Creative Commons and common acts of creativity

Today I was tagged in one of those Facebook things that ask you to make up an album cover based on grabbing a couple random bits of text from wikimedia and wikiquotes, and a random photo from flickr’s Explore page. I immediately wondered about the licensing issues involved, since most of the photos on flickr’s Explore page are set to “(c) all rights reserved”. 

Sure, this is just a fun bit of remixing, and no one is profiting from it, but isn’t this exactly the kind of thing that Creative Commons was invented to support? Why not make use of it? First I looked around on flickr and discovered that they allow you to find random images, interesting images, or CC-licensed images, but they don’t offer a way to use all three of these criteria at once. 

But I’m sure that it’s possible with the flickr API. A quick search led me to this blog post by Eszter Hargittai about this very same issue. She points to this handy tool by Mike Lietz, who used the flickr API to do this very thing – show a random photo from the Explore page that has a CC license. 

With more and more people using flickr as a source for reusable, remixable images, maybe they will start to provide more robust options for exploring and searching CC-licensed content.

Open Science, Open World

I was recently browsing a British blog called Science in the open, by Cameron Neylon, which is described as “An openwetware blog on the challenges of open and connected science.” I wasn’t sure how relevant this would be to me, but I quickly discovered that many of the openness issues facing the scientific community are similar to (or deeply related to) issues in the rest of the world of information. Continue reading “Open Science, Open World”

Creative Commons is not “carte blanche”

recent Pew report states that 47% of Americans have looked themselves up on Google or some other search engine. I like to practice a more specific form of vanity search – I use a couple of blog search sites to see where my flickr photos have been used. All my photos are posted under a “by-nc” Creative Commons license which states that they can be reused for non-commercial purposes, provided that I’m giving credit for the image.

I’d like to point out that I’m not doing this vanity search to check up on people, I just really enjoy seeing how my photos are used. It’s fun to see my images of celebrities, New York landmarks, comedians, or even something as mundane as cherry blossoms adorning someone’s blog post. Generally the authors attribute the photos to my screenname and link back to the originals on my flickr account. Some people even get in touch with me and ask for permission beforehand, though that’s not required with the CC license. I don’t really even pay much attention if the site has Google ads, even though, strictly speaking, that qualifies it as “commercial” usage.

There’s still the occasional shock, though, and the latest one is so deeply ironic I can’t really even comprehend it. I discovered a photo I took of the IAC building that was used, without any attribution at all, on a website called Despite the “.org” in the name, this is clearly a commercial website. On the page that contains my photo, I counted 16 ad spots, 3 sponsored channels, and 3 calls to action to “ADVERTISE ON PAIDCONTENT.” On top of that, the article is about a Pre-Conference Reception being held by at the IAC building, and it features a prominent button inviting readers to buy tickets to the conference (plus 8 additional links to sponsors of the conference). So, not only is my photo being displayed on a commercial site, but it’s directly being used to promote the sale of tickets to an event (well, it was – the event is now in the past).

The most troubling part about this is that these are not people who can claim ignorance. This issue falls right in their area of expertise, which according to their site is “global coverage of the business of digital content.” Plus, their own website is published under a “by-nc-sa” CC license, which means it has the same restrictions as my photo, but also that if you reuse the content, you can only do so under the same license (in other words you can’t put their content into your own work and then copyright it).

Although, maybe they don’t understand Creative Commons as well as I would expect them to, because right under the message that says “This work is licensed under a CreativeCommons License.” there’s another message that says “Copyright ContentNext Media Inc. 2002—2007.”

Being, as I am, a Content Strategist and a consultant, seems like it would be exactly the type of organization that would appeal to me. But this experience makes me question how they could possibly claim to be experts in the field of digital content.