Changing my CC license

This blog used to be licensed with a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike license (CC-BY-NC-SA). That changed today when I decided to remove the NC and SA clauses and just make it CC-BY.

As part of the BCcampus open textbook project, I’ve been digging deep into researching the various types of CC licenses. After seeing this chart on the CC website outlining compatibility of CC licenses with each other, I realized that the chances of someone being able to reuse my stuff is virtually nil because of the restrictions I had in place.


The problem is the Share-Alike attribution. When I chose the option to force people to “Share-Alike” (SA) I imagined that this would require people to use ANY CC license for anything they created using my material. I thought this would be a good way to prompt the adoption of CC licenses if someone wanted to use things I create.

What I didn’t realize was that, in fact, what I was forcing them to do was adopt a CC-BY-NC-SA license.  The SA license doesn’t mean Share-Alike with any other of the CC licenses – it means that the license of the adapted work has to match my license exactly.  Therefore, if someone wanted to use my work to create a derivative work (say translate this blog into another language) , they could not license that work with any other license other than a CC BY-NC-SA license and by forcing people to adopt a restrictive CC license, I am actually limiting the reuse of my material. My original good intention of adopting a Share-Alike license to try to promote the use of ANY CC license doesn’t make sense.

As for the NC (Non-Commercial) clause. When I first choose the NC clause, I picked it for 2 reasons. First, I didn’t want people taking my content and selling it – somehow make money off it. Really, I could care less about that anymore. I mean, you’ve read what I write. To think someone would actually pay for this stuff. Heh. I am more than a little embarrassed by the hubris of the 10 year younger me. Besides, I can’t see why people would pay for something they get for free right here.

The second was that I wanted to have SOME kind of recourse (however naive this belief was) that I could use against someone who republished the content of this site to drive traffic to another, unrelated site. It is not an uncommon practice for unscrupulous websites to republish content harvested from sites to drive traffic to another site – a practice known as blog scraping. or splogging (spam blog). I thought that by adopting an NC license that might somehow someday protect me by giving me some kind of legal recourse. Well, truth is, my content gets splogged all the time, and I don’t have the energy or time to try to chase the shadows to even attempt to identify who is doing it. And, again, quite frankly I could care less anymore. In the 10+ years of publishing content on the web, that fear I may have once had has left the station aboard a trainload of meh.

Go ahead. Use and reuse.

CC license compatibility chart from Creative Commons used under Creative Commons Attribution license


Clint Lalonde

Just a guy writing some stuff, mostly for me these days on this particular blog. For my EdTech/OpenEd stuff, check out


6 thoughts on “Changing my CC license

  1. Good point about whether one can charge for print copies of things with NC licenses. That's another ambiguity I hadn't thought of or come across yet. And I am still so lost on the issue of derivatives & mixes and what happens to the licenses then, & keeping track of them. Very, very messy. I can see that dealing with open textbooks is going to have to face this sort of challenge, and I'm interested to see how it works. Will be watching the BC project closely!

    1. Yes, the issue of derivatives is going to be a challenge as faculty begin to modify based on their own needs. Which is why we have been advocating for a straight up CC-BY license to give faculty the most flexibility when revising content.

  2. I went through a long and difficult research process on the ups and downs of NC & SA, and came to the same conclusions as you. I had already decided on CC-BY, just b/c it seemed most open, but hadn't really looked into the issues. When I did, I found they were terribly complex, but I still went with CC-BY. I think the arguments for not using NC are stronger than for not using SA. So a CC-BY-SA by itself might be okay, but CC-BY-NC-SA is, I think, too restrictive. Most of the problem has to do with the ambiguity of what counts as a "commercial" use, and if you don't allow commercial use then you might end up restricting use even for things that aren't obviously making a profit.

    In case you're interested, two posts I did on these issues recently go into some depth on all the issues I found surrounding these two licenses. It's not straightforward, by any means!

    Against NC:

    Against SA:

    1. Thanks for the links, Christine. Excellent posts that delve much deeper into the details of -NC and -SA than I do in my glossed over version here.

      I went down the -NC rabbit hole as well, specifically looking at it through the open textbook project lens. I spent a great deal of time trying to figure out if an NC license on an open textbook might hinder a print-on-demand option (could a student pay a print-on-demand service provider a fee to create a hard copy of an NC open textbook?) While the discussions around the new version 4 license does help clarify, there is still ambiguity on use of NC works. But generally I think we are okay if we decided to offer a print-on-demand service, especially if it is as close to cost recovery as possible.

      The derivative issue is also interesting. As you start making derivatives and mixing resources that have different license types, you can see how licensing can get incredibly complex very quickly. A remixed textbook will probably need some kind of mechanism to keep track of the various license types of resources used in creating the textbook. While it would be wonderful to think everything used would be CC-BY, that is far from the reality.

    1. Yeah. In fact, I almost considered just going all out and license as CC-0 (public domain without having to die first), but decided that I actually kinda like knowing if someone uses my stuff.

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