Commons News

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… / 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., 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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Legal Assistance for Game Developers: New Project from New Media Rights

Elliot Harmon, December 18th, 2012

Our friends at New Media Rights are putting together an ambitious project, a collection of videos called Legal Assistance for Game Developers (LAGD). NMR is in the last days of an Indiegogo campaign to fund the next season of LAGD videos.

From NMR:

The goal of the LAGD videos is to empower indies as well as people who want to enter the “mainstream” game industry with information on how they can prevent problems before they happen. Free access to this information up front, as well as access to direct legal services means that indie developers can spend more time making successful, innovative games and less time dodging legal threats.

In season two, we’d like to do episodes on some of these topics:

  • Cloning games: what you can do if your game has been cloned OR what you can get away with cloning
  • Privacy policies and data collection in mobile games
  • Putting together your own contracts without a lawyer in the indie games industry
  • An introduction to contracts in the mainstream game industry
  • FTC disclosure and advertising requirements
  • Venture financing and mergers/acquisitions

Interviewees include luminaries like Valve cofounder Gabe Newell, Gish designer Edmund McMillen, and IGN cofounder Peer Schneider.

Intriguingly, NMR has chosen a sliding-scale approach to CC licensing. All videos are currently licensed CC BY-NC. If the fundraiser reaches $20,000, the videos will be licensed CC BY-SA. At $30,000, CC BY, and at $50,000, NMR will release the videos into the public domain under the CC0 waiver.

But if you’re interested, act quickly. The fundraiser ends on Friday.

Read more:

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Next Steps: NonCommercial and NoDerivatives Discussion

Timothy Vollmer, December 17th, 2012

In the last few months there has been quite a bit of discussion about what CC should do with the non-free licenses. Some have called for Creative Commons to retire or otherwise change the way we offer licenses containing the NonCommercial and NoDerivatives conditions because those licenses do not create a true commons of open content that everyone is free to use, redistribute, remix, and repurpose. These suggestions have been made by the Students for Free Culture,, the Open Knowledge Foundation, and others.

Creative Commons offers 6 licenses. The BY and BY-SA licenses are considered “Free” because they grant to users a set of freedoms including:

  • the freedom to use the work and enjoy the benefits of using it
  • the freedom to study the work and to apply knowledge acquired from it
  • the freedom to make and redistribute copies, in whole or in part, of the information or expression
  • the freedom to make changes and improvements, and to distribute derivative works

There are four CC licenses that are considered “non-free” because they do not provide for all of the freedoms listed above. The CC licenses that contain the NonCommercial and/or NoDerivatives terms are considered non-free. These licenses are BY-NC, BY-ND, BY-NC-SA, BY-NC-ND.

Back in August we wrote a blog post about the ongoing discussion around NonCommercial and NoDerivatives and promised to keep the conversation going. We noted that these issues have surfaced frequently over the years, and we reminded readers that CC studied the NonCommercial issue and has worked to try to clearly mark and otherwise communicate the differences between the Free and non-free licenses. For example, CC has placed a “Definition of Free Cultural Works” seal on the BY and BY-SA license deeds. We also included it in the most recent upgrade of our license chooser.

We’re taking a close look at the arguments and recommendations from the various individuals and groups and have generated a few TO-DO items to attempt to address the issues raised. We have aggregated these proposed actions on the CC wiki. We’d appreciate any feedback you have–you can do this over at the CC-Community email list or the wiki Talk page.

Some of the draft actions include the following (you can read more about them on the wiki page):

  • Improve information about which CC licenses align with definitions of “Free licenses”
  • Revive the color-coded “license spectrum” graphic
  • Provide descriptive examples of adoptions of Free and non-free licenses
  • Gather feedback about changing the name of “NonCommercial” to “Commercial Rights Reserved”

This last point warrants a specific mention here, as it would be a big (and potentially sensitive) change to the branding of the Creative Commons NonCommercial licenses. This proposal is for a simple renaming of the “NonCommercial” license element to “Commercial Rights Reserved,” without any change in the definition of what it covers. Renaming it to something that more accurately reflects the operation of the license may ensure that it is not unintentionally used by licensors who intend something different. For more information about the idea and rationale behind this proposal, please see the CC wiki page on the topic.

