Remixing CC Share-Alike Content, License Implied (likely not)

Everybody (well maybe not everyone) likes a good tussle with Creative Commons Licenses, here is my tossing something into the waters.

If I remix something that carries a Share-Alike license, then is it implied what I makefrom it carries that license? No, I do not think so, but I could not share it under any other license, right?

I was reminded of this when my good colleague @kenbauer posted a nice share (yes, in the fediverse!) of an old link of mine

The link was something I had written working on a 2014 DML Research Hub project on Connected Courses where participants contributed reflections from their own blogs syndicated into the project site (Ken still uses this approach well).

Blogging Like a Connected Courses Champion was meant to be a few (non-technical) suggestions to guide our blogging participants. As I like to do, I include in my posts some images to work as metaphors.

For this one, I had found a perfect on in flickr, CC licensed, of a young girl leaping in front of a stop sign. I had modified the STOP sign to read BLOG, that was my remix (I still enjoy this image):

I would now give myself maybe a C- or worse on my simple attribution:

modified from creative commons licensed (BY-NC-SA) flickr photo by Lotus Carroll

For TASL (Title, Author, Source, License), I list them, but the only link to the image is from the image (and not even available any more). I also did not write who did the remix/modification, nor did I reiterate that what I created is licensed the same.

Now to me, any bit of attribution is better than none, but we can always do better.

I know now how I could do it better, but what about if I ask you, the people reading this post, how can it be done better? And clichés on assumptions aside, I cannot really say this implies my remixed version carries the same license, right?

C’mon, reply and play the CC license attribution debate game! (Alan will try anything to elicit replies here)

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@cogdog One thigt I would perhaps add when creating a derivative work (the term my lawyer friends drilled into me and now I rarely use “remix”, which could also be a “collective work”, which may have different attribution rules):

What kind of modification did you make? Did you crop it? Tweak the colors? Was it more transformative than that?

Creative Commons Wiki has a good article “best practices for attribution” which has sections “good attribution for material you modified slightly” and “good attribution for material from which you created a derivative work” – see good examples there.

Also, we have folks here at OEG Connect such as @Jennryn who is the expert teaching the Creative Commons Certificate – perhaps she can point us to examples / resources that might be useful, or DOs and DON’Ts, and mistakes she has been encountering?

Thanks Jan, i do agree (and will start using) “derivative work” – since most of my mucking around with images is more the Photoshop fiddling, like in this case just changing the letters on the sign. Pretty minor.

And yes, the CC Wiki you linked is my usual reference for TASL, but I forgot they had all the examples.

I do see from the examples that they give some indication of what was changed, and reference both the license the original was shared under, and what license the derivative is shared. My original attribution was pretty sub grade!

Upvote of @jan’s mention of (and therefore implicit endorsement … ok, maybe a stretch, but I’ll take whatever I can get) of the Creative Commons Certificate: I took that course the first time it was out of beta and thought “every academic should take this course.” From which there was the inevitable corollary "I guess they need a lot more facilitators to make that possible… so I trained up and have been facilitating as many sections as I can since then!
Also totally agree with @jan’s mention of the CC wiki article “best practices for attribution” and his mention that you really are supposed to give some description of what you’ve done when adapting someone else’s CC-licensed work.
But let me make one high-level point: the law is rife with what philosophers call “speech acts” (see the wonderfully titled “How to Do Things with Words” by JL Austin): utterances which do something. You could say that my showing up every day to sit in an office or work in a factory implicitly means that I am an employee and the company owes me fair compensation and a safe workplace and paid vacation time, etc., but instead we have a contract which states the details clearly. And before giving testimony in court, one has to swear to tell the truth!
I come down very firmly on the side that one absolutely should give a full and formal CC licensing statement on any work which is an adaptation of an SA-licensed work: it makes clear and correct the formal status of the work.
So legally a licensing statement is a requirement. According to social norms, it is the appropriate thing to do. And finally, it is practical: if someone goes to copy or adapt your work, they will want a clear statement that your work is an adaptation of some prior work, and their full attribution will mention both creators, the changes made, and the common license.
Shameless self-promotion: I’m giving a webinar for Open Oregon on closely related subjects called Awesome Attributions and Lovely Licensing Statements: How OER Practitioners Can Use Creative Commons Licenses With Style and Substance on December 2nd – I think even non-Oregonians are welcome, see the link for details/registration.

