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I am writing a book on Github (Learn-Vim) under the Creative Commons Non-Commercial Non-Derivative 4.0 License. If you're wondering why I selected this particular license, the main reason is because the famous You-dont-know-JS uses the same license.

Someone asks if he/she can translate my work into a different language. According to this person, my current license doesn't allow for any changes or derivatives. According to the Creative Commons site for Non-Commercial Non-Derivative, I see:

NoDerivatives — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you may not distribute the modified material.

If I understand it correctly, translating a body of work to another language is considered creating a "derivative". I think this is why anyone might think he/she cannot make any translation of the original repo.

However, I saw other projects using the same Creative Commons License I have being translated into a different language. One example: Chinese translation of You-dont-know-js vs The original You-dont-know-js. (It looks like the owner is aware of the existence of the translation repo. Also, the forked repo references the original creator at the end of the README).

The question is, can anyone fork my repo and translate it into a different language under the Creative Commons License Non-commercial Non-derivative that I have?

By the way, if it provides any help, this site provides an overview of what each variation of the Creative Commons license does. If the answer for the above is a no, should I change the License into Creative Commons NonCommercial 4.0, or Creative Commons NonCommerical-ShareAlike 4.0 or something else?

My goal is to allow anyone to translate my work non-commercially and they need to acknowledge the source.

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    No derivatives means no derivatives. Really. It means what it says. And a translation is a different work based on your work, which is the definition of a derivative. – user253751 Sep 8 at 11:10
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The question is, can anyone fork my repo and translate it into a different language under the Creative Commons License Non-commercial Non-derivative that I have?

No. I believe that the copyright laws of several countries even explicitly mention translations as a form of derivative work that requires permission from the copyright holder.

If you want to keep control over what languages your book is translated into, then you can keep the CC BY-NC-ND license and give each translator a separate license to create their translation.

If anyone should be able to create a translation, then you could switch the license to CC BY-NC or CC BY-NC-SA, but that will have the side effect that other kinds of adaptations and modifications are also possible.

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  • Thank you for the clarification! I have a noob question: can you give an example how I can "give each translator a separate license to create their translation"? What would this look like in practice / real life? – Iggy Sep 7 at 21:55
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    @Iggy, Such a separate license can be as simple as you sending an email back to a translator stating they can make the translation they requested and under what conditions it can be made (e.g. that the translation is also published under CC BY-NC-ND). It is important that such a permission is given in writing and preferable that the authenticity can be checked. – Bart van Ingen Schenau Sep 8 at 5:24

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