Let's say an artist released a photo under a CC licence (for concreteness let's assume the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International). You find the photo interesting and save it for later use, noting the information for later attribution.

Years later you integrate the photo into a commercial work with attribution. In the interim, the artist has removed the photo and the CC licence, and wants you to remove it from your work. Does the artist have any legal rights here?

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    Related question on Open Source: How can I prove that a work was free/libre at some point?
    – unor
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 12:34
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    I think as long as you obtained it while it was out under the CC you're good to use it. Once it's in the public sphere you can take it out, but you cannot prevent use from those who got it legitimately during it's release under the license. I think they'd need to show it was obtained after it it was revoked.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 12:39

1 Answer 1


Short Answer

Based on the facts you supplied, it seems the author's request for removal might be unenforceable.


Section 2.a.1. of the license declares the license is irrevocable.

[Emphasis added]:

Subject to the terms and conditions of this Public License, the Licensor hereby grants You a worldwide, royalty-free, non-sublicensable, non-exclusive, irrevocable license to exercise the Licensed Rights in the Licensed Material to:

A. reproduce and Share the Licensed Material, in whole or in part; and

B. produce, reproduce, and Share Adapted Material.

Irrevocable means:

"Unable to cancel or recall; that which is unalterable or irreversible."

Disclaimer: I am not an attorney. I am not your attorney. So don't rely on my answer for anything. Hire a real attorney if you need help with a legal matter. Never take legal advice from strangers on the internet. Treat all answers on this site the same way you would as if they came from a bunch of strangers at a party who got all their legal information by watching episodes of Boston Legal, The Practice and Ally McBeal. But have lots of opinions they are willing to share on legal questions nevertheless.

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    Keep in mind that there also needs to be some form of proof that the artist published the image under the CC license, which may be gone by now.
    – Peter
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 11:20
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    @Peter in some cases, archive.org might help.
    – o0'.
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 14:17
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    The Internet Archive (and similar services) might help. The copyright holder might concede that the work was published under an appropriate-for-you license at the relevant point in time, but no longer is available under that license. A saved web page might be useful, but by itself doesn't prove that the work was under a specific license at a given time. For future reference, unless the work was taken from a reasonably reliable place with clear revision history (such as perhaps Wikimedia Commons or Stack Exchange), using archive.org's "Save page now" feature may be a good idea.
    – user
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 18:15
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    The one thing I thing that probably exists in perpetuity is some living record of those things posted for public consumption on the internet. That's why it's important to think before you post.
    – gracey209
    Commented Sep 22, 2015 at 21:37

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