Let's say I'm building a personal blog / portfolio site and I'm looking for design inspiration.

So here is an example of a website design concept that is protected by creative-commons-no-derivatives.

Let's say I love design elements contained in this design concept such as the header.

  • Does actually creating the HTML markup violate the no-derivatives clause?

  • Where is the line between common design "elements and stategies" like the header in our example and "style unique to the artist" that is completely protected by the clause?

  • 1
    To the extent the design elements are protected by copyright, the no-derivatives clause would prohibit you from adapting or using them. On the other hand, I have no idea how copyright law applies to these sorts of issues. You would have to consult with a lawyer (who could tell you what the law allows) or the copyright owner (who could give you permission in any case).
    – Anonymous Mathematician
    Sep 20, 2013 at 1:16

1 Answer 1


I'd say it's a very blurry line (and as many similar cases: It's always better to ask a lawyer).

As for your first question, the HTML code (the code itself) would probably not violate the clause. The CSS and images, on the other side, might.

No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.

Looking at the definition of No Derivative, I can easily imagine this being applied to graphics (the author not wanting someone to grab an icon and change a nice pastel tone for a shinny red, for example). However, writing some HTML that imitates the layout sounds like too long of a stretch for me.

Now, this is my personal point of view, but the whole idea behind the copyleft and later the Creative Commons movements is that all knowledge is, in some aspect, actually derivative. Nobody creates something completely new, and nobody owns knowledge of something itself. You can choose from a set of more or less flexible licenses, this one being one of the most popular ones, and it's important that you always try to be faithful to them. But when the line gets blurry (like with HTML in this case), it honestly comes down to what you feel comfortable doing.

From the CC's FAQ:

Whether a modification is considered an adaptation for the purpose of CC licenses depends on the applicable law. Generally, a modification rises to the level of an adaptation when the modified work is based on the prior work but manifests sufficient new creativity to be copyrightable, such as a translation of a novel from one language to another, or the creation of a screenplay based on a novel. Under CC licenses, syncing music in timed-relation with a moving image is always considered an adaptation.

I think it will depend on how much you want to reproduce from it, so to answer your second question, I'd say: In cases like this, it's not so much a matter of licenses, it's a matter of good faith / ethics. If you put enough effort and enough 'of you' to call the final result completely yours, you will be creating something considered completely new, and the derivative part will only be an inspiration.

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