Again, if you have feedback on the proposed actions or other ideas that haven’t been captured here, please contribute to the CC-community list, the wiki Talk page, or in the comments below. We appreciate your thoughts and suggestions.


CC10: Day 10

Elliot Harmon, December 15th, 2012

CC10 – dublab’s Creative Commons 10th Birthday Video Mix from dublab / CC BY-NC

Ten years ago today, the first Creative Commons licenses were released. Over the past ten days, the CC community has celebrated around the world with concerts, discussions, hackathons, and parties. People in the community have put together mixtapes, created iPhone apps, and blogged about why CC is important to them. And then this happened.

We’ve seen three major announcements: Hatsune Miku becoming CC licensed, a huge grant for open education for adult English language learners, and Wikimedia Commons reaching 15 million files.

We’ve had friends of CC blog about their favorite CC-licensed works: Cory Doctorow on one of his biggest influences, John Wilbanks on an important public domain dataset from an unlikely source, Jason Sigal on a musician who built a career on open licenses, and Gautam John on a CC-licensed children’s book that took on a life of its own.

Today, we talk with Jonathan Worth about the future of open education, and Claudio from Bad Panda Records shares his favorite CC-licensed songs. And we leave you with a pocket guide for the road, courtesy of CC Colombia.

The past ten days have been a testament to the depth and diversity of the Creative Commons community. CC’s greatest strengths are the depth and diversity of material in the commons, and the multitude of the commoners themselves. If you get excited about what this community can do together, then consider making a donation to CC today.


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#cc10 Featured Platform: Bad Panda Records

Elliot Harmon, December 15th, 2012

Each day during CC’s tenth anniversary celebration, we’ve featured a different platform that hosts CC-licensed content, ranging from music to science to education. Today, we feature a favorite of ours, Bad Panda Records.

Bad Panda is a netlabel that releases one song a week, all under CC BY-NC-SA. Bad Panda also offers CDs and LPs of many of the featured artists. Founded in 2010, Bad Panda has quickly grown into a major hub of the #ccmusic community.

We contacted Bad Panda founder Claudio and asked him a few questions. We asked him to suggest a few of his favorite Bad Panda tracks, which are listed at the end of the interview. He also put together his own #cc10 mixtape, which you can enjoy at his site.

Tell me a bit about how Bad Panda started. Was CC licensing a part of the plan from the beginning?

It started with the idea of re-imagining what could be a label in the year 2010 – building the label from the bottom up without any financial help, just using tools that internet people is building. CC licensing is definitely a part of the plan, it wouldn’t have been possible otherwise. Completely inspired by Lawrence Lessig’s words and by a meeting with Joi Ito in Rome around december 2009.

CC has clearly become a more viable option for musicians than it was a few years ago. Do you think artists are less reluctant to share now? Is it because people understand CC better now than they used to, or because of changes in the landscape?

It’s probably both reasons even if honestly still see some people confused at how CC works, especially here in Italy (and some speculations as well).

Do you have any stories of surprising ways in which people have reused music that was featured on Bad Panda?

Dumbo Gets Mad was in BBC’s Planet Earth, a choreographed dance somewhere in the USA, and a short featuring Possimiste.

Claudio’s favorite CC-licensed songs

Dumbo Gets Mad – Radical Leap from Dumbo Gets Mad on Vimeo.


#cc10 Interview: Jonathan Worth’s Connected Classroom

Elliot Harmon, December 15th, 2012

As a well-known British portrait photographer, Jonathan Worth has taken photographs of hundreds of famous people. But don’t take his photography classes if you’re hoping to meet Jude Law. “I see that I am quite a commodity for a university: I’m one step away from someone who’s incredibly famous. And there’s a misguided assumption that because I have photographed famous people, that I am somehow connected and friends with them.” Today, Jonathan is offering his students at Coventry University a different kind of connectedness, a kind that’s less about celebrity and more about building a community of peers.

Along with fellow photographer Matt Johnston, Jonathan teaches a course at Coventry College called #PHONAR (photography and narrative). Although thousands of people have participated in the course over the Internet and all of the lectures and course materials are licensed CC BY-SA, he doesn’t consider it a MOOC. But it might be a hugely important step in the development of open education.

