As a followup to my earlier question, I'm having trouble understanding the section about derivatives.

From About The Licenses concerning CC BY-NC-ND:

This license is the most restrictive of our six main licenses, only allowing others to download your works and share them with others as long as they credit you, but they can’t change them in any way or use them commercially.

I take that to mean, you can download the work in whatever format it's offered in, but cannot modify the work itself.

The part I'm confused about is the Attribution under terms section:

You must give appropriate credit, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.

This seems to indicate that you're allowed to create a derivative (make changes), as long as you give credit to the original work.

but under NoDerivatives:

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

It seems like a contradiction, you can either modify the work and share, once you give credit or you can't modify or distribute it.

Can someone clarify it?

I'm looking for a licence that's most restrictive. In other words, accept my work as it is, you cannot modify or create a derivative and distribute it. Is the CC BY-NC-ND the correct licence?

  • Even with a no-commercial clause we left the open-source domain, also with the no-derivatives. If you now want to be more strict than the strictest CC license and also disallow distribution: choose no license, then only copyright law applies. Oct 16, 2021 at 8:29
  • @planetmaker - I read about that section on Github. The problem is, it clearly states: You're under no obligation to choose a license. However, without a license, the default copyright laws apply, meaning that you retain all rights to your source code and no one may reproduce, distribute, or create derivative works from your work. Does it apply to the text in the book or creative works as well or just code?
    – user25293
    Oct 16, 2021 at 13:57
  • It applies to whatever falls under copyright. Oct 16, 2021 at 17:03
  • @user25293, ok but why would you want to "accept my work as it is, you cannot modify"? What's the rationale/reason/benefit?
    – Pacerier
    Aug 1, 2023 at 4:51

1 Answer 1


It may be helpful to read the actual license text. The page that you link to says:

This is a human-readable summary of (and not a substitute for) the license. Disclaimer.

It appears that the text for "Attribution" is identical on all of the licenses. It's a more human-friendly summary of what is allowed. Continuing to read the human-readable summary makes it clear that remixing, transforming, or building upon the material prevents distribution. Reading the full legal code of the BY-NC-ND license confirms this. In Section 3 License Conditions, under Attribution, it states:

For the avoidance of doubt, You do not have permission under this Public License to Share Adapted Material.

Of the CC licenses, BY-NC-ND is the most restrictive available.

  • Thanks, but it does seem confusing, it starts off saying one thing and the completely says another.
    – user25293
    Oct 15, 2021 at 16:05
  • @AnnabelleVodianova I don't think it's that confusing. It even says "indicate if changes were made". Later on, it says that you can't redistribute changes. Since you can't make changes and distribute, it's irrelevant. However, the legal code is what matters, not the summary. Oct 15, 2021 at 16:07
  • Fair enough! Upvoted.
    – user25293
    Oct 15, 2021 at 16:08

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