Suppose I upload an image to my website under no license or copyright notice. But then I decide that I want to license it under specific open source CC attributes. Can I simply just add the license? Or am I no longer able to do this (because I already published it).

  • If yes, what would happen to someone that has already taken and used this image, but is now breaking the license since I changed it?
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    Just because something is a duplicate doesn't mean you necessarily have to down vote. Duplicates are good for site health, they help point alternate wordings to the right question and answer. – Zizouz212 Jun 26 '15 at 1:56
  • If you display an image with no license notice, it means that nobody can use that image, not that everyone can use it as they please. – David Thornley Jul 9 '18 at 17:42

If you are the sole copyright holder of a work* you can at any time change the licence of the work. This includes adding, removing or switching licences. But doing this will not retroactively remove the rights of anyone who acquired a copy of the work while it was licensed under the old licence.

*(If you are not the sole copyright holder then you need to get all collaborators to agree to a licence change.)

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    A lot of licenses do allow revocation. These licenses are not free or open, but they do exist. Also, some countries recognise moral rights, which lets artists control the expression of their work even after they've granted copyright ownership to another party. – congusbongus Jun 26 '15 at 1:32
  • @congusbongus Good points. However I didn't think this question was about copyright reassignment. – curiousdannii Jun 26 '15 at 1:34
  • Perhaps I should elaborate with a scenario: an artist A creates something, transfer the copyright ownership to corporation C, which then distributes it with a free/open license, which person P receives it under. So far, so good. A finds out about it, and doesn't like the way P is using it for whatever reason, and asks P to stop. P is then legally obligated, under A's moral rights, to stop. This is an example of a "license" that is revoked, overriding the free/open license. – congusbongus Jun 26 '15 at 1:37
  • @congusbongus I'm not disputing anything you're saying, but copyright reassignment is really a completely different thing that licencing your own copyright. Copyright reassignment is not a "licence" (even if it happens under a contract or under laws giving moral rights). – curiousdannii Jun 26 '15 at 1:40

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