Some of the CC licenses define ShareAlike term:

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.


What does it mean to "build upon"? If image licensed under ShareAlike term becomes a part of some software, does it mean that software was built upon the image and it must become CC? Is it just a graphics on screen that is built upon image? Or is image considered a separate part on its own rights, with software being a medium mentioned by Share term:

Share — copy and redistribute the material in any medium or format

So that it can be used without affecting the software license.

  • Reading older versions of CC might help you understand their intent. With each revision CC got less clear. You should also read the FAQ Jan 15, 2015 at 14:52
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    My understanding of CC is that including a CC image in a software is only a combination and not an adaption, and thus the SA clause does not apply the the software as a whole. (Usual disclaimers, IANAL etc.) Jan 15, 2015 at 14:53
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    "build upon" probably means to "create a derivative work." It's not clear (to me, anyway) whether software that uses art can be classified as a derivative work of that art. It may vary depending on exactly how the art is used. The "conventional wisdom" (read: totally unfounded legal opinion) I've always heard is "if the art can be replaced by equivalent art without affecting the operation of the software, then it's merely data being 'used by' the software (rather than 'combined with')." I have no idea if this argument is true.
    – apsillers
    Jan 15, 2015 at 15:10
  • A good answer to this question might be possible, if it simply laid out the legal complexities of this issue and left the resolution of those complexities to lawyers and judges.
    – apsillers
    Jan 15, 2015 at 15:18
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    Note that the CC "license deed" is not the actual license, but rather a high-level summary of the intent of the license. The actual CC BY-SA 3.0 license is here, and uses the term "adaptation," which it then defines (in a way inspired by the definition of derivative works). CC 4.0 defines "adapted work" as "something in which the licensed stuff is modified in a way that the copyright holder has to give permission for," which is jurisdiction-dependent and basically means "derivative work under local law."
    – cpast
    May 15, 2015 at 21:55

1 Answer 1


If you build something "from scratch," this doesn't apply.

But if you use "Application X" as your starting point, and tweak or "take off" on it, you are likely covered by the same license, even if your end product is rather different.

This is a fine point, to be covered by lawyers, but it could turn on something as simple as whether or not you downloaded Application X to your computer and worked off the copy, or whether you merely "saw" the image on Application X, were "inspired" by it, and developed something from scratch that had a few "coincidental" similarities.

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