Of Librarians, Photography, Copyright & Creative Commons

Before you read this post be sure you’ve read these other posts and I don’t really feel like summarizing them, just responding to the issues at hand.

I was going to post about this since I seem to be the "CC Guy" in the library world post-CIL2008 but then I decided not to as I’m not in the mood to write something worthy of what I have to say about it. Now, is looks like we will be discussing the issue on tonight’s episode of Uncontrolled Vocabulary so I’ve decided to create this less-than-perfect response if for no other reason than to organizer my thought in preparation for tonight.


Whereas the original blogger of the image in question did not own the copyright on the image in the first place, they are just as "wrong" in republishing it on the Net as anyone involved.

Whereas the original blogger states "Please note that this image has a copyright, for non-commercial distribution with attribution" then displays the CC BY-NC-SA license, this wholly makes no sense. Either the image is under traditional copyright or it’s under a CC license. You can’t have it both ways.

Whereas Michael Casey followed the license as far as I can tell I consider him pretty much faultless in this situation.

Whereas the original blogger insists that you use her code to post that image anywhere else, that both a) does not jive with the CC license given and b) is not something most Web publishers will do since she could change the image to something else at any time and therefore that would display new, non-approved content on my site.

Whereas the original blogger is stating a copyright, and stating a CC license, and then stating that others must only post the image the way she wants, she is trying to have her cake and eat it too and that just won’t work. Pick one. You can’t have all three.

Whereas the original blogger issued a DMCA takedown notice to Yahoo! (owner of Flickr), I consider this to be a complete overreaction to the situation. She should have contacted Michael first and tried to work it out with him personally. I’m sure he would have been reasonable about it.

Whereas Yahoo! received the DMCA takedown notice they did the only thing that the law allowed them to do, and took the image out of Michael’s account. Michael and I see this as completely unreasonable but I still find Yahoo! faultless since they had no choice under the DMCA. I hope that Yahoo! will restore the image pending their investigation.

Whereas Flickr does not allow for a public domain license, I agree that they should. Anyone know who to write to in encouragement of adding a PD license?

Whereas the new Free Use Photos Flickr group has been created, I believe this might only cause additional confusion and problems as most of those photos are in the "Free Use Photos" group yet still have a traditional full copyright listed for rights. In other words, we teach users to check the rights but now have to say "but as long as it’s in this group, you’re allowed to ignore the listed rights."

Whereas I was invited to participate in this group I have decided to respectfully declined. I am more than happy to let pretty much anyone use my photos as long as they give me credit. (In fact I’ve allowed several commercial organizations to use my photos without paying me.) My CC license allows for this just fine. I’m not willing to put my photos into the public domain at this point since then others could use my works without giving me credit.

Therefore I believe that the problem is not Creative Commons but a distinct lack of understanding of one or more of the parties. The solution is not to give up on CC as Michael has done, but further education.

4 Replies to “Of Librarians, Photography, Copyright & Creative Commons”

  1. Hello Michael,
    I enjoyed reading your very thoughtful post. I’m Tony Tallent who, along with my colleague Lori started the “Free Use Photos” Group. We started this effort to make it easier for presenters and bloggers to get photos and not have to have any shadow of infringement fear.

    You are right when you say:

    …most of those photos are in the “Free Use Photos” group yet still have a traditional full copyright listed for rights.

    We have been working on figuring out how to take off any notice of copyrights from the photos posted on this group, but have not been able make this happen (if anyone does know how, let me know!). It appears at flickr does not have any allowance for this.
    Free Use is about taking out hoops for fellow colleagues and folks who need useful photos–sharing with ease.

  2. Hello Michael,
    Yes, I’m familiar with publicdomainpictures.net and have even pulled a few images from there myself. Very useful. Many more folks are flickr-ready and savvy.

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