Figuring out how YouTube uses Creative Commons was hard.

  • When uploading a video on YouTube, all you see as an option is "Creative Commons Attribution" (which could be any CC license).
  • When seeing a random YouTube video released under CC (example) all you see is "Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)" (again, applies to all CC licenses).
  • When clicking on a license, you get redirected here and find out that your only option is CC BY.
  • When you actually click on a "CC BY" text, you get redirected to the Creative Commons site, showing full version of the CC BY 3.0 license.

So, my question is, why 3.0? It's not an international version.

  • Why is it not an "international version", what do you mean by that? And do you wonder why they are "still" using 3.0 instead of 4.0?
    – unor
    Jul 24, 2016 at 22:35
  • 4
    "Creative Commons Attribution" is the title of the of the "CC-BY" license so this cannot be any Creative Commons license. As for the choice of v3.0 vs other this is likely historical and for simplicity? Can you elaborate your question? Jul 25, 2016 at 13:11
  • I'm actually really confused as to how this is attracting so many down votes and close votes. It's asking why YouTube uses the CC BY 3.0 license - when it seems to the OP that it's not an international version, and why they can't use 4.0. If the question merits down votes and/or close votes, then I really believe you should elaborate on what is wrong with the question, or you are just as guilty yourself for not being helpful, as the down vote button help text suggests.
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 25, 2016 at 21:49
  • @PhilippeOmbredanne That's incorrect. CC had location-specific licenses before 4.0. For example, here is the CC BY 2.5 Canada license, and here is the CC BY 3.0 Unported (i.e. International) license. Creative Commons said on their webpage: The most recent license version is 4.0, which can be used internationally. Earlier versions of licenses, including 3.0 international and ports localized to particular jurisdictions, can be still be used by clicking the "show earlier licenses" link below.
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 26, 2016 at 1:20
  • The 4.0 version of the licenses were designed to be applicable to all jurisdictions, with minor to no recourse, effectively eliminating ported, or jurisdiction-specific licenses.
    – Zizouz212
    Jul 26, 2016 at 1:21

1 Answer 1


The entire point of YouTube's feature to programatically mark a video as under Creative Commons is to allow programmatic use of that video in YouTube's video editor. From the YouTube page on Creative Commons (emphasis mine):

Creative Commons licenses provide a standard way for content creators to grant someone else permission to use their work. YouTube allows users to mark their videos with a Creative Commons CC BY license. These videos are then accessible to YouTube users for use, even commercially, in their own videos via the YouTube Video Editor.

By limiting all input to the YouTube editor to video licensed under CC-BY 3.0, YouTube has eliminated the need for the editor to compare the compatibility of licenses on input videos when deciding the license of the output. YouTube has taken a very simple approach: CC-BY 3.0 goes in, CC-BY 3.0 comes out. If they changed it so new videos were under 4.0, it might require either (1) retroactive re-licensing of already-submitted videos (which might not be legally possible under their terms of use, or might cause complaints form users who dislike some provision in 4.0) or (2) handling the complexity of differently-licensed input in the video editor.

You can license your videos however you want. If you want to license them under CC-BY 4.0, or CC-BY-SA 3.0, or anything else, you can do that; just state a license grant so in your video description. YouTube is simply giving you a box to tick that says, "Do you want to license this video under CC-BY 3.0 (possibly in addition to any other simultaneous license grants)?" If you tick that box, users can use your video in YouTube's video editor. You could also license your video under CC-BY 3.0 without ticking that box (e.g., by saying so in your video's description), and it would effectively be identical to ticking that box, except YouTube wouldn't programmatically know it was safe to use as input for the video editor tool.

This also explains why they don't work particularly hard to clarify what version of the license used is. YouTube wants you to create more video within YouTube. They want to make it easy and legally safe for you to use YouTube's video editor to make more videos on YouTube. The ability to take a CC-licensed YouTube video and use it outside of YouTube is an ability that certainly exists, but it is outside the business interests of YouTube to emphasize it.

As for why the chose CC-BY 3.0 specifically: CC-BY is the simplest Creative Commons license, and 3.0 may have been the latest available license at the time they rolled out the video editor feature (or at least 3.0 may have been the latest version that YouTube's legal team had vetted as safe to use).

As why it's not an "international version": it is an international version. Version 3.0 of the Creative Commons suite includes versions that are "ported" to particular jurisdictions, and an "unported" version of each license type, which is intended to be applicable to all jurisdictions. YouTube links to the CC-BY 3.0 unported license. See the "Further Internationalization" section of the CC 3.0 writeup.


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