For example, if I create a LaTeX file and license it with CC BY SA, can someone create a derivative work, but only publish the PDF, without giving out the derived LaTeX source code?

Does this fall under the Effective Technological Measures part of the license?

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2 Answers 2


Yes, they can publish a PDF without publishing the modified LaTeX sources. No, this is not DRM.

CC-BY-SA is not an open-source license. It is intended for creative works such as photographs or writings even where there might not be any kind of editable source format.

The license explicitly allows any licensee to change the format of the work:

2(a)(4): Media and formats; technical modifications allowed. The Licensor authorizes You to exercise the Licensed Rights in all media and formats whether now known or hereafter created, and to make technical modifications necessary to do so. The Licensor waives and/or agrees not to assert any right or authority to forbid You from making technical modifications necessary to exercise the Licensed Rights, including technical modifications necessary to circumvent Effective Technological Measures.

The Effective Technological Measures are defined as

1(e): Effective Technological Measures means those measures that, in the absence of proper authority, may not be circumvented under laws fulfilling obligations under Article 11 of the WIPO Copyright Treaty adopted on December 20, 1996, and/or similar international agreements.

In other words, 2(a)(4) allows you to circumvent any accidental DRM on a CC-BY-SA licensed work in order to (re-)use the work as you wish. This freedom to convert formats is important, as it e.g. allows a CC-BY-SA e-book to be converted into a different e-book format, or to be made accessible to blind users, even when the original e-book is “protected” by a DRM scheme. Merely converting a creative work to a format that is non-editable is not DRM – otherwise, printed CC-BY-SA books would be a license violation.

The CC-BY-SA license requires no one to publish their derived works (such as modified LaTeX files), only to license their derived works under CC-BY-SA when they share/publish them. However, they must:

  • provide attribution 3(a)(1)(A)(i). If they used your LaTeX files, they must attribute you.
  • link to the original work 3(a)(1)(A)(v). When they used your LaTeX files, they must link to them.
  • indicate any modifications 3(a)(1)(B). They need not state what they modified, only whether they modified something.

Examples that might clarify some aspects:

  • I create a CC-BY-SA video that uses CC-bY-SA licensed music in its soundtrack. I am not required to publish the soundtrack in an un-mixed form just so that someone could mix it differently if they wanted to. However, I must link to the original music.

  • I publish a CC-BY-SA printed book that uses a CC-BY-SA illustration. I am not required to publish my manuscript or layout files so that someone could print the book with a different illustraction. However, I must link to the original image.

  • I publish a CC-BY-SA “photoshopped” version of a CC-BY-SA photograph. I am not required to publish the project file so that someone could arrange the image layers differently, or remove a special effect they don't like. However, I must link to all source images I used.

If this is not acceptable to you, you should not use CC-BY-SA for your documents.

This answer is based on the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.


disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.

In short, no. You're not required to share anything when you use or adapt CC content.

So, while you may share your final product, you aren't required to share the intermediate forms, including source code.

Quoting from the CC-BY-SA 4.0 license (paraphrased and emphasis added):

Section 3.a. (Attribution) says "If You Share the Licensed Material (including in modified form)" you must provide proper attribution.

Section 3.b. (ShareAlike) says "If You Share Adapted Material You produce", you must apply an Adapter's License that is compatible with the CC source material you used.

There is no requirement that you take steps to share any licensed or adapted material. Thus, you are free to adapt the work into a LaTeX format, adapt that once more by converting it to a PDF, and only share the PDF.

What about "effective technological measures"?

CC licenses include a clause about "effective technological measures", which essentially means you can't use DRM on CC-licensed content to prevent people sharing it. However, the FAQ explicitly allows converting material for non-DRM purposes:

merely converting material into a different format that is difficult to access or is only available for certain platforms does not violate the restriction; you may do this without violating the license terms.

  • This does not appear to answer the question, which is about a derived work that is shared in a non-editable format, but not the format used to make changes. Dec 4, 2019 at 18:39
  • hmm I definitely did intend to be answering the question, but I can see how I didn't make it 100% clear that since you're not required to share anything, you're not required to share your source code even if you share your final product. I've updated the answer to make it clearer.
    – waterproof
    Dec 5, 2019 at 20:32

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