I have a graduation project based on an open source system. As my university is more leaned towards the market instead of the academia, I wanted to know who else (if ever) is going to take my project from the campus library to read or create new work based on it.

Is it possible to attach some type of creative-commons-like license with a special clause or similar that would require the reader/user of that document to contact me back with some lines on what they're working on?

  • Would this be more suitable to Academia SE? Thinking the people over OS would know more about open licenses, even though it's related to academia. Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 5:18

3 Answers 3


None of the Creative Commons licenses require contacting the author as a requirement. You will have to look for another license, or create your own.

Creating your own license is not recommended for many reasons, one of which is that, unless you are a copyright lawyer, you will most likely run into problems and create a license that doesn't do exactly what you want. For example, what happens when you get hit by a bus - does the requirement effectively turn the project into a proprietary one? Or does a "good faith" attempt at contacting you suffice? All things that need to be clarified in legal language.

One thing's certain if you create your own license: you cannot call it a Creative Commons license:

Can I change the license terms or conditions?

Yes—but if you change the terms and conditions of any Creative Commons license, you must no longer call, label, or describe the license as a “Creative Commons” or “CC” license, nor can you use the Creative Commons logos, buttons, or other trademarks in connection with the modified license or your materials. ...

You'll find that most licenses are like that; if you modify them by placing additional restrictions, you can no longer call it by the same name. This is to protect the integrity of those licenses.

Your other option is to look for an existing license that has that pingback requirement. The only such one I'm aware of is the Reciprocal Public License. Instead of requiring a pingback, it does require anyone to publish their extensions, regardless of whether their project is publicly deployed. Even such a requirement is unusual and controversial: RPL is OSI-approved but not an FSF-approved license.

Instead of using a custom license, I would recommend that you give your project a unique name and use a license that requires attribution. That way you can find notable users of your project by searching for them.

Finally, watch out for the license of the open source system that your project is based on. If it is copyleft, chances are it will be incompatible with whatever "pingback" license you choose.


That very much depends on the policies of your school. At least here in Chile, anything developed by students as part of their coursework and theses is legally deemed "work for hire", whose rights belong to the school. You'd have to check. I doubt your school will want to enforce anything like that, but you'd need some legally binding statement to that fact.

Once it is clear the copyright of your work is truly yours, you have to check the licenses under which you got other pieces (if any). If you use pieces of something under GPL, GPL is the licence of the whole. If you link against a GPLed library, FSF says your work must be distributed under GPL (some disagree, this is a murky area). If it is GPL, you can't add any further conditions (i.e., no "you have to contact me" allowed). There is much open source software floating around, some even with incompatible licenses. If you happened to use pieces with incompatible licenses, chances are that you aren't allowed to distribute at all.

In any case, do not create your own license, you'll just make the use of your software unnecessarily complex for would-be users. Read also this thread on this site. Use one of the well-known licenses, and ask users nicely to send you a message at some dedicated email address. Check Chose a license, do read David A. Wheeler's essay on licenses.

  • Good mentions on "see your school terms first", but the answer is focused on software where I asked about the document accompanying it :/ Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 13:33
  • 2
    @igorsantos07, whatever the situation might be, you'll still have to check that "your work" really belongs to you.
    – vonbrand
    Commented Jan 6, 2016 at 13:39

All Creative Commons licenses allow you to specify a URL as part of your license notice. Thus, anyone using your work must include that URL as a link when they publish their work online.

You can then perform a Google search for link:www.your.url.com and find everyone who is linking to you. I am not sure if other search engines support a backlink search.

More helpful re-users may invoke a literal pingback or webmention to your URL. You'll need something set up on your server to receive it.

Finally, you could still provide academic citation details, so that a commercial entity could (if they chose) publish a white paper that references your original work. You can watch for references via CiteSeerX, Google Scholar, etc.

Using a well-known license (approved by both OSI and FSF, and others) and suggesting these additional contact options (as well as plain old email) is (imho) more likely to actually get your work re-used. (Rather than using a crayon or less-popular license.) This increases your pool of potential linkbackers.

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