Creative Commons licenses, for example, and copyright are not mutually exclusive. In fact, it is common practice to use the © symbol on a book's copyright page when using a CC license.

Thus, what is the difference between a copyright and license, and between copyright infringement and violation of the terms of a license?

cf. the § "IP as Contract" of Stephen Kinsella's CC BY-licensed work Against Intellectual Property, in which he shows, inter alia, that licenses are not necessarily mutually binding contracts

  • Permission from a copyright owner to make copies, to publicly distributed copies, etc., is called a license. A copyright infringement can occur when there is no license, or else by violating the terms of a license. Mar 14, 2017 at 18:30

1 Answer 1


Copyright is defined in Title 17 of the US Code and gives exclusive rights to the copyright owner. (17 USC 106)

The copyright owner can provide a licence to let others do things that normally only the copyright owner can do.

Licenses can include conditions for that permission. If you don't follow the conditions, you don't have permission, and thus can't do the things that the license would otherwise allow you to do. You would be violating the owner's copyright if you try to exercise a right granted in the license without following the conditions that the owner requires.

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