Wednesday, April 28, 2010

My recent lesson about Creative Commons licences

Creative Commons logo

At some level I’m a Guardian reading liberal at heart. Except, now that I’m not spending as much of my life in airline lounges, I’ve ditched my regular plunders through the paper copies of the Guardian, Independent and Evening Standard. I only read the media and technology sections of the Guardian online. And sometimes, I don’t even read it online but suffice with a quick listen to their Media Talk and Technology podcasts – which I heartily recommend.

For the first few years, I had no copyright statement on this blog, and all my photos on Flickr were labelled with All Rights Reserved. In the last year or so, I took the step of switching to adopt a Creative Commons licence. Working through CC’s licence selection wizard, I felt generous towards other bloggers and socially network types and normally don’t mind if other bloggers quote liberally from my posts. (In fact, I formally allow a couple of syndication sites to reproduce entire articles.) But in general, I want my words and pictures to be acknowledged.

So my Flickr photos sit under an Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic licence (usefully shortened to BY-NC-ND), and the blog under a related Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike (or BY-NC-SA) licence.

So you are free

  • to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work
  • (in the case of the blog only) to make derivative works

Under the conditions

  • Attribution — You must give the original author credit.
  • Non-Commercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • (in the case of Flickr only) No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work.
  • (in the case of the blog only) Share Alike — If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a licence identical to this one.

But it was only when one of my photos recently appeared in an Irish weekly publication that I realised I had misinterpreted the phrases “non-commercial” and “derivative works”. And I bet I’m not alone.

Commercial doesn’t mean an organisation which makes money. It’s a more specialist definition: “used for advertising, endorsing or promoting a product or service”. If a newspaper uses your photo to illustrate an article, that’s editorial not commercial. If an advertiser uses it, that is commercial. Surprisingly, editorial includes the front cover of books and CD covers.

Turns out that cropping a photo doesn’t create a derivative work. Non-Derivative means that they can’t take the image, cut bits out, add bits to it, or change the fabric of the image.

Thanks for @stepbar for his rapid explanations and education. And thanks to the publication in question for resolving the matter so quickly and easily.


Anne Marie said...

Have you changed the license? Were you unhappy with how they used it? And did they attribute to you?

I think this is generally quite a successful story.

Alan in Belfast said...

I left the licences as they were. It was used in an editorially nice way - quite chuffed they ran it. Given that I don't read the paper in question, I wouldn't have known it was there had someone not recognised the shot and sent me a scan! But they quickly agreed to reprint with attribution etc. So all ends well. Even got a blog post out of it!

Lorenzo said...

My little Creative Commons Project:

Cheers ;)