What does the "BY" in Creative Commons' license names mean?

Have you ever wondered what the “BY” in Creative Commons’ licenses (e.g. CC-BY, CC-BY-SA, and CC-BY-SA NC) stands for?

The other bits in the license name are obvious, for the most part:

  • CC – Creative Commons
  • NC – Non-Commercial
  • ND – No Derivatives
  • SA – Share-Alike

BY” is confusing because it’s not an acronym, shortening of a word, or anything otherwise obvious. But buried in the Creative Commons FAQ, it’s mentioned it stands for attribution.

If all Creative Commons require attribution (except CC0), why is it included in the license names (especially the abbreviations) at all?

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Robin Millette's picture
When the Creative Commons were first released, BY was an option like all others. When the time came for v2.0 of the licences, it was determined that 99% of the licences in use had the BY clause. To simplify the process, they made BY a requirement and so it remains.
Samat's picture
Thanks for the clarification! I did not know that BY was ever an option, I nor anyone I've asked has ever seen it in the wild (that it was rarely used is evidence why).