I have a couple of images which are CC0 licensed. But I want to combine these images and create a new image and use it in a commercial project. Are CC0 licensed images allowed to modified and used in a commercial project?

Image 1 is this. Image 2 is this.

After I combine both images in Photoshop it becomes this.

Images are taken from Pixabay. You can look at Pixabay terms of use here.


3 Answers 3


You can use pretty much any license you want — but make sure the image really is CC0.

There are a wide array of Creative Commons licenses meant to cover different situations. CC0 is special — it is a "No Rights Reserved" declaration. It exists because not all jurisdictions have a clear way to dedicate something to the public domain, even if you want to. This gives a consistent legal framework to do so.

From the FAQ:

Can anyone use a work that is distributed under CC0?

Yes. CC0 doesn’t restrict who can use a CC0’d work. Once applied, anyone can use the work in any way and for any purpose, including commercial purposes, subject to rights others may have in the work or how it’s used, as well as subject to any other laws or restrictions that may apply.

Do I have to attribute the person who applied CC0 to their work?

No, there is no legal requirement that you attribute the affirmer, only an expectation that you will voluntarily do so if requested.

Only CC licenses with the SA clause (like CC-BY-SA 3.0 under which this site is licensed), require creators of a derivative work to license their contributions under the same terms. If the artwork you want to use is under CC-BY, for example, you need to provide clear attribution and indicate what changes you made, but you don't need to license the combined work in any particular way.

CC0 goes to the extreme of giving things up. There's no SA, and there's no BY. You can basically do whatever you want. (Read the legal text for details — or better, if you're concerned, have your lawyer do it, because things which appear to be plain English in legal documents often have deeper specific legal meaning — it's like a code.)

But, one note: if you're doing anything serious, and particularly, if you're doing something commercial, I really, reallly reallllly suggest checking that the original author is the one who has chosen this license. There are many image / wallpaper / "free download!" site where people upload images of dubious origin and claim CC0 when they do not necessarily have the right to do so.

For example, since you mention Pixabay.... I found this lovely image of a tiger, which claims to be under CC0. However, a reverse image search takes me right to this image on Shutterstock. Shutterstock's terms are royalty free, but decidedly not CC0 ­— see Shutterstock license comparison.

I don't even know for sure that the Shutterstock image is the original one (although it seems much more likely). In the case of the particular images you are interested in, the cloud image is also found on Shutterstock, but appears to have been put there by the same person as on Pixabay.

In any case, be careful not to perpetuate this. It's definitely not safe to just pick things that say CC0 on Pixabay, unfortunately.


CC0 has no copyleft provision. So if you use CC0 material in a work, CC0 doesn’t automatically apply to this work. You may apply any license you want (or no license). You could even apply a license to unmodified CC0 material.

So if you combine two CC0 images into a new image, you can do whatever you want with this new image (except claiming that you are the author of the original two images; but this might depend on jurisdiction).

  • Each of the CC0 images keeps being available under CC0 (but you don’t have to state this).
  • If your combined work doesn’t meet the threshold of originality, anyone is free to ignore the license you released it under (like it’s always the case, nothing special about CC0 here).

(Your example might not meet the threshold of originality if you just combined the two images in an obvious way.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ Are CC0 licensed images allowed to modified and used in a commercial project? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 15:41
  • \$\begingroup\$ @AyushSrivastava: Of course, yes. You can use them however you want. The only thing you probably shouldn’t do is claiming that you are the author of the image (but it’s perfectly fine not to say anything about its authorship). \$\endgroup\$
    – unor
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 15:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ Are you sure this doesn't say otherwise. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 15:47
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ @AyushSrivastava: What exactly? -- Also note that the ToS only regulate how you may use their site; if they distribute CC0 images, you don’t have to follow what the ToS says about the images. I could be a user that agreed to their ToS, download the image, and send it to you -- then the ToS isn’t relevant for you. \$\endgroup\$
    – unor
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 15:50
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Adapt and use. But, really, if you are concerned about things like this and are having doubts about the license wording, random people trying to be helpful on the Internet are not what you need. You should talk to a lawyer specializing in intellectual property. \$\endgroup\$
    – mattdm
    Commented Apr 29, 2018 at 17:15

As @mattdm says, and as others have suggested, if you are hesitant, for any reason, it may be better to license royalty-free or stock (with a license that includes your intended use), rather than taking for granted that any possibly-not-actually CC0-licensed image really was uploaded by the owner and "safe" to use. Paying for a stock image is cheaper than legal advice.

  • \$\begingroup\$ But couldn't a stock image have also been uploaded by someone claiming to own a work for which they don't own the rights? \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Apr 30, 2018 at 9:29

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