Specific context:

  • I am in the United States as is the owner of the work.
  • The work is licensed under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0

Someone has digitized a public domain reference dictionary and posted it on the internet under CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0. It is in a format where the entire contents of the dictionary are in a single web page.

I would like to make a searchable version of this dictionary (it is very hard to navigate in a single web page). In this case, I would be providing a web page that contains a search bar, and the results would be unmodified excerpts from the original digitized version corresponding to the entry being requested.

Does this break the terms of CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0?

1 Answer 1


If we subtract the public domain aspect of the situation, CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 means that you may not "Share" any "Adapted Materials". Share means what you think it means: you can adapt materials for yourself, you cannot share (redistribute) that adaptation. "Adapted materials" is material "translated, altered, arranged, transformed, or otherwise modified in a manner requiring permission under the Copyright and Similar Rights held by the Licensor". No you may not, if you are talking about material protected by copyright.

Material that is simply digitized does not gain copyright protection from being digitized, see Bridgeman v. Corel. So if a work was un-creatively digitized and was in the public domain, then it does not become re-protected by the act of scanning. However, if the work was creatively digitized, even minimally, then that new work is protected by copyright.

  • So, basically, copyright status depends on whether courts will find digitizing creative? Author did put all dictionary on a single page as opposet to original multiple pages, and if he would claim that it was done with purpose of letting browsers built-in search work on a whole dictionary at once, could it be considered a creative digitizing? Jul 29, 2023 at 8:07
  • Motivation isn't relevant, what matters is exactly what was does. Was it stuck on a copier-scanner and mindlessly converted to pdf? That is not "creative".
    – user6726
    Jul 29, 2023 at 14:03

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