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Free Culture Swimming Upstream

Fred Benenson, November 5th, 2008

It is one thing for the relatively nascent Wikipedia to embrace free culture as a way to create and share new cultural works, but it is another thing for established media players constrained by traditional markets and economic forces to embrace free culture.

Despite this, it is becoming less difficult to convince incumbent mainstream press and media to fully embrace the inevitability and ubiquity of free culture and there are a few key strategies that are emerging. Perhaps the most obvious lies in the the numerous cases of journalists using Creative Commons licensed photography to illustrate their articles. Faced with the complexities and cost of securing private digital licenses from stock agencies like Getty or Corbis, journalists and bloggers have discovered that eliminating those transaction costs (fiscal and otherwise) through the use of CC licensed photos can substantially increase the quality of their posts.

Some recent exciting examples include two New Yorker posts, one onliterary Halloween costumes and another on Obama’s victory; the LA Times featuring a flickr user’s photo of ex-Republican VP nominee Sarah Palin; and the New York Times’ Polling Place Photo Project which we’ve blogged about several times.

If you’re not already using CC licensed material in your posts and digital media, these examples should give you another reason to consider the choice.

3 Responses to “Free Culture Swimming Upstream”

  1. Matthew Flaschen says:

    Uh, this is swimming /downstream/, and not at all notable. If The New Yorker were releasing content under a free license (which CC-BY-ND is not, incidentally), I would be a lot more interested.

  2. 4 exemples, 2 related to free culture. IMHO Creative Commons made a bad choice when it decided to provide free licenses and non-free licenses under the same name.

    Where is the “Creative Commons” on works I can’t change and/or use in commercial context ?

    I know you made some emphasis with the “approved for free cultural work” logo, but unfortunately it seems not enough.

    I don’t say CC should drop nc/nd licenses. You know, I firt used this licenses, and I think in one hand it helped me to understand and embrace the free culture. In the other hand, this licenses hide what free means in free culture.

    And with articles like this one, where free and non-free licenses are mixed up, I really think this hurts the free/libre culture.

    You should make a clear distinction between free/libre works in your articles, just like you do in your licenses with the “approved for free cultural work” logo.

    Kind regards

  3. Good points, Matthew, I was torn about what was upstream or downstream. Maybe I have it confused.

    I think it is notable in the sense that we weren’t seeing the use of CC licenses by these outlets a number of years ago, and suddenly, in 2007-08, there’s been a huge influx of it.

    While I appreciate the desire to draw a hard line in the sand of what “free culture” is, I think its also important to realize that these institutions make moves like this very slowly, and any use of CC licensed material is enough to open a dialog about work being released more freely.

    Moreover, when an institution uses a photo that you gave defined as being free, isn’t that the point of releasing it that way? Sure, it’d be best if they released work themselves in that fashion, but what is the point of releasing a work permissively if it can’t be used in non-free contexts?

    Mathieu, Thanks for your comments — I’ll consider being more clear about my use of the term, sorry if it was confusing.

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