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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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Meet our board members: Caterina Fake

Lisa Katayama, December 8th, 2010


Caterina Fake by Richard Morgenstein / CC BY-SA

The first website CC board member Caterina Fake ever made was a fan page for Lolita author Vladimir Nabokov, her favorite writer.  “When I first went online around 1993-1994, every site was just something people had just put up–pictures of their cat, or a marble collection, or Bob Dylan discography. It was just strangers making cool stuff and sharing it online. The Internet was premised on this culture of generosity.”

But as the web grew, so did the rules about copyright and ownership of content. And somewhere along the way, this culture of generosity got lost in lockdown. That’s why, within six months of co-founding Flickr in 2004, Fake made sure that users could upload their photos to her rapidly expanding photo-sharing site with CC licenses. “Flickr is very much a platform for this culture of generosity to take place,” she says. “Creators should be able to choose to make their work available. If they have no interest in the ridiculous restrictions copyright is imposing on people, that should be okay.”

Today, Flickr has over 167 million CC-licensed photos, making it one of the largest repositories of freely shareable images in the world.

In the summer of 2009, Fake started Hunch, a website that builds a “taste graph” of the Internet. Users respond to questions like: “Do you like your sandwich cut vertically or horizontally?” and “When flying, do you prefer a window seat or an aisle seat?” The data collected goes towards finding random correlations on web users and providing recommendations on magazines,TV shows, and books. It’s all part of what Fake is most passionate about, what she calls participatory media.

Fake has been a supporter of sharing creative content from very early on. Before she was even thinking about founding successful web companies, Fake was a painter, sculptor, and writer. “I’m a big proponent of people having the ability to express themselves and be part of a culture that supports creative work,” she says. “I believe everyone who wants to make a living off their work should be more than welcome to do so. And those who do not should also have the ability not to be constrained by copyright.”

Help build a culture of generosity on the web by donating to Creative Commons today.

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Creative Commons licenses on Flickr: many more images, slightly more freedom

Mike Linksvayer, March 10th, 2010

Slightly less than a year ago the count of CC-licensed images at Flickr surpassed 100 million. Over 35 million have been added since then. Now is a good time to look at changes over the last four years (for which we have data), in particular changes in the distribution of licenses used. We’ve heard many anecdotes about photographers switching to more liberal licensing after getting comfortable with and experiencing the benefits of limited sharing, and wanting more. Are these anecdotes borne out in aggregate?

First, the overwhelming trend is simply more CC-licensed images — an increase from 10 million to 135 million over four years — and we amusingly said 5 years ago that Flickr’s CC area had “gone way beyond our expectations” with 1.5 million licensed images.

The following table summarizes changes in CC licensed images over the past four years. With over 10-fold growth, use of all licenses have increased greatly. However, the distribution has also changed, though slowly. Four years ago 78% of CC-licensed images on Flickr were not pre-cleared for commercial use. This has declined by close to 5 percentage points.

license 2006-03-17 2010-02-25 2006-03-17 2010-02-25 % point change
by
photos
1,085,582 17,961,963 10.77% 13.24% +2.48
by-nc
photos
1,468,755 18,660,010 14.57% 13.76% -0.81
by-nc-nd
photos
3,241,697 41,621,048 32.15% 30.68% -1.46
by-nc-sa
photos
3,169,502 39,507,645 31.43% 29.12% -2.31
by-nd
photos
317,345 6,137,718 3.15% 4.52% +1.38
by-sa
photos
801,211 11,761,829 7.95% 8.67% +0.73
Total 10,084,092 135,650,213


Another way to look at change in license distribution is the share of licenses that permit both commercial use and derivative works — licenses that meet the requirements of the definition of free cultural works, a test used, for example, by Wikimedia Commons, the image and other media repository for Wikipedia. The graph below shows this share over the past four years.

A slightly different approach which reveals the same overall trend is to rank licenses according to the permissions they grant and assign an overall “freedom score” based on the mix of licenses used (a higher score means more permissions are granted on average). This approach was developed by Giorgos Cheliotis in a paper looking at the adoption CC ported jurisdiction licenses (pdf). The following graph shows the “freedom score” of the mix of licenses used at Flickr over the past four years.

What are the underlying causes of these trends? The CC licensing interface on Flickr has not changed significantly, presumably borne out by steady growth of CC licensed images over the years. What is causing the slow increase in permissiveness of those posting images on Flickr under CC licenses? Even more curiously, what caused their temporary decrease in permissiveness from the fall of 2006 through the spring of 2007?

