Rather than appending to my previous post I thought I’d add this update as a separate entry.
Following my discovery that the Daily Mail had used one of my images without permission, a number of threads kicked off. I asked folks via my blog, on Flickr and on Twitter, what their recommendations were – and I was overwhelmed by the response.
My initial response was to contact the Mail and ask for attribution, but I received no response to my email. I then decided to contact the picture desk, and ended up invoicing them for use of the image based on breach of license terms. I was prepared to take the matter further had the attribution (at minimum) not been provided. They finally added an attribution yesterday – although that’s via an overlay on the image, so it’s not ideal as it’s not searchable, and there’s no link back to my original content.
It has been pointed out to me that simply retrospectively billing them may lend some legitimacy to what they have done here… and let’s be honest, unless someone had spotted the reuse of my image I wouldn’t have known about it. They hadn’t linked to my Flickr page so I wouldn’t have found it via search. I suppose one answer would be the use of a tool like Tineye. More importantly though, I think it’s completely unacceptable to use CC-licensed (or even fully rights-reserved) material in this way and news sites and other services need to learn to respect these licenses. As a result, I’ve had some other friends make contact with the Mail at a high level to make this point.
On Sunday I became aware that another site had reprinted the Mail’s story, and included my image. This time, it was a news site in Brazil. My initial approach to this was to use Google Translate to try to find contact details, and I ended up filling in a form in English. I then asked for assistance on Twitter, and @mauricioswg was able to put me in touch with a Brazilian friend of his who also contacted the site on my behalf. At first they took the image down, but they still wanted to use it and after some discussion they now have the “correct” unmodified version of the image with attribution by agreement, thus fulfilling the terms of the license.
The upshot of all this? Whilst it can sometimes be hard to locate sites that are using your images – be vigilant as far as possible, and insist on your license. It’s your material.
I’d like to thank everyone who has offered support and provided help. My Twitter and other online and offline contacts have been invaluable. Social networks FTW!
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.
- If they are from a social media event, then generally I guess other people might want to blog them.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
The 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.