a separate credits screen. Also will be providing links to licenses in the description.

The main doubt for me is whether the use of a CC BY SA image in YouTube video will be considered a remix, transformation or attempt to build upon the material, when I believe the main essence of video will be my own summary and narration on a topic.

Have tried to find answers to the question online but my understanding so far is inconclusive.

It would be really helpful if someone can help by providing more clarity or share some pointers on the same?

1 Answer 1


You want to reuse a CC BY-SA image in a video presentation. You don't say which version of CC BY-SA is applicable. v3 includes language that is explicit about your use case:

"Adaptation" means a work based upon the Work [...] and includes cinematographic adaptations

Nothing there limits the consideration of cinematographic adaptations to originally-cinematographic material, so it seems a simple conclusion that the licensor intended your use to fall under Share-Alike. Although v4 of the same licence lacks that specific piece of language, I don't regard the licence as being in any way weaker with respect to controlled uses of the material.

I consider the question of whether the use of an image in a video renders the entire video a copyright derivative of the image to be much less settled, but it seems also to me to be fairly unimportant: you have no rights to use this image at all save by the terms of the licence, and if the licence requires you to release any work that reuses the image in a video under the same terms (as v3 definitely does, and v4 arguably does) then if you will not do that you must not use the image.

I reject the argument that "the image is not the core subject or topic ... I believe the main essence of video will be my own summary and narration on a topic". Nothing I see in copyright law suggests to me that incidental reuse of controlled material is treated differently from any other form of reuse. The counter to your position would be "if the image is so incidental to your video, then it should be easy find another one to do the same job".

  • 3
    Mostly correct, but "you have no rights to use this image at all save by the terms of the licence" is not true everywhere - many jurisdictions have a concept of "fair use" or similar, which can allow the use of the image in certain cases.
    – jpa
    Jul 27, 2020 at 14:50
  • 1
    @jpa Fair dealing rights are very restricted in England and Wales (where I am; the OP doesn't specify a jurisdiction) and would not, I think, cover the proposed use (it being none of the five permitted exemptions). Nonetheless I accept that any local exception from copyright that would permit the proposed use would be satisfactory for the OP's purpose; you are right to point out that my analysis only holds if no such exception applies.
    – MadHatter
    Jul 27, 2020 at 15:28

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