So if you say write a book and make it Creative Commons non-commercial and someone uses your work, can you legally bind them to cite your name and a notice if the book is changed from the original?

  • 1
    The CC license would include attribution to the author.
    – Tak
    Commented May 23 at 6:18
  • What of the notice?
    – Haridasa
    Commented May 23 at 10:56

1 Answer 1


Citation is a concept from academia. Failing to cite the source of an idea or fact may be considered plagiarism, but plagiarism has nothing to do with copyright. Copyright does not protect ideas or facts, only the specific words (or images, sounds, etc.) used to convey those ideas or facts. Consequently, there is no license that can convert an act of plagiarism into a copyright violation. Plagiarism must instead be handled within the academic system (for example, by reporting the incident to an academic integrity committee in the case of student coursework, to the editor-in-chief in the case of academic publications, etc.). Plagiarism does carry consequences, but those consequences will (probably) not be litigated in a court of law, and copyright licenses are not the proper mechanism for applying them.

Having said all of that, you mention "if the book is changed from the original," which suggests copying of text and not just facts or ideas. In this case, it depends on which Creative Commons license is used. To avoid making this answer excessively long, I will only describe the rules under version 4.0 of each license. You can consult the legal code of prior versions yourself.

  • In the case of any non-commercial Creative Commons license, the reuse must not be "primarily intended for or directed towards commercial advantage or monetary compensation." See this wiki page for more information about what this clause means and how it works.
    • Non-commercial licenses are generally off-topic on Open Source, but the provisions you are asking about (regarding modified versions and attribution notices) are also present in CC-BY and CC-BY-SA, which are on-topic. Anything I say about their NC counterparts also applies to them, with the obvious exception of the NC clause itself.
  • All Creative Commons licenses (that are still in use and updated for 4.0, except as noted below) allow verbatim copying and redistribution for (at least) non-commercial purposes, require a notice of attribution, require the reuser to remove attribution notices upon request from the original author "to the extent reasonably practicable," and require a notice of modification (if modification is allowed at all).
    • The licenses do not allow the licensor to specify the exact format or structure of these notices. The licensee must include certain specified elements in the notices, but may otherwise comply "in any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which You Share the Licensed Material."
    • The Sampling license, which was never updated for 4.0, did not give permission to make and distribute verbatim copies. The Sampling+ license, also never updated, was roughly equivalent to a dual license of the Sampling license plus CC-BY-NC-ND. There were also variants of all licenses which omitted the attribution requirement. Creative Commons no longer recommends using any of these licenses.
    • CC-0 is not exactly meant to work like a "license," but in some jurisdictions, it formally is a license. It imposes no restrictions on the reuser whatsoever, meaning they can do whatever they want with no attribution or other formalities required.
  • All CC licenses attempt to waive moral rights to the extent they conflict with the license, but in many jurisdictions, such waivers are ineffective. You should consult your country's laws to determine whether moral rights affect the attribution requirement or what modifications may be made.
  • If by "notice," you mean the reuser should notify the original author of the existence of a modified version, no CC license requires that (requirements similar to this are generally seen as problematic).
  • CC-BY and CC-BY-NC have no other relevant provisions (aside from explicitly allowing modifications and distribution of modified versions).
  • CC-BY-SA and CC-BY-NC-SA require any modified version to be licensed under CC-BY-SA or CC-BY-NC-SA (respectively) to anyone who receives a copy of it, and to inform the recipient of that fact with a suitable notice. This is a copyleft provision.
  • CC-BY-ND and CC-BY-NC-ND prohibit making modified versions at all (and the no-derivatives provision is also off-topic on Open Source).
  • 1
    @PhilipKendall: Threw in an "except as noted" just in case.
    – Kevin
    Commented May 31 at 8:23

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