CC BY (4.0) is a flexible, permissive license that requires attributing the licensor.

What if: Alice creates an artwork and distributes under CC BY, which is adapted by Bob who also distributes under CC BY, which is in turn used by Carol.

Who does Carol need to attribute? Just Bob, or both Alice and Bob?

  • May FAQ help you. Read Attribution questions
    – Pandya
    Jul 12, 2015 at 6:39
  • @Pandya: Feel free to propose an answer based on that. Comments are for helping askers improve their questions. Jul 13, 2015 at 6:03

3 Answers 3


From the CC wiki page on attribution (emphasis mine):


Creator if supplied and attribution parties if designated in reasonable manner

This means that Carol will need to attribute to Bob if (and only if!) Bob so wishes. Bob can even demand not to be attributed if he wants to. Now what are these attribution parties?

Further on the page we read:

In the 1.0 and 2.0 licenses, CC licenses contemplated crediting the author only. Versions 2.5 and 3.0 allow licensors to identify another party or organization for attribution (called an “Attribution Party” in these licenses). This feature was introduced in part to alleviate burdensome or difficult attribution situations, such as when many people contribute to a collaborative effort and agree to be credited as a collective body. In licenses with this feature, licensors may designate another party for attribution purposes—such as a sponsor institute, publishing entity or journal—in addition to or instead of the author. You may review some of the concerns raised when CC proposed this change.

What this means concretely is that any contributor can choose freely who gets attributed for their work. So if Alice attributed her work to an organization she works for and doesn't ask Bob not to attribute this organization, the Bob will need to include this organization is his attributions as well. He can then choose who to attribute for his work. Carol will then have to attribute both Alice's and Bob's attribution, unless any of those two choose they do not want to be attributed by Carol.

Note that this has nothing to do with copyright, which under CC-BY is an entirely separate matter (which of course also works transitively).

  • 3
    This answer is wrong. The quoted part of the FAQ (that says: "with this feature, licensors may designate another party for attribution purposes") is irrelevant, as it just permits the author(s) of a contribution to indicate how to attribute his/her/their contribution. I.e. this has nothing do to with the question. Aug 6, 2015 at 10:26

A legal requirements to preserve the integrity of authorship and copyright information follows from article 6bis of the Berne Convention (about moral rights). In the USA, U.S. Code § 1202: "Integrity of copyright management information", is quite explicit about this - https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/17/1202 - but similar provisions exists in the local laws for most Berne signatories. Since preservation of attribution, etc. is a legal requirement, it cannot be removed by a license or a FAQ (and for the record: CC BY does not remove this legal requirement). It applies universially (i.e. does not depend on the license used).

This means that if Bob adapts Alice's work and Carol adapts Bob's work, Carol has to attribute both, unless one or both request to be dis-associated with Carol's work by having their respective bylines removed.

When only three people are involved, the reasonable way to attribute is to list all three of them.

However, when the list of contributors become much longer than this (e.g. you build on a wikipedia article with hundreds of individual contributors where the contributions over time have been entangled), you may find an alternative reasonable manner to provide lawful attribution. For example, you may credit "Wikipedia contributors" with a link to the article's history page where the byline of each individual contributor is listed.

There is a page about attribution best practices on the CC wiki that provides some helpful examples about how to attribute in a reasonable manner.


Adapted means Bob takes Alice work and improves on that? In that case Bob's result is a collaborative work of Bob and Alice. That means Carol has to attribute both.

  • 10
    Could you cite some sources on this?
    – overactor
    Jul 9, 2015 at 6:52

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