Skip to Main Content

Course & Subject Guides

Open Licenses: Creative Commons and other options for sharing your work

Balancing the rights of creators and users. Open licenses grant users some permissions to use and distribute a work, permission not granted by the default "all rights reserved" of copyright.

No Derivatives CC-BY-ND

Creative Commons No Derivatives Logo, equal sign souranded by a circie

The Creative Commons No Derivatives license CC-BY-ND  allows you to take a work released under this license and re-distribute it but you can’t change it. Although this may seems straightforward, what constitutes a derivative work can be complex and is one of the more restrictive license conditions. 

The Creative Commons license uses the term Adapted work, instead of derivative.  For works that are a musical work, performance, or sound recording, it is always considered an adaptation when the work is synchronized with a moving image. The license also prohibits translations, arrangements, or transformations, as well as any adaptation "in a manner requiring permission under the Copyright and Similar Rights held by the Licensor." This can include added the work to a database, using the work for Text Data Mining, or as part of a collected work (e.g. edited volume).

As of Version 4.0 for all CC licenses, including the No Derivatives licenses, allow anyone to make an adaptation of a CC licensed work so long as it is not shared with others. For example, you could create an custom set of readings that include CC-ND works for yourself, but you would not be able to give it to other people or post in on the internet. 

Many people including the author of this guide believe that the No Derivatives License condition is not Open Access. Creative Commons has an interesting blog post on Why Sharing Academic Publications Under “No Derivatives” Licenses is Misguided 

Examples of Derivative Works

A Derivative Work is a new copyrightable work based on one or more preexisting works according to the US Copyright office:

to be copyrightable, a derivative work must be different enough from the original to be regarded as a "new work" or must contain a substantial amount of new material. Making minor changes or additions of little substance to a preexisting work will not qualify the work as a new version for copyright purposes. The new material must be original and copyrightable in itself. Titles, short phrases, and format, for example, are not copyrightable.

US Copyright Office Circular 14: Derivative Works

The paradigmatic example of a derivative work is a motion picture based on a novel. Take for example Sherlock Holmes by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, which has been turned into at least 40 motion pictures. Each movie is a separate and distinct work but the distinct elements of the original characters, as created by Doyle, are still present and in many instances the plot and general narrative sequence is the same as one of more of Doyle's stories.

But a derivative work can also be a collected work or compilation, so long as the collected works include enough original selection, coordination, or arrangement to be more than a mechanical arrangement. An example of a mechanical arrangement is the phone number directory in alphabetical order "white pages."  Examples or derivative works can include a collection of journal articles on a particular topic reprinted as a book, a database the lists stock prices for a curated selection of stocks, or a directory of the best restaurants in a neighborhood.

Some other common examples include: cropping an image, shortening a video, changing colors, making a collage, putting text over an image or video, recording music, syncing sound to a video, translating a work.



Creative Commons FAQ provides some guidance on including unaltered excerpts into a larger work.

The general guidance is that, no derivative work is made of the original from which the excerpt was taken when the excerpt is used to illuminate an idea or provide an example in another larger work. An example of this would be including a figure to table from an CC-BY-ND work to illustrate a concept or provide an example within your article, or as part of a conference presentation.

However, if the inclusion of the excerpt in central to the new work and when combined with other materials in the larger work, one could argue that a new version of the original work is created then this may rise to the level of an adaptation. The Creative Commons FAQ has the following example:  "if a portion of a song was used as part of a new song, that may rise to the level of creating an adaptation of the original song, even though only a portion of it was used and even if that portion was used as-is."

3.0 and earlier licenses are different

Creative Commons International License 4.0 is the current version of the license. As you can tell from the numbering schema this is the 4th iteration of the Creative Commons License. There is at least one significant difference between the No Derivatives 3.0 and 4.0 Licenses.

The 3.0 License contained the following clause:

"Collective Work" means a work, such as a periodical issue, anthology or encyclopedia, in which the Work in its entirety in unmodified form, along with one or more other contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole. A work that constitutes a Collective Work will not be considered a Derivative Work (as defined below) for the purposes of this License.

CC-Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 United States

This clause should enable one to include CC-BY-ND 3.0 items in a compilation, or collective work so as an edited volume or include the material in a database. This clause we removed from the 4.0 License and this could mean that in some instances including a CC-BY-ND work in a collective work would violate license.