How does a Creative Commons Share-Alike license on an image affect a web design that image is used in?
April 7, 2011 5:12 AM   Subscribe

I have used a photo that is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike license as a background image in a WordPress theme. How much of the theme needs to be shared-alike?

The photo was used in the following way:
  1. A modified version of the photo was created (the modified version tiles better than the original).
  2. The modified photo was included in a web page design (by referencing it as a background image using CSS).
  3. The web page design was used as the basis for a WordPress theme.
How much of this would be considered a 'derivative work' for the purposes of the CC license on the original photo? Just the modified version of the photo? Or the entire WordPress theme?

I can imagine arguments for both extremes, and I'm guessing that this is not clear-cut under the law, but similar situations must have come up before.

(As an additional wrinkle, if it makes any difference: the PHP parts of the WordPress theme need to be licensed under the GPL in order to comply with the GPL license that WordPress itself is licensed under.)
posted by chrismear to Law & Government (4 answers total)
Best answer: My guess is that this is the section applicable:
(IV) when You distribute, publicly display, publicly perform, or publicly digitally perform the Work, You may not impose any technological measures on the Derivative Work that restrict the ability of a recipient of the Derivative Work from You to exercise the rights granted to that recipient under the terms of the Applicable License. This Section 4(b) applies to the Derivative Work as incorporated in a Collective Work, but this does not require the Collective Work apart from the Derivative Work itself to be made subject to the terms of the Applicable License.
I think the modified photo is the derivative work, while the web page design is the collective work it is incorporated into. That means you must allow people to download the modified photo, but you don't have to CC the web page design.
posted by babbageboole at 5:36 AM on April 7, 2011 [1 favorite]

A Very similar question points to the CC FAQ.
posted by rhizome at 10:36 AM on April 7, 2011

If it were me, I'd go to the original image creator and ask for a GPL license or get a different license. They are able to relicense under any license they want (if they have the desired to)
posted by bottlebrushtree at 11:44 AM on April 7, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the input, everyone (and apologies for taking so long to get back on this question). We will indeed be getting in touch with the photo's creator to check that they're happy with our use, but it was good to get some specific references on this aspect of the CC-SA license.
posted by chrismear at 5:45 AM on April 19, 2011

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