Certain licenses are listed as compatible with CC-SA on their website. If I have something that is CC-SA, say, version 3, can I redistribute it under CC-SA version 4, even if I made no modifications. To be clear, I would be following all the other requirements that CC-SA gives for this.

In general, how often do licenses require this? (Apparently BSD doesn't.)

The reason I ask is because it is important for this Meta post: Here is a way we can update all the code to a compatible license.


2 Answers 2


In general: NO: you cannot modify a license (nor the copyright holder), but if the license explicitly allow you to "upgrade" the license (like LGPL to GPL, GPL2+ to GPL3, etc.).

You can act as if you distribute it with an other compatible license.

In general upgrading code with a new license is very tedious work, and you need to have the permission of all (or most) copyright holders. Wikipedia had a nice support of FSF with a one time license versioning trick. Openstreetmap removed the old data (if contributors didn't explicitly agree with license change). Note: it took years.

  • That second point is somewhat unclear. What do you mean you can "act?"
    – Zizouz212
    Feb 12, 2016 at 1:45
  • In Wikipedia we can assume the texts and images have a CC BY-SA 3.0, also if some texts and images have a more permissive license. The same with GPL programs: they could contain images (icons) or sources with more permissive license, but we can act, to distribute then, as if they are GPL. Note: this doesn't change the license of the files/images, it just simplify our handling of the collection/compiled files. Feb 12, 2016 at 7:48

You can only license your own work. If you have not made any modifications, you have not made a derived work, so you have no copyright on anything, and you have no right to change the license at all.

  • You might not need to. Sometimes the licensing terms are something like "This software may be distributed under the GPL version 2, or at your option any later version of the GPL."
    – jkdev
    Feb 17, 2016 at 8:15

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