This is a somewhat complicated situation, and I have trouble finding a Creative Commons license that is appropriate.

Here is what I want the license to do:

  1. Others should be able to redistribute my exact artwork, but only non-commercially.
  2. However, they can do whatever they want commercially with the derivative works they produce, including allowing others to use their work commercially.
  3. It should be allowed to make derivative works from the derivative works.

When I try to find a CC licence that is suitable for this, I end up in a contradiction. Here is the logic:

  • To comply with my condition number 1., I have to include [non-commercial].
  • Also by condition number 1., I can not include [no-derivative].
  • If I include [share-alike], they must use the same license, including the [non-commercial]. That contradicts my condition number 2. Dead end.
  • Then, I can not include [share-alike], but then they are free to apply [no-derivative] to their derivative work, contradicting my condition number 3. Dead end as well.

My conditions are reasonable (perhaps a little too restrictive, but that is another discussion), so it should be possible to cover them with a licence. Writing your own license is not recommended, so what should I do in this situation?

  • 2
    You do have some difficult requirements here, but fundamentally such a license would neither be Free nor Open (according to the free software and open source definitions) which makes this question off-topic. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 3:39
  • @curiousdannii I am curious what "the" definition you are referring to is. Debian? FSF? The non-commercial versions of the CC license are controversial, but granting people some rights is definitely something partially open, and should be possible to discuss. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 7:16
  • 1
    Both the FSF and the OSI. Some of the CC licenses are free and open, and we allow questions on all of them because they are a family, and many people like to dual license them, but there are no grounds for including questions on new licenses which are completely outside the Free and Open movement. Commented Nov 1, 2016 at 0:04

1 Answer 1


Your conditions, as you have noted but not quite grasped, are self-defeating.

Suppose that the license you desire exists, and you create a picture "A" and release it under that license. Suppose then that Person B makes a change, for example, drawing a mustache into the picture. Let's call this picture "B". Because the picture is a derivative work, by your hypothetical license Person B can distribute it commercially. Suppose that through their distribution Person C obtains a copy of picture B. Person C, due to their right to create derivative works, removes the mustache from the picture. Now Person C has a picture that is equivalent to A, but has the right to distribute it commercially.

You must either grant commercial use to all, deny commercial use to all, or write your own license that specifies that if a derivative work is equivalent to A it may not be distributed commercially.

(Adapted from the FSF's GPL FAQ)

  • 1
    Interesting, something identical to the original work can then be considered derivative. Commented Oct 31, 2016 at 7:17
  • @SE-stopfiringthegoodguys, even if there is a clause that prevents that, I can just add one word to your work and it is now a derivative (thus sell it commercially).
    – Pacerier
    Commented Aug 3, 2023 at 3:54

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