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Should Instagram Adopt CC Licensing?

Elliot Harmon, December 19th, 2012

A few days ago, Ryan Singel wrote a thought-provoking piece for Wired, suggesting that users pressure Facebook — and, by extension, its recent acquisition Instagram — to adopt Creative Commons licensing options.

Creative Commons embodied an ethos of sharing that went beyond just show-and-tell. It’s been a vital part of sharing on the net, which has given all of us access to no-cost printing presses in the form of blogs; cheap ways to create, edit, and share videos and photos; and democratized distribution channels such as YouTube and Reddit.

[…] Facebook is about Facebook. Sharing to them means sharing … on Facebook. Connecting with other people means connecting with other people … on Facebook. Like the old joke about fortune cookies, you have to append “on Facebook” to get the real meaning.

Instagram is still young, so perhaps it can buck its corporate master. But it’s yet to show a commitment to doing right by users and the public, and the recent decision to prevent Twitter users from seeing Instagram photos inside Twitter makes it highly unlikely the company considers being part of a larger sharing culture a priority.

The column — along with a controversial update to Instagram’s privacy policy — has triggered a wave of discussion online. From Kurt Opsahl at EFF:

Some of these problems are less pressing if the photo is intended to be public, and some users may actually want the opportunity for their photos to get wide spread fame and fortune. For those users, the better way forward is enabling users to easily license their photos with Creative Commons.

Other photo services offer revenue sharing with their users. For example, Yahoo’s Flickr not only offers the ability to mark photos with a Creative Commons license, but also has an opt-in program with Getty Images for users who want to commercialize the photos. While imperfect (Getty requires exclusive rights, and is incompatible with CC licenses), there is something to the notion of sharing the revenue with the user.

Alyson Shontell at Business Insider takes the debate a step further, with the provocative suggestion that Instagram should require its users to license their photos under CC by default:

Of course, this will enrage a lot of people. Facebook has been reprimanded for pushing privacy boundaries too far, and not all Instagram users may feel comfortable sharing their photos with the world.

But really, they already are. This just puts a legal framework around that sharing.

In all the flurry of attention, there’s one important point to keep in mind: Creative Commons licenses don’t cancel out user agreements. That is, when you upload media to Flickr or YouTube, it’s subject to the terms you agreed to when you signed up for those services, regardless of whether you license it under CC.

raining...

raining… / Denise Weerke / CC BY-NC

To put it a different way, when I upload a video to YouTube and license it CC BY, I’m entering two different agreements at once: one with YouTube (see 6. Your Content and Conduct) and one with any potential user via the CC license. It’s a good idea to be conscious about the agreements you’re making when you use any online service. There have even been various projects over the years to make terms of service and privacy policies as easy to read and understand as CC license deeds.

Of course, that’s not to say that there’s no value in media platforms adopting CC licensing natively. Indeed, platforms are where we’ve seen the most rapid uptake in CC adoption and the most potential for reuse. Have you ever uploaded a photo to Flickr and seen it show up on a blog post days or years later? That quick, painless reuse is only possible because Flickr makes it easy to search and sort photos by CC license. Users on other sites — including both Facebook and Instagram — sometimes add CC license info to their profiles manually. That’s better than nothing, but without a consistent, platform-wide implementation, finding those CC-licensed uploads can be very difficult.

And if the discussions over the past few days have shown anything, it’s that the demand exists for native CC implementation in Instagram. i-am-cc.org, the third-party archive of CC-licensed Instagram shots, has grown to nearly 5000 users in just a few months. A search for CC-licensed Instagram photos published on Flickr yields 167,000 results. The popularity of these solutions demonstrates that many Instagram users are willing to jump through a few hoops to share their photos under CC.

For our recent tenth anniversary celebrations, we profiled several media platforms that support CC licensing. Nearly all of the people we talked to said that user demand was a major factor in their decisions to use CC. We would be thrilled if Facebook and Instagram decided to start supporting CC licensing, but ultimately, your voice matters more than ours does.

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Wikipedia on new Facebook community pages

Jane Park, April 21st, 2010

Earlier this week, Facebook announced its launch of community pages, pages based on topics of interest to the community that are not maintained by a single author. Single author pages include band or company pages that intend to promote that band or company. Instead, community pages are based on the concept of “shared knowledge” that underlies Wikipedia. Community pages integrate Wikipedia content which retains the Creative Commons license.

