I have a website (hosted in the US) where users can publish their content. Per my terms of service, the users license their content to me so that I have the right to

  • use,
  • copy,
  • cache,
  • publish,
  • display,
  • distribute,
  • modify,
  • store, and
  • create derivative works of

this content.

Do these rights allow me to license this content under a public copyright license? Or would the list in my ToS have to explicitly contain "to (publicly) license"?


Currently, I would display a user-generated poem (authored and uploaded by the user named Matsuo Bashō) like this:

Old pond
frogs jumped in
sound of water

Author: Matsuo Bashō

If I’m allowed to license the poem, I would display it like this:

Old pond
frogs jumped in
sound of water

Author: Matsuo Bashō
License: CC BY-SA 4.0


The stated terms listed do not give you the right to use a CC commons license with respect of the work.

More broadly nothing therein gives you the right to let others make copies or redistribute the work. Copyright vests in the creator and the creator has not been required to give you the right to put the work into the public domain.

To the extent these are "boilerplate" terms and conditions they appear to me to be designed to protect the website operator from liability with respect of publishing the work rather then give them any rights to ownership - specifically they do not give you ownership rights - which are required for setting a license.

  • 2
    You do not necessarily need ownership rights, the right to sub-license specific rights would be sufficient. – George White Nov 29 '19 at 21:59

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.