Licensing an Adaptation

If you are adapting an existing open textbook, the adaptations you make will be released with a CC-BY license, while the rest of the book will be released under the license of the original book. In other words, you need to respect the license of the original work. You cannot license what you do not create. You can only attach a CC-BY license to the parts of the book you have created that are new.

However, there is a caveat. If the textbook you are adapting has a Share-Alike license attached to it, then you can only release the book with the same license that it was originally licensed as. The Share-Alike clause means that you must use the exact same license that was used in the original for ANY adaptation.

The license should be noted in a few places in the book;

  • In the preface of the book there should be a statement that makes it clear that this book is a derivative of an original textbook
  • There should also be a list of substantive changes that were made in the book from the original version so people can know exactly what sections are newly created and what are from the original source.

So, in the preface of the book, you could say:

This version of Collaborative Statistics is a modified version of Collaborative Statistics by <authors name>. Changes to the original version of the book are listed at <url or page number with a summary of changes>. The original version of this book was released under a <insert license here> and is copyrighted by <if original has copyright include that here>. The changes to this book listed on <insert location of summary of changes> are released under a CC-BY license and are copyrighted by <authors name>. You are free to use, modify or adapt any of this material providing the terms of the Creative Commons licenses are adhered to.

Here is what a license might look like from a textbook that was modified. This was taken from the Modern Philosophy textbook in the open textbook collection. The only change that BCcampus made to the textbook was to create a version of it in Pressbooks (a format change). However, the BCcampus format change into Pressbooks was based on a modified version of an original work, meaning we have to give credit to both the original author and to the person who did the first modification.

Here is what the preface copyright notice looked like:

This version of Modern Philosophy is a derivative copy of Modern Philosophy created by Alex Dunn, who based his work on the original Modern Philosophy book created by Walter Ott. This version of Modern Philosophy is released under a Creative Commons Attribution NonCommercial ShareAlike 3.0 Unported license. The only modifications made to this version from both the original and the modification done by Alex Dunn is that the original format has been changed. No content has been modified. The original version of Modern Philosophy was created from public domain resources by Walter Ott with contributors from Antonia LoLordo and Lydia Patton. Contributions not in the public domain and created by Walter, Antonia or Lydia for the original were released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License. Alex Dunn’s derivative version was also released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.


Remember to include a summary of the substantial changes you made to the textbook. You don’t have to note minor things, like fixing spelling mistakes or minor stylistic changes. Concentrate on acknowledging the substantial changes. See the following example:

The modifications from the original textbook include;

  • A new chapter (Chapter 4) was added covering Feminist Theory
  • Chapter 2 was rewritten to remove references to American data and was replaced with Canadian data
  • The topic “Unusual Behaviour” in Chapter 8 was modified to remove references to dyslexia.

Keep in mind that the person reading this book could be viewing a printed copy with page numbers, or an electronic version with no page numbers, so do not use page numbers as references. Instead, use topics and chapters as reference points within the book.


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USask Open Textbook Authoring Guide - Ver.1.0 Copyright © 2016 by Distance Education Unit, University of Saskatchewan is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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