Let's assume we have a game where the code is GPL-licensed, and all the resources (like music, textures, etc.) are licensed under the CC-BY-SA license.

Now, the first issue would be that the GPL is not compatible with the CC-BY-SA, but since it only applies when actually linking code, it's okay in this case. Am I right?

The real problem is that, arguably, the game is "built upon" (to use the same terms as the license) the music, textures, etc. So wouldn't the CC license require the code to be released under the CC-BY-SA as well?

  • \$\begingroup\$ Do you know of a game licensed like this, that perhaps we could investigate and/or ask? I just checked on the first game like this that came to mind (PlaneShift) and it has a proprietary license on its art. \$\endgroup\$ – Ricket Oct 30 '11 at 18:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ Well, the most recent example I saw is GeneticInvasion (projects.haxx.es/p/genetic-invasion), the code is GPLv3 but they use CC-BY-SA music. Another one would be Stepmania-SSC (the code is MIT licensed) and they bundle CC-BY-NC-SA (even worse!) default songs, so the 2nd question still applies. \$\endgroup\$ – Artefact2 Oct 30 '11 at 19:55

I am not a Lawyer, but with respect to CC-BY-SA content virally affecting the code:

The CC-BY-SA legal code specifically says

This Section 4(a) applies to the Work as incorporated in a Collection, but this does not require the Collection apart from the Work itself to be made subject to the terms of this License.

And from their definition of Collection (emphasis mine):

"Collection" means a collection of literary or artistic works, such as [...], by reason of the selection and arrangement of their contents, constitute intellectual creations, in which the Work is included in its entirety in unmodified form along with one or more other contributions, each constituting separate and independent works in themselves, which together are assembled into a collective whole. A work that constitutes a Collection will not be considered an Adaptation (as defined below) for the purposes of this License.

So it seems like a game would be considered a Collection rather than an Adaptation, and as specifically stated in their legal code, would not need to be made subject to the terms of CC-BY-SA.


NOTE: I am not a lawyer

Code and artistic assets are completely capable of being distributed under two separate licenses. In fact, the people over at Creative Commons recommend not using their licenses for code because other licenses cover that domain more completely (such as the GPL).


The GPL refers only to the linking of other code with the GPL-licensed code. It does not apply to assets used by the application.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Sure, because the GPL virality relies on "linking" code. But you didn't answer my other question, that is, shouldn't the code be affected by the "virality" of the CC-BY-SA as well since it's built upon something that is CC-BY-SA (ie, the music etc.) ? \$\endgroup\$ – Artefact2 Oct 30 '11 at 19:58
  • \$\begingroup\$ I believe - and IANAL - that if the code and the content can be shown to be reasonably independent of each other, then the licensing issue isn't an issue at all. What this would mean for a given project is that the code can be capable of loading and running other content, and the content can be capable of being loaded and run by other code. \$\endgroup\$ – Maximus Minimus Oct 30 '11 at 21:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Artefact2, to address the second question, it seems like this is extremely fuzzy ground on whether or not the conglomeration of all licenses used (GPL + CC + etc.) are considered to extend their domain to the final product. Could the game be considered to "use" those assets? If so, this doesn't seem to constitute them as a derivative, but to further assess the CC license, could this mean that the game is collection then? These may be better questions for an actual lawyer. \$\endgroup\$ – Dulan Nov 2 '11 at 1:37

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.