I am creating a presentation that includes some unmodified images licensed under either CC-BY, CC-BY-SA version 2.0, 3.0 or 4.0 (no CC-BY-SA 4.0) and some public domain images. They are all attributed. My original intent was to release the final presentation as CC-BY-SA-NC 4.0 as a PDF file, as my understanding/assumption was that,

  1. For some reason I assumed CC licenses to be forwards compatible
  2. I assumed that the work as a whole being CC-BY-NC-SA was ok, even if some images in it may have less restrictive licenses (which are mentioned) and given that these images could always easily be extracted from the pdf and then used under solely the original license.

Now I know that not all CC versions are forward compatible and I'm no longer sure if my second assumption was valid or if the presentation counts as a "derivative work", which cannot impose additional restrictions, and don't know what license I even could use if this is the case as BY and BY-SA would be incompatible in this interpretation.

Also CC BY-SA 4.0 is listed as incompatible with prior versions here. Does this mean I also could not release it under CC-BY-SA 4.0 if I wanted to and would instead need to remove all 4.0 images and release the whole document as CC-BY-SA 3.0 ?

I would appreciate if somebody could clear up my confusion about the licenses.

  • 2
    What kind of presentation is it? Printed material? PDF? Slide deck (eg PowerPoint, OOImpress)? Online video? I ask because this related answer turns on the nature of the material in which the original image is re-used.
    – MadHatter
    Jan 15, 2020 at 9:14
  • How integral are these particular images to the presentation? Are they mostly illustration (and could be changed for other images that illustrate the point)? Are they the subject of critique/discussion? Are they otherwise an integral part of the presentation (as in, you wouldn't have a presentation at all if you had to drop/replace these particular images, not just a boring/uninteresting one)? Jan 15, 2020 at 14:55
  • It is a LATEX Beamer presentation and I intended to release it as a PDF file. Except for one image, which is in the public domain, they are illustrations and could be swapped out for others, if I happened to find some with a compatible license.
    – P. Scwurf
    Jan 15, 2020 at 17:42
  • Is the NC clause very important to you? My experience is that, for academic work, people have fantasies about some greedy Goliath capitalist making unfair profit out of your work and you little David fighting them back with an NC clause, whereas in reality what NC does is prevent widespread use of derivatives of your work (such bulk printing for a class of students and charging a fee for the cost, etc) through legal uncertainty.
    – user334639
    Oct 2, 2023 at 17:46

1 Answer 1


This takes us on another visit to Drauglis v. Kappa Map Group, that being some of the only guiding jurisprudence we have on the question of derivative works and CC licences. Note that is not a binding judgement anywhere, but as courts tend to follow each other unless they see good reasons not to, it gives us some idea of how other courts might approach the question.

In Drauglis, a basically-unmodified CC-BY-SA image was used alongside other images on the cover of a road atlas. The court held that neither the atlas as a whole, nor the cover as a whole, constituted derivative works within the meaning of the licence, and thus the Share-Alike obligations extended no further than the cropped copy of the CC-BY-SA photo that appeared thereon.

By those guidelines, you should be fine to re-use unmodified images under various licences and versions, each licence applying to the relevant works in the whole PDF, since the PDF (like the printed atlas before it) is just a collection of individual works, not a derivative of any of them.

  • I may assume that you are talking of us copyright? I doubt the same reasoning would hold universally Jan 16, 2020 at 7:37
  • 2
    As I think I've been clear, although that's a US case, it isn't binding anywhere. However, it's the only case I know of where the copyright-derivative status of a printed collection of images has been determined for the purposes of CC-BY-SA, so it's going to be looked to by courts around the world should such issues come before them. That's how courts generally work. Of course, another court might decide to do something different - whether it's in the US or elsewhere - but that's the best guideline we currently have. Do feel free to write your own answer specific to other jurisdictions!
    – MadHatter
    Jan 16, 2020 at 13:06

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