For example, check out the community page for Cooking. The page has directly imported CC BY-SA licensed content from the Wikipedia entry on Cooking. All links to Wikipedia are retained, including direct links to edit the information. At the bottom of the page, the source of content is explicitly stated with links to the CC BY-SA license and history of the article:

For more information on how Wikipedia is integrated into community pages, check out Facebook’s FAQ on Community pages and an email from Wikimedia Foundation’s Head of Business Development, Kul Takanao Wadhwa:

Wikipedia articles on Facebook will further increase the reach of free knowledge on the internet. Facebook has hundreds of millions of users, and now more than 70% of their traffic is coming from outside of the US. Our hope is that many Facebook users (if they are not already) will also be inclined to join the large community of Wikipedia contributors. Facebook will follow the free licenses (CC-BY-SA) and help us find more ways people can share knowledge. Furthermore, we will be looking at other ways that both parties can cooperate in the future.

It’s worth noting privacy concerns about they way Facebook has connected community pages to user profiles — these concerns have nothing to do with the reuse of Wikipedia content.

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Student Journalism 2.0 takes off at The Paly Voice

Jane Park, October 16th, 2009

Article CC BY-NC by Sydney Rock and Rachel Harrus

Article CC BY-NC by Sydney Rock and Rachel Harrus

Remember back in April when I first mentioned Student Journalism 2.0, ccLearn’s pilot project to bring Creative Commons and the power of new media into high school journalism classes? Well since then ccLearn and two SF Bay Area high school journalism classes have been busy getting the ball rolling.

Yesterday, The Paly Voice, the student-run newspaper at Palo Alto High School, announced the integration of CC licenses, allowing its writers to choose to share their articles and op-ed pieces with the world. Already, Sydney Rock and Rachel Harrus’s article announcing the collaboration has gone viral via the CC BY-NC license, as the CC Google Alert picked it up and placed it squarely inside my morning radar. From the article,

“Starting today, readers of The Paly Voice may notice a new graphic — a Creative Commons licensing logo — tagged at the bottom of some stories.

The addition is due to a new collaboration with Creative Commons, a nonprofit corporation that allows published work to be available to the public for fair and legal sharing.

As a part of the Student Journalism 2.0 Project, The Paly Voice, along with the staff of El Estoque, the student news publication of Monta Vista High School, and the staff of The Broadview at Convent of the Sacred Heart High School, is the first high school in the nation to use Creative Commons licensing, which could potentially revolutionize the way creative works are available online.

Campanile adviser Esther Wojcicki, who is the chair of the board of directors for Creative Commons, believes that the collaboration will positively influence student journalism at Paly.

“It gives people the legal right to share their story,” Wojcicki said. “It’s like your own PR firm.”

Click to read the full article. For more about Student Journalism 2.0, visit our website, fan our Facebook page, or follow our Twitter.

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Coca-Cola Using CC on Facebook

Fred Benenson, September 1st, 2009

Coca-Cola Using Coke on Facebook

It recently came to our attention that Coca-Cola relaunched their Facebook Page (apparently one of the largest pages on the social network, with over 3.6 million fans), and included a policy that content shared by fans be available under our Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license. The specific CC license badge appears in the sidebar on the Coke wall, but is also referenced in the Coca-Cola Facebook Terms of Service.

It appears that Coke is using a Facebook App called Static FBML that helps Page administrators include arbitrary HTML in Facebook pages. Since this is such a good idea, I’m going to work on a new version of our Official Unofficial CC License Facebook application that will enable all Page administrators to add CC license policies to their pages. More on that later this week.

Anyway, this is a great step forward for encouraging CC content and choices on Facebook, so kudos to Coke for thinking about user generated content in the right way!

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The Official Unofficial Creative Commons Facebook Application

Fred Benenson, May 18th, 2009

Creative Commons License on FacebookLast weekend I spent Saturday morning writing the Creative Commons License Application for Facebook. The premise is simple: installing the application allows Facebook users choose and place a CC license badge on their profile page indicating which license they want their content to be available under. Alongside the badge is text that explains what content (Photos, Videos and Status & Profile text are currently available as options) is licensed.

This surrounding text also contains RDFa, though this is of limited utility to search engines since Facebook profiles are not yet publicly indexed.

Users also have the option to allow the application to update their status so that news of their license choice will appear in their friends’ feed. Selecting this option will help grow our application’s audience exponentially, so we would encourage you to choose it.

There are some limitations to this application and you should consider it in beta, so apologies in advance if things break or don’t work properly. Perhaps the largest limitation is that works can only be licensed on a per-profile basis. This means that you must make the decision to license all of your work of a given media type (e.g., all of your photos) under a particular CC license or none at all. Unless Facebook integrates CC license choices into their Photo application, licensing works on a per-photo basis (as users have the freedom to do on sites like Flickr and Wikimedia Commons) is not possible. Thus, this implementation of a CC licenses on Facebook is a stop-gap solution to true integration into the service. If you’ve got other ideas or find other bugs for our application, please head over to our wiki and post them.