Perhaps the steady increase in permissiveness since then has something to do with Wikimedia Commons’ success and its coming to the attention of photographers as an important publicity mechanism — recalling that Wikimedia Commons requires liberal licensing. However, this is mere conjecture. Can you think of other possible causes and more importantly means to analyze the impact of possible causes?

The data behind the above graphs is available as a regularly updated MySQL database dump as well as a spreadsheet snapshot (for Open Office) for 2006-present.

While the data for CC adoption on the web at large is much less certain than that for a single site such as Flickr, some indicate that both total use and permissiveness have increased much more on the web at large than on Flickr alone. Look for a post on this in the next month.

Even more interesting questions about CC adoption and impact have barely been tapped — for example, differential adoption across fields and cultures, and levels and forms of and trends in reuse. Tentative answers would be incredibly interesting and in some cases would be incredibly valuable in demonstrating economic impact, e.g., reuse of Open Educational Resources.

If these questions interest you, have at the data, discuss with others — and note that Creative Commons has an opening for a metrics engineer.

This research was assisted by a grant from the Necessary Knowledge for a Democratic Public Sphere Program of the Social Science Research Council with funds provided by the Ford Foundation.

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Bing Maps Streetside Photos

Jane Park, February 12th, 2010

Yesterday, Bing Maps pointed out a new application—Streetside Photos—that it added to its spatial search. Streetside Photos pulls CC licensed images from Flickr to use them in a transformative way—as part of mapping tools that help you navigate the world on different visual levels. Chris at Bing Maps says it best,

“So, you have all these killer photos of different cities around the world just sitting on some hard drive or server and the best you can do with them is send them to friends as is, right? Isn’t it funny that the photos you tend to zip through are the ones with no people in them, but when you were there man it was a cool shot that you just HAD to capture? Well, we’re giving those photos some love (and context) with our latest mash-in to the Bing Maps Application Gallery. We’ve just rolled out a new application that is currently in a tech preview phase that pulls photos from Flickr®, associates them with Bing Maps Streetside photos and then overlays them by stretching the photo to form fit where in the world it belongs. The new application called Streetside Photos is currently available in Seattle, San Francisco and Vancouver (Canada) – (hello, Olympics!!) to view your Flickr photos in a whole new way.”

Bing Maps is a great example of leveraging what CC licenses enable—in this case the ability to reuse and repurpose photos in creative ways that also serve a functional purpose, to better inform people about the cultural landscape of a place. Who doesn’t want to see the awesome orange skeleton from a past Carnaval in SF?

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CC Talks With: Brooklyn Museum

Cameron Parkins, February 5th, 2010

Regarding openness and sharing, the Brooklyn Museum is an exemplary institution. They are major contributors to The Commons on Flickr, license their online image collection under a CC Attribution-NonCommerical license license, provide API access to this collection, and recently ran a CC-licensed remix contest with Blondie‘s Chris Stein. Needless to say, we were eager to catch up with Shelley Bernstein, Brooklyn Museum’s Chief of Technology, and learn more about how they are using our licenses to open up their catalog of amazing work, shaping the role museums play in a digital age in the process.

Can you give our readers some background on your role at the Brooklyn Museum? BM’s Twitter page describes you as the “Museum’s Chief Geek” – what does that entail?

Officially, I’m the Brooklyn Museum’s Chief of Technology, which means I work with a team of folks here to manage the Brooklyn Museum’s web presence, our gallery technology, and our computer network.

BM’s digital stamp is impressive – an active blog, social network presence, and the 1stfans program in particular all point to an organization that uses technology to better engage its community. What is the benefit, from your end, to this sort of interaction?

A big part of the Brooklyn Museum’s mission is about growing community and visitor experience, so much of what we do online closely ties into that. The blog, the social networking and 1stfans all help put a personal face on the institution and, we hope, allow visitors a chance to see what goes on here direct from staff and interact with us on a very personal level. This kind of engagement grows a more natural relationship with our constituents and one that we hope makes the institution very accessible.

