So... we've all seen the recent chaos caused by the license change from CC 3.0 to CC 4.0, and it's foreseeable that a similar disaster will occur when changing again to a future version of CC (4.1 or 5.0, just for example).

From my humble point of view, things could be precautiously eased by stating the license thing as such (or similar):

By posting on Stack Exchange, you grant us the non-revocable right to redistribute the content under CC BY-SA 4.0, and the right to change this license to any latest version available at a time.

This covers two points:

  • The content is currently licensed under a specific version of CC
  • The version of the CC license may be changed to the latest version available, at any time
    • This, however, doesn't allow changing back, because 4.0 will no longer be "the latest available at that time" when a newer version is available.

Logically thinking, this appears like a feasible solution to me. It solves the licensing issue for once and for ever. I'm unsure what the community thinks of this.

  • 4
    The second half would break the terms of current CC licenses. The process is not automatic if the rights are not owned by the publisher (which they are not - we grant a license to SO, we do not give them the exclusive rights), so that's already a goner. Mar 4, 2020 at 13:32
  • @SébastienRenauld The point is, in addition to what's covered by CC, we grant (actively) the right to upgrade. Mar 4, 2020 at 13:33
  • 2
    @iBugisdisappointedinSE The point of CC licenses are to be correct enough to avoid abusive TOS in the way of "You license your content to us under CC-XXX and also give us a WTF license at the same time".
    – Tensibai
    Mar 4, 2020 at 13:34
  • @Tensibai A non-directly-comparable example is, as commonly seen in GPL 2.x projects, or (at your option) any later version. I'm finding a similar clause applicable on SE. Mar 4, 2020 at 13:38
  • 1
    @iBugisdisappointedinSE Not with CC-BY-SA, 2.a: "Subject to the terms and conditions of this Public License, the Licensor hereby grants You a worldwide, royalty-free, non-sublicensable " (bold is mine)
    – Tensibai
    Mar 4, 2020 at 13:39
  • 4
    @Tensibai I'm still confused. The CC license forbids sublicensing per se, but does it also prohibit the original copyright holder from granting the right to sublicense? Mar 4, 2020 at 13:45
  • IANAL, but from my experience (European) multi licensing is usually (I mean from the legal outcomes I know) bound by the most restrictive terms of all licenses, any other more lax term is deemed non applicable. => If SE want's something more permissive based on CC-BY-SA and providing the same kind of guarantee on content, they should bake their own license.
    – Tensibai
    Mar 4, 2020 at 13:53
  • 1
    "...for once and for ever..." But unfortunately not for the past, only for the future and only if this kind of carte blanche licensing is allowed. It may be asking for too much in some jurisdictions. Mar 4, 2020 at 14:01

2 Answers 2


We are definitely interested in introducing changes to the ToS that will achieve what you are looking for here. Need to change it in the right way, with the right language. Not something that we want to rush without a proper review (so I cannot commit to a date at this point) but it is on our list of action items in this area.

We are also hoping to introduce the ability for a user to upgrade all of their posts to the current license (see the CC licensing update for more info). However, there will be no way for users to indicate that they would auto-upgrade to new CC versions that are updated on the site in the future.

Thanks for your feedback.

  • 6
    It's nice that we finally get official feedback on these sorts of things. Thank you for your time, and please keep up all the good work!
    – S.S. Anne
    Mar 5, 2020 at 1:08
  • 1
    Good to hear. Thanks for the answer :)
    – V2Blast
    Mar 5, 2020 at 3:39
  • I would like a button marked "upgrade all my posts to CC BY-SA 4.0".
    – Aaron Hall
    Mar 5, 2020 at 15:30

It would be exceedingly difficult to guarantee that all possible terms of all possible future versions of CC are and always will be acceptable. I obviously can't speak for anyone other than myself, but I would refuse to contribute content under such terms.

For example, if some future CC version included some warranty or liability for damages caused by the work or derivatives thereof, I wouldn't release anything under that license. But if I had released something here under CC BY-SA 3.0 and given SE permission to change to any newer version they want, then I wouldn't have any choice in the matter if SE wanted to update the license to make me incur that liability.

Do I expect CC to do something like that? No. Am I willing to bet my livelihood on it? Also no, and neither am I willing to trust SE to protect me from potentially bad license terms like that for the rest of my life.

That said, if SE were to ask nicely and not claim to have a right to do so unilaterally, I'd absolutely be willing to grant them a 4.0 license, or an MIT license, or other future licenses with terms I find acceptable.

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