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Digital Culture

Photos and licenses

Twice in the last two months, I’ve found myself re-examining my Flickr account and my photos. I’ve had two instances of people wishing to use my some of my pictures for various things. One, a website about Sewanee, and the other a publication about the Immersion program.

All of my pictures are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license, and in both cases the first two criteria are fine for the uses. The Share-Alike is where stuff starts to break down…people seem unwilling to ensure that the resulting work is licensed in the same way. In some ways, it’s a sort of educational issue…most people are still not aware of Creative Commons.

So I’m torn. On one hand, I certainly do want people to use my photos. On the other, I also want to push the Creative Commons message, and requiring that the resulting works Share Alike is the right thing to do, I think.

Has anyone else dealt with this friction? How did you resolve it?

One reply on “Photos and licenses”

I think the ShareAlike and NonCommercial clauses put too many limits on the freedom of the individual to reuse one’s work. And I think that by simply using a Creative Commons license (albeit a more open one) and answering the questions when they come, you’re helping to spread the message.

I see a very fuzzy distinction between commercial and non-commercial—which was partly brought to bear during my cease and desist experience. Lets say you’re running Google Ads on your site to pay for hosting costs and beer. Technically that would prevent you from using a photo on your site licensed as NonCommercial.

And what if that photo is also licensed “ShareAlike”? Are you prepared to relicense your post (or the whole blog?) under the same terms of that photo? And what about the next person that comes along with a ShareAlike license with different clauses?

All that to say, in my opinion, the NonCommercial and ShareAlike clauses seem to create more sticky questions than they answer. In general for photos, I think the most sensible options are attribution, attribution-noderiv, and my personal fav: public domain.

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