BM licenses all of its images under a CC Attribution-NonCommerical license. Why did you choose this license and what has the experience been like? Have there been any interesting cases of re-use?
Read More…

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CC licensed photos and the International Olympic Committee

Mike Linksvayer, October 12th, 2009


Weezie’s Birthday Ballooning by Richard Giles / CC BY-SA

Richard Giles, a social media specialist in Australia who frequently posts and CC licenses photos on Flickr, received a threatening letter from the International Olympic Committee last week, mentioning a set of photos he had taken at the 2008 games in Beijing.

Giles posted a rundown of the story so far on his blog. It is not clear the situation is resolved yet, and initially there was confusion about which photos or licenses are at issue, but there are many worthwhile posts about it to check out, including these:

Regarding Ross’ post, of course the UK merchant that used the photo in an advertisement that eventually attracted the IOC’s notice may have discovered the photo directly on Flickr as well. In either case, the value of moving to a more liberal license if you want your works to spread is highlighted — Giles’ Usain Bolt photo is under CC Attribution-ShareAlike, while his other Beijing photos are under CC Attribution-NonCommercial.

cc-shepard-fairey-logo-mediumWhatever the resolution of this particular dispute, there’s no question that the IOC’s attempt to control how photographers use their own photos is symptomatic of the permission culture and tragedy of the anticommons we are facing. Creative Commons can’t directly influence the IOC’s policies, but we’re creating an alternative to ensure a non-gridlocked future of creativity and innovation, an alternative that offers benefits to those who participate in the commons now, and whose successes will change minds. Please support us — we’re in the midst of our 2009 campaign to raise $500,000 to fund this work.

The photo at the top of this post by Richard Giles is not of the Olympics, but does look fun. Note that even such an innocuous photo could be under threat as we move in the direction of a permission economy — building owners attempt to control public photography, why not balloon owners or designers? Give now.

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Copyfraud and CC ignorance

Mike Linksvayer, June 27th, 2009

Yesterday the Register posted an article by Charles Eicher on the topic of copyfraud — asserting copyright where it doesn’t exist, or asserting more restrictions than copyright grants. A very important topic — true copyfraud diminishes the commons, either in the sense of propertizing the public domain, or effectively reducing the scope of uses not restricted by copyright.

Unfortunately, the article merely uses this interesting and important topic as a jumping off point for hyperbole. On the public domain and copyfraud, comments on the article offer far more insight than the article itself.

Eicher has in the past called advocates of Creative Commons “freetards”. Apparently he finds name calling more interesting than research, for on the third page of his copyfraud article he demonstrates willful ignorance on the topic of Creative Commons:

Now Creative Commons seeks expanded authority to administer the Public Domain, by issuing a “Creative Commons Public Domain License,” as if it was a sublicense of its own invention. Creative Commons is trying to expand its licensing authority over not just newly created works, but all public domain works.

flickr-commons-no-known-restrictionsCreative Commons does not have any “authority to administer” the public domain, whatever that means. Our public domain tools are not licenses — there is no “Creative Commons Public Domain License”. CC0 is a waiver that allows a copyright holder, to the extent possible, to release all restrictions on a copyrighted work worldwide. The Public Domain Certification facilitates clearly marking works already in the public domain as such. We also don’t have “licensing authority” over newly created works. All of our tools are voluntary and have an over-arching goal of expanding the commons, more specifically the public domain in the case of CC0 (as much as possible) and the Public Domain Certification (the effective public domain, by making existing public domain works more clearly marked, including with metadata, making them more available and discoverable).

Public domain licensing is still not available to any Flickr user. This forces everyone, from individuals to large public institutions, to contribute their works to the “Flickr Commons” under a CC license, even if the works are clearly in the public domain. Flicker is enacting a blatant power grab on behalf of Creative Commons. They are establishing an extra-legal licensing monopoly, imposing an illegal copyright license structure on free works. And this is the most pernicious effect of copyfraud: it exploits the public domain to aggregate monopoly power for private interests.

Except for the first sentence (regarding which, Creative Commons encourages Flickr to offer a public domain option for all users) all of the above paragraph is blatantly false. Images part of Flickr Commons are not under any CC license. The site’s easily accessible usage statement says No known copyright restrictions. Ideally the site might use a more affirmative public domain assertion, but it is impossible to characterize the statement as a CC license or as copyfraud.

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Adam Curry wins again!

Mike Linksvayer, June 18th, 2009

This post is written and translated by Paul Keller of CC Netherlands, first posted in Dutch on the CC Netherlands blog earlier today. Regarding one of the quotes below, to be clear, note CC licenses do not override fair use.

