I see someone has remixed and adapted CC-BY-3.0 licensed material, only to then publish it under CC-BY-SA-3.0. Thus making the license stricter. Is this allowed?

If I look up what CC-BY means, I find one clause that says:

No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

What does this exactly mean (apart from mitigating issues with for example DRM)? It sounds to me like adding -SA to the license is the same as applying legal terms that legally restrict others from doing something the license permits. But if I interpret it like this, it would mean CC-BY is already SA by itself.

  • 1
    The Creative Commons organization clearly indicates this is legal (creativecommons.org/faq/… "Works licensed under CC BY may be incorporated into works that are licensed under CC BY-SA."), but I think a full explanation of how the "No additional restrictions" operates in this case is a great Q&A for this site
    – apsillers
    Nov 25, 2021 at 12:21
  • Could you explain more what 'remixed and adapted' means in this specific case? You have quoted language that comes from the 'human-readable summary' instead of the actual license language. We would need to better understand if this is more a re-distribution of the original Work, or rather a 'Collection' or even an 'Adaption'. Nov 25, 2021 at 12:38
  • @Martin_in_AUT I meant with remixed and adapted, that the original material was not merely put into the new publication, but that the original material itself was also changed. I don't know for sure if this is how it is meant by summaries and the license language.
    – nl-x
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:11
  • @apsillers : thanks, but your quote only sees to 'including' the CC BY work into the CC BY-SA work. But it does not talk about 'adapting' the CC BY work and then calling it CC BY-SA work. The big difference is that in the first case, you are effectively only making your own additions CC BY-SA as the original work is untouched. In the second case IMHO you kind-of appropriate the original work when you license it as you wish. I can agree that your answer still might be correct, but maybe you have a better quote or explanation?
    – nl-x
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:24

2 Answers 2


The Creative Commons licenses make a distinction between the original material you received under the license, and the modifications you make. There are different license conditions for using the original versus how you can license your modified work.

The restriction you quote only applies to the original. You cannot take a CC-BY licensed work and, without adding anything of your own to the work, add restrictions that limit how others can use the CC-BY licensed material.

Let's look at the CC-BY-3.0 and CC-BY-4.0 variants explicitly. Their language differs, but they have equivalent passages.


The quoted section “no additional restrictions” is paraphrased from section 2.a.5.B of version 4.0 of the license. To quote it in full:

No downstream restrictions. You may not offer or impose any additional or different terms or conditions on, or apply any Effective Technological Measures to, the Licensed Material if doing so restricts exercise of the Licensed Rights by any recipient of the Licensed Material.

There are a couple of defined terms here, importantly Licensed Material. It is defined in section 1.f:

Licensed Material means the artistic or literary work, database, or other material to which the Licensor applied this Public License.

This must be contrasted to Adapted Material in section 1.a:

Adapted Material means material subject to Copyright and Similar Rights that is derived from or based upon the Licensed Material […]

For Licensed Material, adding downstream restrictions is forbidden. For Adapted Material, it is OK to choose any license as long as it doesn't conflict with the CC-BY license condition of giving attribution (section 3.a). Notably, CC-BY-SA-4.0 doesn't conflict with CC-BY-4.0.


You mentioned this license version in the question. The same argument as for version 4.0 applies, albeit with different terms.

The corresponding prohibition on downstream restrictions is in section 4.a:

You may Distribute or Publicly Perform the Work only under the terms of this License. […] You may not offer or impose any terms on the Work that restrict the terms of this License or the ability of the recipient of the Work to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License. […] You may not impose any effective technological measures on the Work that restrict the ability of a recipient of the Work from You to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the License. […]

Here, the defined term is the Work which is defined in section 1.f:

"Work" means the literary and/or artistic work offered under the terms of this License […]

This must be contrasted to an Adaptation. It is defined in section 1.a:

"Adaptation" means a work based upon the Work, […]

While version 3.0 does not explicitly authorize choosing a different license for the Adaptation, it is clear that the quoted restrictions only apply to the Work. Adaptations have a different set or restrictions in section 4.b, which is just about providing attribution. The CC-BY-SA-3.0 license does not conflict with the conditions in the CC-BY-3.0 license.


CC-BY (Creative Commons - With Attribution) is quite clear and simple: you may use and distribute this work for any purpose, unmodified or unchanged without any charge on one condition: give appropriate credits.

So, as long as you give appropriate credits to the original author or creator, you may distribute it under all licenses which in turn also require to give credits (thus basically only public domain and similar is excluded). This means you may incorporate CC-BY licensed content also into works with a less permissive license, like CC-BY-SA (e.g. see the FAQ on this), MIT or GPL as long as you keep the attribution and license information for the CC-BY licensed part.

If you distribute it unmodified, you shall distribute it under the original CC-BY license. For this purpose, re-sizing or re-encoding for images or movies often already counts as modification.

  • My issue is that it just isn't that quite clear, because of the "no additional restrictions" clause. Where is stated what is meant by that clause, and what limits that clause? You say I can edit CC BY work and put a less permissive license on it. This means I can create new episodes of Big Bucks Bunny and require payment from viewers and forbid redistribution (all rights reserved), just as long as I correctly credit the original creators ??? ... BUT once I put DRM on it, I can't ... ?!
    – nl-x
    Nov 25, 2021 at 16:30
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    @nl-x In version 4.0 terms (which you quoted in your question): The relevant part of the license is the difference between Licensed Material and Adapted Material. The section you quoted only applies to the Licensed Material, not to Adapted Material. You can't slap DRM on an unmodified Big Bucks Bunny copy. But you can Adapt the movie if you provide attribution as per the section 3 license conditions, and license the Adapted Material basically however you want. In version 3.0 terms, this is the difference between the Work itself and your Adaptation.
    – amon
    Nov 25, 2021 at 21:49
  • @amon Thank you. Can you please make an answer out of your comment? I think your comment sums up what I was after. Reading everything over again, I think I now understand: The Adapter's License is ONLY licensing contributions made to the Licensed Material. Whoever gets this Adapter's License, also automatically gets the original Licensed Rights from the original Licensor, effectively getting two licenses. The two licences don't have to be the same type of license.
    – nl-x
    Nov 25, 2021 at 23:39
  • @amon your comment's garnering upvotes, and asks no question: I, too, would urge you to write it as an answer, even if all you do is copy-and-paste it as one. I really think it adds something valuable, and so does the OP.
    – MadHatter
    Nov 26, 2021 at 9:52

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