Creative Commons produce a family of related licenses. Most of these are Open licenses (not recommended for software) and are clearly on topic. A couple are not Open, but are very closely related to the Open licenses. Are these non-Open licenses on topic here, because they are members of a family of licenses, most of which are Open?

  • CC0: Dedicates to public domain, with a permissive fallback license where that is impossible. The only CC license recommended for software. Free & Open. On topic.
  • CC BY (Attribution): Attribution required. Free & Open. On topic.
  • CC BY-SA (Attribution, Share Alike): Attribution required. Copyleft. Free & Open. On topic.
  • CC BY-ND (Attribution, No Derivatives): Attribution required. No derivative works. Neither Free nor Open, but approved of by the FSF for works of opinion.
  • CC BY-NC (Attribution, Non-Commercial): Attribution required. No commercial use. This counts as "discrimination against a field of endevour" and makes this a non-Free and non-Open license.
  • CC BY-NC-SA (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike): Neither Free nor Open.
  • CC BY-NC-ND (Attribution, Non-Commercial, No Derivatives): Neither Free nor Open.

The NC and ND licenses are off topic by the strict definition, but they are very closely related to a whole suite of on-topic and widely used licenses. Should the Creative Commons NC and ND licenses be on topic here?

I previously argued in an Area 51 discussion that they should be. I'm less convinced of that now, but I do think this is a point which should be covered.


5 Answers 5


The Non Commercial clause (and Non derivate if we are at it) are against the spirit of open source. NC is discriminating and ND is preventing modifications. So, to the letter, they are not connected to open source.

In detail, the ND-clause violate rule 3 of the Open Source Definition:

  1. Derived Works

The license must allow modifications and derived works, and must allow them to be distributed under the same terms as the license of the original software.

The NC-clause violates rule 6:

  1. No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

Practically though, the Creative Commons licenses are based on the idea of Open source and extend on the theme while adapting it to art. Other CC-licenses clearly are in the spirit of Open Source. So some could argue, these licenses are part of the wider OS-community.

So it is up to us to decide, what we like more I think. I'm on the fence currently, will look out for more arguments to either side.

  • 1
    I have to type license way too often in this SE.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 16:51
  • The FSF does actually approve of the ND licenses, though some argue they shouldn't.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 24, 2015 at 17:29
  • 4
    As a site we shouldn't be trying to push any specific ideology, no matter how noble it may be. Keep the NC/ND questions. Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 0:31
  • 2
    Open Source is an ideology (and a form of licenses). The site is about Open Source. While CC-SA and CC-BY clearly represent OS-licenses, CC-ND and CC-NC do not. But as I wrote, this is a call from the community, but if we decide to include NC and ND, the focus is broader than Open Source.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 8:39
  • But then I think another question to ask here would be, should we just allow open source?
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:19
  • 1
    @Zizouz212: That's exactly the question behind the question about NC and ND, and it implies the question: if we allow stuff beyond open source, what is the focus of the site?
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:28
  • There seriously isn't enough discussion about scope, imo... :/
    – Zizouz212
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:29
  • @Mnementh. See, I'd disagree. The ND licenses are open, and are definitely on topic, with no debate whatsoever. The NC licenses are the debatable ones.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:48
  • @TRiG: No, the NC licenses definitely don't conform to the Open Source Definition, they discriminate against fields of endeavour: opensource.org/osd
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 11:52
  • We appear to be in violent agreement. ND licenses are Free & Open and on topic. NC licenses are non-Free & non-Open, and we're now discussing whether or not they should be on topic.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:21
  • @TRiG: No, no, ND is proprietary, it violates rule 3 of the Open Source Definition: Derived works.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:23
  • Hmm. Wikipedia agrees with you, which surprises me. However, the FSF itself uses CC BY-ND for their website. I can't find any analysis of the license by the OSI. I'm going to ask a question on Main.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:32
  • But the FSF doesn't claim it is free.
    – Mnementh
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:37
  • 1
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 12:44
  • And it looks like you're absolutely right. Shall edit this question.
    – TRiG
    Commented Jun 25, 2015 at 13:21

I do think they are on topic. Explaining exactly how NC licenses work, how they differ to other licenses, and what their OSI relationship is seem excellent questions to me


This is just a statement of opinion, and I'm not even sure that it's my opinion. As I said in the question, I argued this point on Area 51, and strongly believed it then, but now I don't know what I think.

They should be on topic, because, while they are neither Free nor Open themselves, they are very closely related to and share a lot of verbiage with and are often used in tandem with and are part of the same licence suite as several well-known Free & Open licences.

Free & Open

  • CC0: While this is part of the same license suite, it is quite distinct in wording.
  • CC BY (Attribution)
  • CC BY-SA (Attribution, Share Alike)

Non-Free & Non-Open (but nonetheless On Topic)


Open Source doesn't just apply to software, but it applies to everything pretty much. Creative Commons are mostly applied to creative works: literature, music, graphic design...

I believe that questions about Creative Commons should be on-topic for the following reasons:

  • Many licenses have relationships with the OSI, CC0 tried to get open source approval.
  • Creative Commons licenses are still licenses that are used throughout the world. They should apply here.

In the end, I don't see why we can't have them within the scope of the site. I can see that they will play a big role, and I think it'd be great to have them here.


I agree with Martijn's answer but would like to add one more point: it is somewhat common to dual license a work under the CC BY-SA and CC BY-NC licenses, which allows you to use and modify a work with the choice of either making it non-commercial, or to sharing your changes under the same licence. The BY-SA license is definitely on-topic, so to have a blanket rule against NC licenses would mean questions couldn't be asked about these dual licensing situations.

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