The Creative Common license (and other licenses as well) gives (or not) authorizations to other humans to use, adapt, and modify licensed work. However, more and more, the licensed work is being used by non-humans. Is it possible to give authorizations only to humans, and to remove all authorizations to non-humans.

As an example, some code could be scrapped by a webbot, and used to generate a program following a question to, e.g., chatGPT.

Indirectly, would such a license be valid on GitHub? This repository web site has, among other condition of use, the indication that we allow Microsoft access to all the code stored there. As Microsoft does not specify how the code is accessed, it could be interpreted as "by all means judged applicable" by Microsoft which would extend to bot.

Indirectly, this question is with regard to open-source: Open to who? or open to what?

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    What about a person who takes it, then manually feeds it to a piece of software such as a large language model? That is, are you looking to regulate the final use, or the proximate user?
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 18:46
  • @MadHatter Of course, there are infinite scenarios, but let's stick for the moment to restricting the proximate "user" only (I put quotes as it is not a human user). Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 18:59
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    Then I don't think you have a problem, since every such action is initiated by a human being. If I write a web script that goes and gets thousands of such pieces of content and feeds them to my LLM, nonetheless, I am the licensee in each case.
    – MadHatter
    Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 20:07
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    Non-humans can't use content. Any AI/bot is being used by humans, and the license applies to them. Commented Jun 24, 2023 at 23:17
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    If a non-human did use your work in contravention of your license, whom would you meaningfully sue in court? This target defendant is your user. I think it's perfectly possible to have license that forbids particular modes of mechanical use, but the law does not recognize non-humans as having sufficient independent agency such that they can be afforded a license to use a copyrighted work. You must instead limit within what kinds of systems a human may employ your work. In any case, a license with terms like this wouldn't be recognized as a free or open source license by the FSF or OSI.
    – apsillers
    Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 0:57

1 Answer 1


You can't exclude "non-humans" from licenses because only humans are valid licensees.

Theoretically, you could add other disclaimers to the CC licenses about what you forbid (i.e. people and organizations to use automated tools for xyz stuff), but in practice CC licenses defend against such restrictions + such use could infringe the "Creative Commons" trademark.

In a world where AI models and bots like the Wayback Machine are commonplace, why not just leave it at that and let people develop these technologies? If any bot does not comply with the CC license (e.g. CC-BY 4.0) and does not attribute your authorship, and a human reproduces this content, then you can always claim the rights to be credited and require the human to do so.

Bots have no legal personality. You can eventually sue the person or organization that uses it.

This is not legal advice

  • Bots not being valid licensees kinda close the argument! Thanks. Commented Jun 25, 2023 at 16:50

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