In the interest of generating discussion and aiming to encourage others to ask questions, I admit my example was a gently lobbed softball. It’s over 8 years old, and was used 2 years before I started working on a project at Creative Commons that became your certificate.

Like many things, my practice hopefully has shown an arc of improvement since then. I’d say there might be a fifth letter in TASL for SA, maybe an “H” for how it was modified.

It seems most often the attribution is tied to the legal requirement. We don’t want to be on the wrong law side. And the practical is very…practical. A well written attribution helps someone else down the line if they choose to reuse either the source or my derivative (see Jan! you had an effect).

I like to think more about the importance of social norms, or more, what the signals–it demonstrates to others your support, belief for a public commons, and maybe, offers encouragement for others to do the same. This is why I attribute CC0 even if the license says I do not have to or my own works (which I do not “need” permission), the visibility of attribution makes visible one’s act of gratitude and belief in openness.

Thanks for sharing the Open Oregon webinar, I will be there! If I infer,it suggests that there is room for creative expression in attribution, that it maybe need not be so formulaic like citations?

I’d sure like to see/share examples of Awesome and Lovely attributions others have seen, there in the webinar or here in OEG Connect.

Hello @cogdog @poritzj …I am finding your discussion very timely. In fact, yesterday I submitted an article for review in a scholarship of teaching and learning journal exploring this very topic! I built some of my argument on the scholarship of citation practices as a bifurcation of attribution practices. The original draft, which I substantially added to for the submission, came from the work I completed for the Creative Commons certificate course over two years ago (i.e. I took advantage of my current Research and Study Leave to do the reading/writing required for a more in-depth examination). I am curious to see what the reviewers think - a few OER articles previously published with this journal so some awareness I believe.

I have registered for Jonathon’s presentation on Dec 2. I have also examined through self-study OER artefacts the provenance of an image uploaded to wikimedia/wikipedia. This lineage of attribution chains was surprising and unexpected yet added to the complexities that attributions of open assets may bring. Here is the link to the article: Open Pedagogy and Transdisciplinary Thinking: Making Connections Through a Visual Artefact Self- Study | The Open/Technology in Education, Society, and Scholarship Association Journal

I did not write about the complexities that the attribution string from the artefact study highlighted, although from your posts, I can see that is an oversight. I will add something around this topic if/when I am asked for revisions.


Very much of interest @connieb will check your article for sure

Note (replying to @cogdog) that all of the CC 4.0 licenses (not just SA) require you say what you modified in the attribution statement:

You must also indicate if you have modified the work—for example, if you have taken an excerpt, or cropped a photo. (For versions prior to 4.0, this is only required if you have created an adaptation by contributing your own creative material, but it is recommended even when not required.) It is not necessary to note trivial alterations, such as correcting a typo or changing a font size. Finally, you must retain an indication of previous modifications to the work.

Modifications and adaptations must be indicated

In the 4.0 license suite, licensees are required to indicate if they made modifications to the licensed material. This obligation applies whether or not the modifications produced adapted material. As with all other attribution and marking requirements, this may be done in a manner reasonable to the means, medium, and context. For example, “This section is an excerpt of the original.” For trivial modifications, such as correcting spelling errors, it may be reasonable to omit the notice.

Interesting, @connieb! Are you willing to share a preprint of your recently submitted article? I’d love to see it!


Thanks for that reminder! While Shana & @Jennryn did mention it during our bootcamp, there’s a strong tendency to focus on TASL. Maybe we need TASLM? MASTL? STLAM?

(Related to CC-focused threads, these days: widespread practice of properly identifying modifications would likely help “solve copyright”.)

Thanks @cable I am not even sure what I was thinking when I suggested modifications were for SA licensed content only! Even with the differences across license versions, the recommendation here seems most useful:

Even when not required, licensees are encouraged to indicate the material has been modified, and ideally (when reasonable) to describe or specify the changes made.

I deliberately chose my own example above I knew to be not a model, and having some progression in practice has been useful. Maybe it would help to collect more examples of modification statements in addition to the best practice ones? (not sure how if more are used in Certification).