When we interviewed Jonathan for The Power of Open a few years ago, he was cautiously optimistic about the possibilities for photographers in a more connected world. “We don’t have all the answers,” he said, “but CC […] helps me take advantage of the things working against me.”

When Jonathan was approached to teach an undergraduate photography class, he was excited about it, but also leery of how to teach young photographers as they enter a world in which professional opportunities are far from a guarantee. “Me as supplier doesn’t work. I used to think that my product was photographs, and that was it. It doesn’t work that way. I can’t control my images on the internet. And so when I stopped trying to do that, it changed the way that I thought about myself and what I do.

“I said, ‘I’ll write these classes so long as they’re not the same classes that I’d done before, which were written in the 70s.’ It would be morally bereft of me to do that.”

And so Jonathan set out to put the classes together, asking himself some tough questions about what it means to be a photographer today, and what it means to be a teacher too. “I agreed to do the classes, so long as they put front and center that my old business model and career structure were gone. No one’s written what it means to be a 21st century photographer. No one’s written that book. That also meant that I wasn’t necessarily the best teacher in the world. I had to learn my craft as a teacher, but I didn’t know all the answers. So I couldn’t sit there and spout off the answers.”

Jonathan explained to me that he saw the class as an opportunity to explore these complicated issues with his students as part of a broader community. And involving that community necessarily meant licensing the course openly, because that allowed him and his students to engage with a broader community.

“I’m trying not to use the word ‘open’ now,” Jonathan told me. “I prefer the word ‘connected.’” And connected the classes are: Jonathan regularly collaborates with luminaries from the photography world — Steve Pyke and Chris Floyd have been recent guests — but so have people from other fields. “Cory Doctorow, he’s obviously not a photographer. But photographers don’t have all the answers. I was looking around — authors are making some ground. Musicians are lightyears ahead of us.”

But here’s the secret sauce of of Jonathan’s connected classroom: each of those contributors brings their own communities into the fold. And Jonathan sees those connections as the real value of conducting the class openly. “That abundance of people is not a burden. I have 20 people in the room, and one person who tunes in for one of my classes, and they look at one of my students’ work, and they tell one of their friends about it, they’ve amplified the classroom experience for that student. They’re bringing attention to the student. They’re bringing support. That’s what the students need, to have that network.”


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CC10: Day 9

Elliot Harmon, December 14th, 2012

Creative Commons Korea

It’s getting hard to keep up with all of the CC10 commotion. Today, the CC community is celebrating in Muscat, Paris, Rio de Janeiro, and Seoul.

Not to be outdone by the #cc10 Europe mixtape, Creative Commons Korea has created a #cc10 iPhone app featuring ten musicians who license their work under CC. Bad Panda Records has put together a #cc10 mix of its own, and dublab made a video mixtape. Meanwhile, the IceCube Neutrino Observatory had a gathering in honor of CC, meaning there have now been CC10 celebrations on every continent in the world.

And here on the blog, we’re celebrating the diverse group of artists and creators who use Creative Commons licensing. Behance founder and CEO Scott Belsky explains why artists don’t need to be afraid of open licensing. And we welcome one of the newest members of the family of CC-licensed works, virtual pop star Hatsune Miku. Finally, we highlight Open Attribute, a browser plug-in that makes attribution easy.

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#cc10 Featured Platform: Behance

Elliot Harmon, December 14th, 2012

Scott Belsky

Scott Belsky / transmitNOW events / CC BY-NC

Throughout CC’s tenth anniversary celebrations, we’re profiling media platforms with CC integration, and talking to the people behind those platforms to see what role CC plays in their communities.

Behance is a platform and community for designers and other creative people. Behance is a major hub for designers to be seen; its testimonials page has dozens of stories, both of designers who got work by sharing their portfolios on Behance and of big-name companies who used it to find talent. Most interestingly, Creative Commons licensing is the default on Behance. When you select “All Rights Reserved” for a project, you’re warned that “This will limit your exposure.”

I wanted to know why Behance placed so much importance on CC licenses, so I reached out to founder and CEO Scott Belsky. I also asked Scott to pick a few of his favorite CC-licensed projects on Behance. A few of those are sprinkled throughout this blog post; the rest are listed at the end.

