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CC-BY-SA is a Creative Commons license with a copyleft clause - if you derive something from it, you must also provide the derivative under the same license if you distribute it. The relevant clause is here:

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

In the actual license, it refers to derivation as adapted material:

Adapted Material means material subject to Copyright and Similar Rights that is derived from or based upon the Licensed Material and in which the Licensed Material is translated, altered, arranged, transformed, or otherwise modified in a manner requiring permission under the Copyright and Similar Rights held by the Licensor. For purposes of this Public License, where the Licensed Material is a musical work, performance, or sound recording, Adapted Material is always produced where the Licensed Material is synched in timed relation with a moving image.

So does inclusion in a software package turn the software into adapted material?

  • If I include a CC-BY-SA licensed image in the software, do I need to share just the image or does the entire software come under CC-BY-SA?
  • What if I make modifications to this image, what do I need to share?
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In the large majority of cases, the software of a program and the artwork used by a program are not related to each other where copyright is concerned.
An exception might be an image that was created by a program from a fixed formula and the source code of that program.

For a work to be considered a derived work, there must be a way to go from the original work to the target work. There is no such conversion path between the source code of a program and the artwork of a program. For that reason, the two are considered to be independent works as far as copyright is concerned.

If two works are independent works for copyright, then their copyright licenses also don't affect each other. This means that you can perfectly combine artwork under a free (CC-SA) license with software under a closed-source license.


If you made changes to the artwork under the CC-SA license, then you must share your modified artwork under the same (or a compatible) license.

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You only need to share the image under CC-BY-SA. This means your project will be multi-licensed.

The important part is that only the image is currently under BY-SA. Since the only requirement of the license is that if you share, modify or redistribute the image, you have to license it under BY-SA. The license of the image can have no bearing on the rest of your project, as long as the rest of your project isn't a derivative work of the image.

It may be wise, as in many cases, to include a Licensing file with your project, giving details of the project's licenses:

The majority of this project is licensed under X. This includes the codebase and many assets. A list of exceptions is provided below, along with the license for each one. When using these assets, please be mindful that you are using the correct license.

  • image-name.jpg is licensed under CC-BY-SA
  • other-image.png is licensed under Y
  • other exceptions

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