In a more recent post a year ago on a little hack I used to force Google Images to return CC licensed results I modified an image of an old school amplifier with the attribution

Revox A720 Digital FM Tuner pre-amplifier flickr photo by touhotus shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license modified by Alan Levine to put CC on the display, change the brand name from Revox to Google Images, and modify the knob labels

While I have not asserted a license on this adaptation, all my sites have a footer indicating:

Unless otherwise indicated all photos, animated gifs, remixes, and mangled words are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

I feel better about this one-- and less than seeking a stamp of approval on being “right”-- I’d sure like to see examples of how others tackle describing modifications, especially in more than image content.

I peeked around the internet a bit, another basic example is found in Chapter 11 of the BC Campus Open textbook Adaptation Guide (and replicated in its derivatives elsewhere) – it’s pretty simple and looks hypothetical.

Spotted another (again a hypothetical example) in the Syngergist, where it states something is a derivative, but no “how”

As @connieb notes Wikimedia Commons does some nifty feats in tracking an image modified from an earlier Commons work, here is one of a sparrow that looks like it has just been cropped, but merely gives the credit, no “how”

And ironically trying searches on “CC” and “modified by” I landed on one of my own from the H5P Kitchen project also CC license related content

Again, I can still see I might be missing elements in the attribution statement!

Share some attributions?? Ideally, not examples from training sessions, but actual ones in OER use

Thanks for sharing that segment of the longer Adam Neely video The Grotesque Legacy of Music as Property (saving to watch later). And interesting to see in his captions a link to his credited sources.

Besides the question of what it would take to upend copyright law (!) I do wonder, and ask of you as musician, if it is quite that easy to cite sources for a musical piece. Yes, it seems doable for sampling, covers, but you get into some contentious zones when there is a question of similarity to previous songs versus influence. I’m thinking of the breaking down of music creation demonstrated in Song Exploder that is can look more complex than citing sources. If you create something can you always identify sources?

That’s where the plagiarism comparison seems harder to apply in music. Or maybe not?

@cogdog I like your suggestion of creating a list of common modification statements. I share with my colleagues the Best Practices for Attribution and to have a companion page for modifications would be helpful to those new to open licensing.

Citing more sources would be a start. Especially, as you say, with samples and covers.

In a way, it’s like feeding this kind of thing as you publish stuff:
Discover Music via Samples, Cover Songs and Remixes | WhoSampled

And/or, it could be close to “forking”, in the GitLab sense. Yes, Wikimedia Commons could serve as a preeminent example… and improved in terms of UX.

I found this older post insightful:
Building on Shazam tech, Apple will pay artists and producers for tracks in DJ mixes - CDM Create Digital Music

(And I’m proud of myself for finding it! I knew it was from about a year ago and I remembered where I was when I responded to it. In the end, browsing through my comments on Disqus got me to the right place.)

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The one about Shazam to identify DJ mixes on Apple music reminds me of Legitmix…

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Legitmix is/was new to me, had to look it up gone in 2016!

I’m eager to see some more examples of attributions that include descriptions of modifications. And another reminder of an upcoming Dec 2 webinar from Open Oregon on Awesome Attributions and Lovely Licensing Statements

On my own blogging, I often spend as much time finding, creating the image than writing (hence my typos), but aim to always provide attributions for the featured image at the end. I am not always consistent, sometimes I end up sharing how I found an image, other times I go on about what U was trying to illustrate, and here is an example of how looking for information about an image opened up another door of curiosity (bottom of post)=

I am not offering this is any kind of model, but to suggest as well, beyond satisfying the terms of a license, we have a lot of freedom or possibility (well in my own blog I do) to add more than just a legal statement.

Thanks for the cue! Can’t recall hearing about Legitmix though I’ve lived in Ottawa when the company still functioned.

Funnily enough, I do remember news about Vodkow, from Omid McDonald’s next venture (Dairy Distillery, in Almonte, Ontario).

Hello again,

Because of the great discussions here about attribution, I am thinking that I need to write a second article- I will add it to my list of possible things to write.

And @poritzj I sent a preprint to your gmail email. Not sure where in the review process the article is so this seemed the best option at this point in the process (it is an open access journal).