Suppose I wanted to release a game, song, whatever under some creative commons license. (Other than CC-0, which I understand to be another name for public domain) I might do this to explicitly allow derivative works because I'm personally a fan of that sort of thing, but I still want to have exclusive rights to the original work so that I can make money from sales.

Would it be a violation of the license for someone to take the purchased content and make a copy for each of their friends? (or post it on a torrent site) I get the sense that the answer here is "no" from this picture from Wikipedia (I can't embed since it's an .svg), but it's not entirely clear to me. I also don't really have the legalistic literacy or patience to read through the license terms myself.

As sort of a secondary question, if CC doesn't work, is there a license or addendum I could add to a copyright to explicitly allow derivative works while still preserving my rights to the unmodified work? Would I just be better off sticking with a copyright and create an easy avenue for obtaining permission?

1 Answer 1


All the CC licenses permit anyone to use the licensed content, and to make copies of it for others. Some of them permit using it for commercial purposes, others (the ones including the -NC- clause) do not. Some CC licenses permit creating modified versions of the original work (derivative works), others (the ones including the -ND- clause) do not.

I do not know of any standard license which allows users to create and distribute derivative works, but not to distribute the original. The license used by Project Gutenberg permits re-use and re-distribution, but if a fee is charged beyond recouping expenses requires the removal of the PG name and logo.

One problem is that if derivative works are allowed, this would include works which are only trivial modifications to the original, which would have the effect of allowing distribution of the original.

If the main concern is about commercial sales, possibly a CC-NC-SA license would effectively serve the purpose? That allows redistribution, including of derivative works, but forbids commercial reuse or distribution without separate permission, and requires all redistribution to be under the same license.

Otherwise a new license for this situation might have to be created. It is often a good idea to have the assistance of a lawyer with IP expertise in creating a new license, or the wording chosen may have unexpected effects or include unintended contradictions.

Or one could simply place a basic copyright notice along with text such as "Modified versions may be created only with permission from the author. Request permission at [email protected]". However, if the work proves popular, there might be a large volume of requests.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .