I wrote some texts and put then in the Wikisource website, which says that the content is available under both CC-BY-SA 3.0 and GFDL.

Suppose a certain publisher wants to create a printed book based on my texts. Creating the book will probably require a lot of investment for copyediting, design, marketing, etc. So to cover his investment, the publisher will probably want to have exclusive rights to publish the contents for some time.

I understand that the SA clause prevents him to do this, since this work is a derivative of my work, so he must publish it under the same license.

But what if I, as the author, allow him to ignore the SA clause? I want to do this since I want the text to be published and I understand that most people will not want to invest unless they can get some compensation.

EDIT: to clarify: my question is specifically about derivative works. Suppose person X copies texts from wikisource, does some editing, and publishes the edited material in a book. Now person X wants to prohibit person Y from copying the edited material from the book (not the original material from wikisource). The SA clause prohibits him from doing so, since he is required to publish the derivative work under the same license. My question is: can I, as the author, allow person X to ignore the SA clause and prohibit person Y from copying from the book?

  • If you self-publish your work you won't need an exclusive license. Even with a publisher, it would be an agreement between you and them to publish a book based on your public works, that is them knowing that copy exists before a publishing agreement is made, maybe getting you to offer them an edited/expanded version of your previous work - a second edition of sorts.
    – sambler
    Aug 23, 2018 at 9:55

1 Answer 1


You hold the copyright to your works, and can issue licenses. A license can either be exclusive or non-exclusive, but for each sub-right of copyright you cannot grant an exclusive and non-exclusive license at the same time. Multiple non-exclusive licenses can co-exist.

You have granted licenses under the terms of the CC-BY-SA 3.0 and the GFDL. These licenses are non-exclusive, but also perpetual. While these licenses are in effect, you cannot issue an exclusive license for the same works.

It is not clear whether the CC-BY-SA 3.0 or the GFDL could be revoked. The license text itself is silent on this, but e.g. the CC-BY-SA 3.0 license summary page and the FAQ claim that “The CC licenses are irrevocable. This means that once you receive material under a CC license, you will always have the right to use it under those license terms, even if the licensor changes his or her mind and stops distributing under the CC license terms. Of course, you may choose to respect the licensor’s wishes and stop using the work.” The copyright laws in your jurisdiction may allow license revocation.

In any case, revoking a public license is difficult at best and impossible in practice, as you will not be able to locate all copies. You are therefore unable to grant exclusive licenses for works that you already published under the CC-BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL.

What you can do, iff you are the sole author/copyright holder (so that you aren't bound by the CC/GFDL yourself):

  • You can grant a separate non-exclusive license to the publisher which doesn't have to include the restrictions of the CC or GFDL licenses.
  • Additionally, you can edit the work in question. You can grant an exclusive license for these edits.

In any case you will have to tell your publisher that (parts of) the work have already been published. This might render your work non-economical for the publisher, though on the other hand even public domain works without any exclusivity continue to be widely printed.

  • "You can edit the work in question. You can grant an exclusive license for these edits" - But what about the SA clause, that says that derivative works must be distributed under the same license? Aug 24, 2018 at 10:34
  • 4
    @Erel If (and only if) you are the sole copyright holder, you did not receive your own work under the terms of an SA license. You are therefore not bound by the SA terms for your own usage, and you can grant additional non-SA licenses.
    – amon
    Aug 24, 2018 at 10:39

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