I'm using some images (mainly as backgrounds, but otherwise I may as well) for my a website I'm making.

Does the 'share alike' clause effect the license of my website (the code, html, css, javascript, etc)?


2 Answers 2


No. Your website can be considered a 'medium through which you share the image', so you can use and share the image, while not sharing your own code.

But you DO have to share the image, and share any modifications you make to it. So if you're using a forest photo and stylize it or draw creatures in, you MUST allow other to use that image. And of course, you have to include proper attribution, so it'll affect your design/layout/sitemap a bit.

  • 2
    This leads to a philosophical question: Does this mean that if i overlay a transparent layer on top of the image then I do not need to share the changes? What if i print my advert on a transparency and overlay the share alike image? How far can i stretch the concept?
    – joojaa
    Mar 21, 2016 at 12:04
  • That @joojaa sounds like a question for a lawyer! ;)
    – Cai
    Mar 21, 2016 at 12:18
  • @CAI: Or for Open Source ;)
    – unor
    Mar 21, 2016 at 13:52
  • @joojaa If you overlay a transparent layer in HTML, you're not editing the image. If you're printing on semitransparent paper, you're not modifying the image - although it will be tricky to recapture it accurately. Regardless, you still have to include accreditation to the original image. ___The big important part is whether or not you keep all the IP objects separate or not. In a website, it's super easy to isolate an image. In a print ad, all layers are merged so it's much harder to isolate, so you might have to allow reprints/modification. Then again, who wants ads + credit links? Mar 22, 2016 at 8:39
  • @PixelSnader My point is that courts of law do not read licenses like they were code, trying to circumvent a licensing requirement does not necessarily work as straightforwardly as you claim. So since we are not lawyers its hard to say how it would be interpreted.
    – joojaa
    Mar 22, 2016 at 8:47

Collection vs derived work

TL;DR: my gut feeling is that it would be fine if you attribute the images on the caption, but I haven't found absolute confirmation, but the distinction between collection and derived work might be worth looking into

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/48375/using-images-with-cc-by-sa-license-in-slides-or-a-thesis/48382#48382 is for the image in book/thesis, which I believe is analogous for the game case.

In CC By-SA 3.0, there was clear distinction between "derived" and "collective" work, and it was explicitly mentioned that if you include an image in a book, the book is a "collective work", not derived, and does not need to be CC By-SA. So the image in game might be analogous.

"Collection" means a collection of literary or artistic works, such as encyclopedias and anthologies, or performances, phonograms or broadcasts, or other works or subject matter other than works listed in Section 1(f) below, which, by reason of the selection and arrangement of their contents, constitute intellectual creations, in which the Work is included in its entirety in unmodified form along with one or more other contributions, each constituting separate and independent works in themselves, which together are assembled into a collective whole. A work that constitutes a Collection will not be considered an Adaptation (as defined below) for the purposes of this License.

This was somewhat tested in US court for an Atlas at Drauglis v. Kappa Map Group, LLC where a 2.0 image was used as a cover of an Atlas, with attribution on the back cover, and no infringement was found.

However, it is hard for me to be sure if the "a single image in book/sofwtare case" is actually a collection or not. Can a collection have a single item? Are the icons of your UI a collection? Intuitively it does not feel like it, since their main goal is not to showcase the items, but rather to integrate into your work.

Also, in the case of a background website image, it does slightly further blur the line between derived and collected in my opinion, as it starts to feel more integrated into the website itself than a collection. But my gut feeling is that as long as you attribute it on every page somehow, it would be OK.

In 4.0 the term "collective work" was dropped, and things became even less clear, although most people are guessing that hasn't changed, although I could not find clear evidence. https://opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/7022/using-cc-by-sa-music-in-a-podcast/7036#7036 suggests that this distinction in 4.0 is simply delegated to your local law, or in other words, as a lawyer, and kind of reduces the usefulness of a license in the first place. The collective work wiki page has comments on it for several countries.

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