German UNESCO releases “unported” English Guide to Open Content Licenses

by Sylvia F. Jakob

On 13th November 2014 the German UNESCO Commission released an "unported" English Guide to Open Content Licenses thus seeking to reach a wider audience than the initial German Guide first published on 15th November 2011.

The initiative is in line with the UNESCO´s mission to make copyright compatible with the digital age and facilitate access to information and knowledge. Author of the work is Dr. Till Kreutzer, lawyer at IRights.Law and editor at

The brochure comprises 75 pages and begins by explaining the preconditions for granting a license and the legal implications of entering into an Open License. Most notably, the reader is reminded that violating any licensing term constitutes a copyright infringement which may lead to injunctions and damages.

Since the guide features the Creative Commons licensing scheme as primary example, the greatest part of the guide is dedicated to the CC suite depicting and explaining the use, benefits and pitfalls of using CC Licenses in general and the six variations of CC Licenses, these being CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, CC-BY-ND, CC-BY-NC, CC-BY-NC-SA and CC-BY-ND-SA, plus the two Public Domain Tools CC0 ( No rights reserved) and the Public Domain Mark (no known Copyright), in particular.

In this context the reader is confronted with the problem of license incompatibilities, e.g. CC-BY and CC-BY-SA-NC, and the difficulties caused by the interpretation of the terms "public", "commercial" and "adaptation", asking when is a use "public", "commercial" or an "adaptation"? 

Where appropriate specific reference is made to the changes Creative Commons License v. 4 (CCPL v. 4) has brought vis á vis CCPL v. 3 and what they mean for the creator and/or user of content that was licensed under any of these licenses.

In the remainder of the guide specific tips are given on how to search for online texts, images and videaos which have been published under open licenses.

It is thus a fantastic starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about open licensing. It does, however, not replace individual legal advice for specific legal questions.