How much of the content on Behance is CC-licensed? Has that number stayed constant or changed since you implemented CC licensing?

Over 75% of content published on Behance is CC-licensed. We implemented CC-licensing from the very beginning, and it is by far the preferred copyright setting. Those that choose otherwise are often doing so at their client’s request or for some other contractual concern.

For some artists and designers, the argument for CC licensing a portfolio might not be obvious. Can you tell me any success stories users have had with open licensing, or examples of interesting conversations you’ve had with users about how they use CC?

The primary driver of CC licensing is a desire to share broadly with reasonable restrictions. Behance is a global platform of over a million creative professionals from around the world. One of the primary benefits of being on Behance is the constant stream of inspiration and opportunities. There have been all sorts of collaborations – many of them non-commercial and born out of love – that are the result of CC-licensing. We want Behance to be the wind at the backs of creative careers, and CC has been a primary ingredient in the growth and values of Behance.

Inspiration Pad
Inspiration Pad / Marc Thomasset / CC BY-NC-ND

Since Behance started, have you seen creators’ attitudes about sharing changing?

Sharing is the new “networking.” Rather than focus on business card exchanges and networking receptions, the creative community builds professional networks by sharing their creations, feedback, and resources. Look no further than GitHub, a platform for sharing amongst the development community that likely facilitates as many career opportunities as traditional resumes. In Behance, we see a growing value for transparency and attribution. Many thousands of projects are published every single day, and we’re helping organize the data around this creative work. We’re also trying to help people sort through the work and find talent.

If you create something in this world, you should get credit for it. The creative industry has never valued attribution, especially when it comes to advertising and entertainment. But the power is shifting away from agencies and middlemen to the creatives themselves. It’s an exciting trend, but it depends on a continued culture of transparency and sharing.

Scott’s favorite CC-licensed projects


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#cc10 Antarctica!

Elliot Harmon, December 14th, 2012

CC10 Antarctica
CC10 Antarctica / Nils Irland / IceCube Neutrino Observatory / CC BY

Remember when Jessica said we were “working on” a CC10 meetup in Antarctica? She wasn’t kidding. We got in touch with our friends at the IceCube Neutrino Observatory, and before we knew it, IceCube researchers Nils Irland, Blaise Kuo, and Felipe Pedreros were toasting Creative Commons from the geographic South Pole.

“Nils is part of our IT team and was down to help replace some servers,” IceCube communications manager Laurel Norris told us in an email. “Blaise and Felipe are just now starting their stint as winterovers – meaning they will be at the South Pole for the entire winter (24 hour darkness). Aside for a short trip to the coastal research station of McMurdo, they will not leave the South Pole until Nov 2013.”

As it turns out, IceCube researchers spend a lot of time thinking about the future of open. In its data policy (PDF), IceCube echoes the Antarctic Treaty’s provision that “to the greatest extent feasible and practicable, scientific observations and results from Antarctica shall be exchanged and made freely available.” For information on data sharing in Antarctica, see our case study on Polar Commons.

And with that, we now know of 31 CC10 gatherings around the world, on every continent. There have been five CC10 mixtapes, a CC10 iPhone app, a world-famous virtual singer going CC, and who knows what will happen in the next three days. This community is mind-boggling.

We’re humbled by the worldwide outpour of support we’ve seen for CC’s tenth anniversary. Please join us as we take on the next decade together, and donate $25 to Creative Commons.

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CC10Musicians iPhone app from CC Korea

Timothy Vollmer, December 14th, 2012

CC Korea has given Creative Commons a cool 10th birthday present with the release of the CC10Musicians iPhone app (Android app coming soon). From CC Korea:

We introduce 10 teams of musicians sharing their music under a Creative Commons License. From Brazil to Iceland, from Hip-Hop to Indie Rock, discover awesome music from all over the genre, all over the world. CC10Musicians App allows you to listen to the 10 selected artists’ work on live streaming and share some spread-worth music with your Facebook and Twitter friends.

The app looks (and sounds) great, and is easy to use. Many thanks to CC Korea for a fantastic birthday gift!

cc korea


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