How have different license fees established

OER - material for everyone

Shortly after the creation of the Creative Commons Initiative, discussions were held about how CC licenses could be made usable worldwide. On the one hand, this resulted in so-called ported license versions, which not only adapt to the legal system of certain countries in terms of language but also in terms of content. On the other hand, license versions have been established that are intended to be usable internationally.

Over the years, the CC Initiative has continuously developed, changed and modernized its licenses. The current version, "CC Public License Version 4.0" (CCPL4), was released on November 26, 2013. The CC Public License versions 3 (CCPL3) and CCPL4 differ in several respects, i. H. they contain subtle, albeit often important, differences in the details. [1]

The CC licenses were originally developed against the background of US copyright law. Nevertheless, they were not intended as a pure US project, but as an international initiative to promote the world's cultural commons. Soon after their first publication, the increasing worldwide interest in CC licenses sparked a discussion about the need for further license versions adapted to the legal systems of other countries. [2] In 2003 CC started an international license porting project called "Creative Commons International". "Porting" in this sense means not only the translation, but also the linguistic and legal adaptation of the provisions to a specific legal system. The aim was to adapt the CC licenses to numerous legal systems worldwide and to make them enforceable and usable in these legal systems. [3] In addition to these ported versions, CC now also offers international versions of their licenses, so-called non-ported / generic versions. [4]

The legal language and legal requirements vary from country to country. Licenses based on US law may be partially invalid in other parts of the world. This applies, for example, to the disclaimer of liability and warranty in the original US CC licenses, which is invalid under German law and, if in doubt, also European consumer protection law. [5] If a license clause is invalid, complex questions arise. Such situations can create legal uncertainty that could prevent organizations and individuals from using the license in the first place. [6]

For this and other reasons, the CC project set up a network of member organizations that port the licenses to their respective jurisdictions. The CC Licenses Version 3 (CCPL3) have been ported to more than 60 jurisdictions.

Interestingly enough, CC has now changed its attitude towards porting. No license porting is currently foreseeable for the CCPL4. In the CCPL4 introductory communication, the initiative states that the CCPL4 licenses do not have to be ported. In the current FAQ version, CC explains:

"As of version 4.0, CC advises against ported versions and has suspended new porting projects for an indefinite period until 2014 [this notice has not been adapted to this day, author's note]. At this point, CC will re-evaluate the future necessity of porting. [ ...] We recommend that you use an international license of version 4.0. This is the most modern version of our licenses, which was developed after detailed consultation with our global member network and formulated in such a way that it is internationally valid. There are currently no ports of 4.0, presumably there will be only a few, if any, in the future ”(own translation). [7]

It can be doubted that a license can be fully valid worldwide. At the moment, however, it seems unlikely that the license porting project will continue, even if many rightsholders might prefer to use a license that is not only translated into their native language but also adapted to their legal system. It is therefore likely that many will continue to use the CCPL3 licenses for at least a while. This is to be expected especially with larger projects in which many authors are involved and a decentralized licensing system. If the license is to be changed for numerous works and contributions, e.g. B. in a newer version or a different license type, all rights holders must agree. This could prove to be quite difficult as CC licenses, unlike some FOSS licenses, do not contain an "Any later version" clause. [8]

While it is understandable that licensors would prefer a license that is adapted to their language and jurisdiction, the answer to the question of whether ported versions are beneficial depends on many complex considerations. Ultimately, it depends on the case at hand. Here are just a few brief comments on aspects that should always be taken into account.

At first glance, for example, a French rights holder might find it advantageous to use the ported French CC license for his works. First of all, a license is linguistically easier to understand in one's own mother tongue. [9] It is also easier to assess the legal implications if the license is based on the laws of your own country. In addition, the French license contains a choice of law clause, according to which the license agreement and its interpretation are subject to French law. [10] This rule simplifies the legal relationship between multinational licensees and the licensor because it defines a particular legal system as the applicable law. Without a choice of law clause, the identification of the applicable law can prove to be extremely complex, as this can change depending on the nationality of the respective licensee or his place of residence. [11]

On the other hand, one should bear in mind that ported licenses can lead to legal uncertainties on the part of many users. Foreign users will often not understand a French language license and they will also not be familiar with French law. The definition of a specific language version and - because of the choice of law clauses in the ported licenses - can also have a negative effect on the exploitation and use of the work. Since the licensor wanted to promote the use, such obstacles also affect his interests. [12] That is why the international / non-ported CC licenses with their "multinational approach" have their advantages especially for online content. They are also an advantage in multinational multi-author projects. For Wikipedia, for example, it would make no sense to use a ported license. In many cases, this would mean that both licensors and licensees would have to deal with a foreign legal system. [13] For such projects it is better if the applicable law is determined according to private international law, even if this is complex. In case of doubt, this would mean that either the home law of the licensor or the licensee would apply to the license agreement.


The international / unported licenses have been translated into different languages. This is especially true for the CCPL3 licenses. The first official translations of CCPL4 licenses are also already available.

Ported and unported or different language versions for edits

A work that has been modified several times may be subject to different license versions in a later version, even if it was originally published under an SA license. The SA license allows the editor to use not only the original, but also a compatible license for his version. Compatible licenses are e.g. B. Ported versions of the same license. In addition, the arranger could choose to publish their version of the work under a later version of the same license. The editor of a work that was originally published under CC BY-SA 3.0 could publish his edited version of the work under CC BY-SA 4.0. If the original license was a non-ported CC BY-SA 3.0 license, you could use e.g. B. a German or French CC BY-SA 3.0 license can be selected.

It should be remembered that every modification of a work also contains the original work. From a legal point of view, the processor can only license the changes he has made; the unmodified portions of the work continue to be licensed from the author of the "original" under the original license. This means that the editor cannot re-license his version of the work and place it with all its components under a different license. If the license does not provide a solution to this problem, this could lead to the confusing situation that the user of a repeatedly changed work has to comply with different licenses at the same time.

CCPL4 contains a new rule that offers a simple solution to this problem: The user of an edited work is only bound to the (last) "editor's license" that was attached to this version of the work. [14] Previous licenses that were valid for previous versions of the work become invalid. [15]