Otherwise, go now and install the Creative Commons License Application and let your friends know that you’ve chosen a CC license for your content on Facebook!

Thanks to everyone who helped me conceptualize and test this application, and especially to the “Creative Commons on Facebook” group of 5,000+ users who kept encouraging us to move forward.

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Funding CC is hard work

Melissa Reeder, April 29th, 2009

Last week an article in the Washington Post casued quite a stir among nonprofits who raise funds online. To Nonprofits Seeking Cash, Facebook App Isn’t So Green says that the “Causes” social network application available on Facebook, MySpace and other social networks hasn’t met expectations. This has provoked a lot of discussion and some deserved criticism of the article in the nonprofit fundraising blogosphere. CC supporter and leading social media expert Beth Kanter has a couple posts that serve as a great place to dive into the discussion if you’re interested.

CC’s experience with the Causes application is in line with most nonprofits mentioned in the WaPo article and subsequent discussion. We’ve raised $2,688 via the application on Facebook and a whole $45 on MySpace. This apparently puts us in the top “tiny fraction” of nonprofits who have used the application and rasied more than $1,000.

However, we don’t consider this a failure at all. Raising funds to support a public good is hard work, online or offline, and there is no magic bullet. It takes time to learn how to most effectively use each new tool. Simply raising money isn’t the only way to gauge the success of a fundraising tool — in fact financial contribution often only follows other forms of engagement. The almost 40,000 people who have “joined” our cause on Facebook have signaled to us (and their friends!) their support, and over the years we hope to earn the financial support of many of these people. Also,we feel it’s pretty important for an organization like Creative Commons to engage deeply with social media tools, because that’s a significant part of the universe we help enable.

We offer a whole range of ways to signal your support of Creative Commons, most importantly by using our licenses. Please explore the best means for you to support CC, and invite your friends to do so as well, on social networks such as Facebook and otherwise. If you can make a financial contribution now, please do so. We’ll ask again during our annual fall campaign!

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Do You Want CC In Facebook?

Fred Benenson, February 19th, 2009

Yesterday, we posted about Facebook’s recent Terms of Service ordeal and how it demonstrates the need for human readable legal deeds. Now, Facebook’s founder, Mark Zuckerberg, is asking the Facebook community for feedback on a Facebook Bill of Rights. We think this is a great opportunity for you, our community, to let Facebook know how the social network should use and license your content.

Do you think Facebook should support CC licensing options for user photos and other content? Now is the time to let them know. As of this post, the official group “Facebook Bill of Rights and Responsibilities” has almost 75,000 members and 800 topics on the discussion board, so don’t hesitate to make sure your voice gets heard. Also, relevant is Miguel Barrera Maureira’s group “Why not include Creative Commons in Facebook TOS?

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The Value of Human Readable Deeds

Fred Benenson, February 18th, 2009

By now you’ve probably heard that Facebook modified their Terms of Service and after facing a huge community backlash, returned them to their original state. Most of the issues at play were outside the scope of what we work on at CC, but the incident brings up something that we are very much interested in: human readable legal deeds.

Whether you believe Facebook was acting in their users’ best interest, or if you think the social network’s lawyers were trying to slip something past their community, one thing is clear: the meaning behind the change in Facebook Terms of Service was not explicit to its 175 million users, and they weren’t happy with it. Put simply, Facebook’s Terms of Service were not human readable.

One way of thinking about Creative Commons is that we give a user-interface to copyright law through our human readable deeds, machine readable metadata, and lawyer readable licenses. The human readable deed (which you will be familiar with if you’ve ever clicked on a CC badge) allows users and authors of content to clearly understand what rights the public has to use a work and what obligations to the original creator must be upheld. More specifically, human readable license deeds, CC’s metadata infrastructure and our brand all work together to avoid the kind of confusion and panic Facebook’s amended Terms of Service caused. By using a CC license as the default license for a platform, such as on the free-as-in-speech microblog community Identi.ca, both administrators and users can be clear about how their work will be reused by the public because CC licenses are a standard now adopted by millions of people.

Communicating to your users about how their work will be used is an ongoing and crucial responsibility of all online community leaders and CC licenses are designed to alleviate this responsibility by clarifying copyright questions for authors, users, and platforms alike.

If anyone at Facebook is interested in implementing CC licenses for user content, get in touch.

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