I would like to know if the following situation would be legal.

Let's say I take some pictures on wikipedia, that are licensed under CC-BY-SA license. Then I would like to photoshop them, and use it as art in a (perhaps commercial) game.

According to the Creative Commons licence, it is legal to use the content "for any purpose, even commercially". So I was thinking about creating a web page where I would attribute each picture to the original creator, and publish the photoshoped picture under the same license (even if it would be almost useless for anyone).

Would it be legal? Or would I need to publish the entire game under creative commons license?


http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0/ according to this website you can use it commercially but it needs to have same license, see the sharealike. i don't know about game but website will be i think totally legal, if you of course upload edited image with cc license

but please ask someone else too. I'm not expert in licenses

  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks! The share-alike condition is confusing, would it apply to the modified pictures (which I have no objections to share), or to the game itself (which I would like to sell on smartphones, or get ads revenue) ? \$\endgroup\$ – Benoit_Plante Jan 19 '15 at 21:01
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    \$\begingroup\$ Games and images with licenses is really pain in the bum. I really recommend to tell your friend to make art for you if you aren't good designer. Im making most of my art myself because its just the pixel art. Try searching for opengameart. Its a great website for game art and has lots of things \$\endgroup\$ – Brsgamer Jan 19 '15 at 21:05
  • \$\begingroup\$ Yeah, my game is still at conceptual stage, so this discussion is still theoretical. I plan to make most of my art myself, but as many levels would be in another country, my plan was to include some visual elements of that country. This is why I thought about photoshopping some pictures... \$\endgroup\$ – Benoit_Plante Jan 19 '15 at 21:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ This is an example of what I mean. Let's say the level is in New York, and then I make a 2d sprite of the Statue of Liberty mostly based on a picture I find on wikipedia. I do not have the capability of going there and take a picture myself. \$\endgroup\$ – Benoit_Plante Jan 19 '15 at 21:25
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    \$\begingroup\$ If it's a cartoonish game you can always draw it yourself and thete will be no restrictions \$\endgroup\$ – Brsgamer Jan 19 '15 at 21:35

Anything derived from using a CC-BY-SA licensed work should be distributed under the same license. This includes the edited image and the work it is used in. Since you are mixing it with other things (other images, music, code) to create a new work (a game), the new work should carry the same license.

In short, if you use a CC-BY-SA licensed image to make a video game, the game can be commercial but it should also carry the same license, which means its source and other materials should also be available for others to use under the same terms.

Since video games include many different materials, licensing everything in it CC-BY-SA can be complicated. For example you may not have the rights to redistribute the music. It is better to use custom made, CC-BY, or public domain works when making video games.


Collection vs derived work

TL;DR: I'm not sure, but this is a distinction that might be worth looking into.

https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/48375/using-images-with-cc-by-sa-license-in-slides-or-a-thesis/48382#48382 is for the image in book/thesis, which I believe is analogous for the game case.

In CC By-SA 3.0, there was clear distinction between "derived" and "collective" work, and it was explicitly mentioned that if you include an image in a book, the book is a "collective work", not derived, and does not need to be CC By-SA. So the image in game might be analogous.

"Collection" means a collection of literary or artistic works, such as encyclopedias and anthologies, or performances, phonograms or broadcasts, or other works or subject matter other than works listed in Section 1(f) below, which, 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.

This was somewhat tested in US court for an Atlas at Drauglis v. Kappa Map Group, LLC where a 2.0 image was used as a cover of an Atlas, with attribution on the back cover, and no infringement was found.

However, it is hard for me to be sure if the "a single image in book/game case" is actually a collection or not. Can a collection have a single item? Are the icons of your UI a collection? Intuitively it does not feel like it, since their main goal is not to showcase the items, but rather to integrate into your work.

Also within a game, it might not be feasible to have a clear attribution for every image within the media itself, which makes it feel even less like a collection.

In 4.0 the term "collective work" was dropped, and things became even less clear, although most people are guessing that hasn't changed, although I could not find clear evidence. https://opensource.stackexchange.com/questions/7022/using-cc-by-sa-music-in-a-podcast/7036#7036 suggests that this distinction in 4.0 is simply delegated to your local law, or in other words, as a lawyer, and kind of reduces the usefulness of a license in the first place. The collective work wiki page has comments on it for several countries.

Related questions:

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    \$\begingroup\$ We had a similar question here to which this might also apply. I've included a link to your answer in mine, but you might want to add an answer of your own there if you find it's relevant. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Feb 19 at 20:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory thanks for that link, I'm glad to see that more people agree with the Collection interpretation! Now I wish I could find a clearer 4.0 justification :( \$\endgroup\$ – Ciro Santilli 新疆再教育营六四事件法轮功郝海东 Feb 19 at 20:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ I'm not sure I agree, but I think it's an important perspective to weigh, and a good example of why it helps to ask a lawyer rather than a game designer. 😉 I'd certainly prefer the more permissive interpretation, but I have to be wary that my own preferences might be biasing my judgement, and that I don't have the legal expertise to know for sure. \$\endgroup\$ – DMGregory Feb 19 at 20:44
  • \$\begingroup\$ @DMGregory definitely. I wish they would clarify such major cases (book/software) more explicitly somewhere, otherwise it is such a waste of people's time thinking about it. Oh well. \$\endgroup\$ – Ciro Santilli 新疆再教育营六四事件法轮功郝海东 Feb 19 at 20:47

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