Adam Curry wins again!
by Paul Keller

In 2006 Adam Curry initiated and won the first ever lawsuit centering around the use of a Creative Commons licensed work (English). Back then the Dutch gossip-mag ‘weekend’ had published photos from Curry’s flickr account without asking Curry for permission and the Amsterdam court of first instance decided that this use was explicitly prohibited by the non-commercial condition of the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike license that Curry uses for his Flickr pictures.

One would assume that other gossip-mags would learn from this and refrain from using photos from Adam’s Flickr stream, but exactly that happened 2 weeks ago when ‘Privé‘ used another picture to illustrate an article without Adam permission. As in the previous case Adam immediately reacted, this time by demanding that the publisher of Privé pay him a compensation for the unauthorized use or he would take them to court. Back then Adam wrote:

Instead of taking them directly to court I added twist this time, and gave them the option of paying 5000 euros directly to the War Child Foundation and my legal costs. Failure to comply by June 2nd and I will take them to court. It’s national news, lead story on the 6:30 news and all that good stuff :)

According to a public response from the magazine’s editor, they will ‘see me in court’ as they believe they have ‘fair use’ rights because of the picture’s ‘news value’. Pretty funny coming from a gossip rag.

While the deadline set by Curry passed without an official reaction from Privé it turns out that the defiant reaction form the magazines editor was not worth the paper it was printed on. Today Adam received a mail from from his lawyers indicating that Privé has settled along the terms provided by Curry in order to avoid the court hearing that was scheduled for the 23rd of June [translation from Dutch original by Creative Commons Netherlands]:

Dear Adam,
the conflict between Telegraaf Tijdschriften Groep (“TTG”), the publishers of among others Privé and yourself has been settled in your favor.

TTG wil pay you an amount of compensation and TTG has signed a declaration (backed up by a penalty) that in the future they will no more infringe on copyrights held by Adam Curry in photos published by him on www.flickr.com. You will donate the compensation received to Warchild and STOP AIDS NOW!.

Given the above, the court hearing scheduled for the 23rd of july will not take place.

Creative Commons congratulates Adam Curry with this victory that once again illustrates that when necessary the Creative Commons licenses offer enough legal protection against unauthorized used of the licensed works. Thanks again Adam!

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We Have Band: “You Came Out” Video Stills Released Under CC-License

Cameron Parkins, June 15th, 2009

wehaveband
We_Have_Band 1709, we_have_band | CC BY-SA

We Have Band, and electro-pop act from London, recently released a great new video for their single You Came Out in collaboration with creative agency Wieden + Kennedy. The video is stop frame animated and composed of 4,816 still images, all of which are CC BY-SA licensed and available on We Have Band’s flickr page. This allows fans of the band the ability to reanimate the video and reuse the images as long as they attribute We Have Band and share derivative works under the same license.

Find out more about the single at the band’s mysapce blog, including ordering info.

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Flickr Uses CC Zero for their Shapefiles

Fred Benenson, May 22nd, 2009

Flickr Shapefile
Rounding out the week of some exciting CC announcements, we wanted to pass along news of Flickr’s use of our CC Zero waiver for their shapefile dataset.

“What is a shapefile?” you may ask. Its a file containing shapes mathematically generated by the thousands of Flickr geotagged photos of particular neighborhoods, countries, and continents. The data can also be seen as reverse-engineered fuzzy maps created by user generated longitude and latitude coordinates that are then demarcated by Where-On-Earth IDs.

Still confused? Its 549mb of uncompressed XML public domain geo-glory. Aaron from the Flickr Development team explains their rationale for using CC Zero:

  • We want people (developers, researchers and anyone else who wants to play) to find new and interesting ways to use the shapefiles and we recognize that, in many cases, this means having access to the entire dataset.
  • We want people to feel both comfortable and confident using this data in their projects and so we opted for a public domain [waiver] so no one would have to spend their time wondering about the issue of licensing. We also think the work that the Creative Commons crew is doing is valuable and important and so we chose to release the shapefiles under the CC0 waiver as a show of support.
  • We want people to create their own shapefiles and to share them so that other people (including us!) can find interesting ways to use them. We’re pretty sure there’s something to this “shapefile stuff” even if we can’t always put our finger on it so if publishing the dataset will encourage others to do the same then we’re happy to do so.

Thanks to the Flickr team for the show of support! Download the compressed XML shapefile here, or read more about the release here.

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