If I release music under the Creative Commons 4.0 license, without the ShareAlike provision (CC-BY-NC), do I still have the right to use derivatives of my own music however I want, as the creator of the original piece of music? For example if someone remixes my music and then releases the remix as "all rights reserved", do I still get the right to use their remix since I created the underlying music that is being remixed?

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    I would argue that this is the very point of the share alike provision in the first place. Feb 15, 2021 at 19:23
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    Not quite, @preferred_anon . A SA clause requires the reuser to release, if at all, only under the same license. The original author might want a license that requires the reuser to license back any modified versions to him/her, but allows the reuser to do a general release under a different license. No CC license will do that, but I think some OS licenses will, and if not one could be easily created. Feb 15, 2021 at 23:19
  • At the time, what did you think "release under CC" meant, with or without "SA provision"? How closely did your thoughts correspond either to any law you hope to invoke, or to standard custom and practice in the industry? Quite apart from such mundane considerations, how will you explain to an unmusically-educated court what "derivatives of your music" are? Feb 18, 2021 at 23:01

3 Answers 3


No you don't. There are two copyright holders regarding the derivative work:

  1. yourself, for creating the original.
  2. the other artist, for creating the modified version.

The other artist has received the right to use your original through the CC-BY license, under the condition that they attribute you appropriately. However, you have not received any rights to the other artist's work.


No, you do not

The answer by user amon is correct that there are always two copyrights involved with any derivative work. The copyright of the author (creator) of that work, and the copyright of the source work. The holder of the source work has the right to approve the making of the derivative work, and can refuse permission or charge a fee for granting such permission (assuming that the source copyright is still in force). But once permission has been granted, the holder of the source copyright has no further rights to use the derivative work, unless the holder of the copyright on the derived work grants such permission.

The holder of the copyright on the source work could use a license that requires any creator of a derived work to grant usage rights back to the holder of the original copyright, but no CC license does that specifically. CC licenses with the SA (share alike) clause require that if the reuser distributes a derived work it must be under the same license, but does not require the user to distribute it to anyone, including the original author of the source work.

The question is not clear if the source work was released with a license including the no derivatives (ND) clause. If it had been, any derivative work was unauthorized, and making or distributing it would be copyright infringement. In such a case an infringement suit might result in damages, or an injunction against distributing the derived work, or both, but it would not grant rights to the source author over the derived work, except possibly as part of a settlement.

If the ND clause was not included when the source work was released, then the author of the source work has granted permission to anyone and everyone to make derivative works, and has no particular rights in any such work, except the right to attribution as the author of the original work. That is what all the CC licenses without the ND clause do.

In no case does a CC license give to the creator or copyright holder of the source work any sort of ownership of, or special rights in, a derived work. To get that, a different license would have to be used.



Let's suppose you made a piece of music lasting 5 seconds. Then someone else added another 7 seconds to it, creating a larger work lasting 12 seconds.

You fully own your 5-seconds piece, and can use it as you please. The second author only owns 7 seconds of his 12 second piece, and relies on your license to use the initial 5 seconds. They will have to credit you as the original author, and mention its Creative Commons license. Furthermore, they couldn't for instance use it in a way that is not permitted by your original license. So, supposing you used CC-BY-NC as mentioned above, if the second author wanted to use it in a way not allowed by the NC license, they couldn't do that by themselves. They would need to get permission from you for that (as it's not included in the permission granted by your license).

However, you cannot use the 12 seconds work, as you don't have any permission to use those additional 7 seconds. You would need to receive permission (license) from the second owner.

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    But of the reuiser modified the re;lased music, rather than (or in addition to) adding on to it, the original author would not have the rights to muse any of those modifications. Feb 15, 2021 at 23:14
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    Right. Presenting it as appending 7 seconds was to make it simpler to explain. The second author could as well have modified some random parts of the previous work, and the original author would have no rights on those modifications.
    – Ángel
    Feb 15, 2021 at 23:17
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    Technically, it would be possible that the modifications are so trivial they do not deserve copyright protection (e.g. suppose that we were talking about a text, and the second author simply fixed an obvious orthographic mistake). That would be a completely different scenario, though.
    – Ángel
    Feb 15, 2021 at 23:21
  • True enough, @Ángel In copyright law that isn't a new work at all. Feb 15, 2021 at 23:22

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