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I've seen post(s) on removing a username from a Stack Exchange post, in accordance with CC BY-SA 3.0 -- see, for example, https://meta.stackexchange.com/questions/96732/how-do-i-remove-my-name-from-a-post-in-accordance-with-cc-by-sa-3-0.

My question isn't about Stack Exchange, but about the difference between CC BY-SA 3.0 and 4.0; arXiv (preprint server) uses 4.0, and says that they will not remove material posted to their site. I couldn't find, without going into technical documents that I wouldn't understand, the difference in this respect between 4.0 and 3.0.

It seems to me that if one can remove a name from a Stack Exchange post on 3.0, if arXiv used 3.0, then one would be able to remove a name from an arXiv post; hence there must be a reasonably significant difference between 3.0 and 4.0? Am I correct?

Details can be found on the Creative Commons website:

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The 3.0 license (section 4.a) says:

You must, to the extent practicable, remove from the Adaptation any credit as required by Section 4(c), as requested.

The 4.0 license (section 3.a.3) says:

If requested by the Licensor, You must remove any of the information required by Section 3(a)(1)(A) to the extent reasonably practicable.

There does not seem to be any significant difference between 3 and 4 on this point. Note that both are qualified: "to the extent practicable" or "to the extent reasonably practicable". If a user of the content under a CC-BY-SA license (3 or 4) maintains that removing attribution is not "practicable" or not "reasonably practicable" they don't have to remove it. I suppose a suit could challenge such a claim. I haven't heard of this being done, and CC's caselaw page does not list any such suits.

Note that arXiv says that they will not remove material posted to their site.

arXiv is a repository for scholarly material, and perpetual access is necessary to maintain the scholarly record. As such, arXiv keeps a permanent record of every submission and replacement announced.

arXiv does not say whether or not it will remove only a name, or replace a name with a pseudonym, in response to a request under the CC license. They might argue that the need for a permanent record for scholarly purposes prevents any such change. StackExchange does not have any such policy. Or perhaps arXiv would quietly comply with such a request. I cannot tell from their site. But in any case, this is not a matter of a difference between CC 3.0 and CC 4.0, the author's rights in this respect are essentially the same under each. An author could certainly make such a request. I don't know if arXiv would or would not comply.

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  • I see. So, for example, in this arXiv paper (simply the most recent one at the time of writing), the author could request for her/his name to be removed from this article abstract? (arXiv licensing can be found here) \\ Incidentally, I have no need of doing this myself, I'm just interested :) – mathematician-in-the-making Apr 12 '19 at 15:36
  • @mathematician-in-the-making see my edited answer above. One could ask, but I can't say what the answer would be. – David Siegel Apr 12 '19 at 15:59
  • Thank you for your insight :) – mathematician-in-the-making Apr 12 '19 at 16:01
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Creative Commons maintains a detailed guide to the different versions of their license. Here's what it has to say about how this particular term has changed:

All license versions after version 1.0 require attribution. However, legislation in many countries gives authors the right to control the use of their name in association with their works. Therefore, CC licenses require licensees to remove attribution to the creator at his or her request, where it would otherwise be required to include it. In 2.0, 2.5, and 3.0, credit must be removed from adaptations and collections, to the extent practicable, at the creator’s request. In 4.0, the creator may also request removal of credit from the unmodified work.

So the obligation is actually stronger in 4.0. This is particularly relevant because arXiv is (probably) engaged in the distribution of individual unmodified works rather than a "collection" of works. arXiv is not a journal and does not collect articles into issues, for example. So if they would have used 3.0, they would likely have a stronger argument for not removing names. However, as David Siegel points out, the obligation only attaches "to the extent practicable" or "reasonably practicable," and arXiv may have a colorable argument that removing an author's name is unreasonable for their specific use case.

(Side note/plug: Creative Commons licenses are on-topic on Open Source, which may have more specific expertise for future questions of this nature. But of course they are also on-topic on this site.)

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