Is it OK to mix assets that are Creative Commons 3.0 BY-SA with other assets that are in the Public Domain in the same project? Thanks.

For instance here.

  • \$\begingroup\$ This isn't a question that's specific to game development. You should ask on programmers SE. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Nov 19 '13 at 4:09
  • \$\begingroup\$ Why? There is little programming involved in the project. It's mostly just designing stuff visually with tentative plans on using RPG Maker to make a game. \$\endgroup\$ – posfan12 Nov 19 '13 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ Programmers SE is for higher level questions than programming, general to all programmers. Licenses are not something that's specific to game development, so should be asked on a site that's more general than game development. See this similar question there or this one. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Nov 19 '13 at 4:16
  • \$\begingroup\$ Creative Commons is a content license not a programming license. It applies to artistic assets not source code. \$\endgroup\$ – posfan12 Nov 19 '13 at 4:18
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @posfan12: CC applies just as well to source code as it does to anything else. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Middleditch Nov 19 '13 at 5:07

If you abide by the terms of all of the licenses, sure. Combining a BY-SA work with a public domain work results in a BY-SA work.

What "combining" means might include using them in the a project. It's legally fuzzy whether a whole media like a game is a "derived work" of its individual assets or not and may well depend on how critical a judge or jury deems that asset is to the game.

Safest bet is always to just make everything in-house from scratch.

  • \$\begingroup\$ The assets are fairly atomic. I.e. it's easy to tell who developed what because the assets are individually labeled. \$\endgroup\$ – posfan12 Nov 19 '13 at 4:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ @posfan12: that's not really how the law works in all cases, unfortunately. \$\endgroup\$ – Sean Middleditch Nov 19 '13 at 5:07

Public Domain means either that the copyright has expired and thus it may be used freely or it means that the author relinquished all rights they have to the work as far as legally possible (in some jurisdictions it is impossible to do that). That also means that a PD work can be taken and relicensed under a different license like CC-BY-SA, GPL, BSD, MIT or a proprietary work. PD is not viral.

When your alterations to a PD work have enough merit to be eligible for copyright themself, these altered versions lose their PD status. Example: Beethoven's Symphony Number 5 is public domain (author died more than 70 years ago) but an audio recording of an orchestra playing it is not public domain, because their interpretation is eligible for copyright. A sheet displaying the notes can also be copyrighted, because the layouting and design is eligible for copyright, even though the content is not.

It would, however, be fair for end-users and licensees of your work when you would state which parts are unaltered from public domain sources so they know that they can reuse them individually without having to adhere to CC-BY-SA.


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