I've just finished creating a program and I want to license it under Creative Commons - Share-A-Like license. It's my first creative commons licensed software. However, I did purchase two images for the splash screen from an image stock provider. The requirements for the images are that I re-license the image if the image is viewed more than one million times. Would it be possible to still license the software under Creative Commons and exclude those images from the share-a-like or does Creative Commons encompass the entire program with no options of exclusion? Has anyone else used stock photos in their Creative Commons projects? If so, how do did you work around this issue? Thank you!

  • If you release the software, you have no way of knowing if/when a million views is reached by all users combined. You'll have to ask the owner of the image how to proceed.
    – vonbrand
    Jul 4, 2021 at 18:11
  • 1
    @vonbrand No, that's not correct. If I add an exclusion just like if I license it under an end-user agreement legally the end-user can't use the images. If they do, they are committing the copyright infringement. Not me. It's just like if you add a stock photo to your site and someone copies/scrapes it. You are not held accountable. Theifs are theifs. Jul 4, 2021 at 18:45
  • Have you considered releasing a non-free version of your complete program alongside a CC BY-SA version without the images?
    – apsillers
    Jul 6, 2021 at 1:44

1 Answer 1


After a lot more research I found the answer right on the Creative Commons website. The quick answer is....DO NOT use the Creative Commons license for the software. It's not a good choice. Instead, use a license by either the Open Source Initiative or the Free Software Foundation.

Open Source Initiative: https://opensource.org/
Free Software Foundation: https://www.fsf.org/

Directly from Creative Commons FAQ section:

`We recommend against using Creative Commons licenses for software. Instead, we strongly encourage you to use one of the very good software licenses which are already available. We recommend considering licenses listed as free by the Free Software Foundation and listed as “open source” by the Open Source Initiative.

Unlike software-specific licenses, CC licenses do not contain specific terms about the distribution of source code, which is often important to ensuring the free reuse and modifiability of software. Many software licenses also address patent rights, which are important to software but may not be applicable to other copyrightable works. Additionally, our licenses are currently not compatible with the major software licenses, so it would be difficult to integrate CC-licensed work with other free software. Existing software licenses were designed specifically for use with software and offer a similar set of rights to the Creative Commons licenses.

Version 4.0 of CC’s Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA) license is one-way compatible with the GNU General Public License version 3.0 (GPLv3). This compatibility mechanism is designed for situations in which content is integrated into software code in a way that makes it difficult or impossible to distinguish the two. There are special considerations required before using this compatibility mechanism. Read more about it here.

Also, the CC0 Public Domain Dedication is GPL-compatible and acceptable for software. For details, see the relevant CC0 FAQ entry.

While we recommend against using a CC license on software itself, CC licenses may be used for software documentation, as well as for separate artistic elements such as game art or music.`

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    While I agree with what you say, this does not answer the question what to do with a few images with more restrictive license Jul 5, 2021 at 6:12
  • Also it's perfectly ok to separately license the code under a reasonable license for code (like an OSI-approved license) and to use a CC license for any art assets. Jul 5, 2021 at 15:54

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