Creative Commons and attributions

I noticed Laura Fitton (aka @pistachio) twittering about Flickr and Creative Commons licensing of photos recently.

You can find the photos which I have CC-licensed here on my Flickr stream. This accounts for less than 20% of my total photostream.

I’m a big fan of CC. I use a lot of CC-licensed materials in presentations, for instance. Let me explain the rationale as to how I decide which of my images to make available under Creative Commons.

  1. If they are from a social media event, then generally I guess other people might want to blog them.
  2. If they are of gadgets or objects, or are quick snapshots, then the likelihood is that I’m going to blog them, and others might want to as well.
  3. If someone specifically asks to use an image, I’ll consider whether or not it could / should be CC-licensed. Generally, it’s nice when people want to use one of my images, so I try to oblige.
  4. If I find that an image has been used on a blog without the author checking and it is marked All Rights Reserved, and I subsequently decide that the image is generally shareable, then I’ll open it up.
  5. If they are family, portraits or landscape shots – i.e. the bulk of my work – then there’s a chance I might want to do something with them commercially in the future, or else there’s a good reason for me not wanting just anyone to use them (plus there may be rights issues outside of my control anyway). In these cases, I generally will not apply a CC license.

What no one ever tells you about bloggingThe license I most frequently apply is Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works. The annoyance is that I seem to find myself having to “police” the use of the images… I have some web search feeds set up which look for references to my Flickr URL, and when I see them used, I’ll take a look at the site. The most frequently-used image seems to be this one of one of my favourite blogging books… but 90% of the time I have to go and ask for the blogger in question to add an attribution or reference back to the original site. I always add a link to the original Flickr page to the bottom of slides, and details of the images used in the notes for any slide deck. It’s part of playing fair.

I like Creative Commons. I just wish that more people understood how to use CC-licensed content.

Update: I just want to emphasise that 99% of the folks I do correspond with on this issue are very polite, helpful, and made the honest mistake of not necessarily knowing the background on CC licensing. The issue is usually fixed without hesitation. In the example I cited in this post, the author did link back to the Flickr page, and the alt text of the img tag very clearly references me – it’s just that many browsers won’t show that even in a tooltip, as the link URL will be shown in preference. A clear credit is usually a better option, in my own opinion.

5 thoughts on “Creative Commons and attributions”

  1. Hi, Andy. As I shared via email, I thought I had attributed the photo visibly by entering the following in a tooltip that shows (at least on some browsers) when one mouses over the photo: “Photo of blogging book and notebook from andyp uk on Used with gratitude under a Creative Commons license. Click photo for terms.” Also, the photo links to the Flickr page.

    Given your request, and the fact that the tooltip was not visible to you, I’ve put a slightly shortened version of the above on the post itself.

    In any case, thanks for the photo. Also, since we’re on the subject, do you recommend any specific wording or protocols for Flickr photos under a CC license?

    Thanks again.

    Personal blog:

  2. Thanks for the follow-up, Celeste. As I implied in my update to the post, actually pointing to your post was not a good example – I’ve come across cases where the writer has just cut-and-pasted a copy of the image into their blog. You absolutely did do the right thing, it just wasn’t very visible, and that’s a product of the browser technology!

    A Twitter friend actually pointed out to me that the CC license is vague on how attribution should be handled… it essentially says the user of the CC content should follow the attribution requested by the creator. The link itself is a great start. Personally, I think exposing the author / creator name in a text label near the image or text is great. Maybe CC themselves could/should make a statement on this.

    Thank you so much for your help!

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