For a while now, photos posted on flickr by the White House have been licensed under a CC-BY license. While this was the most lenient of the CC licensing options it wasn’t exactly appropriate as these photos were technically in the public domain. Because of this, the attribution requirement of the CC license, although a great suggestion that everyone should follow, was technically adding a requirement that wasn’t allowed by law.
The only other option previously available was that of the Flickr Commons project “no known copyright restrictions”. Again, not appropriate as in this case we know that there can’t possibly be even the potential of a copyright claim by anyone. Again, close but technically not appropriately.
So, the folks at flickr have come up with a new designation: “United States Government Works”.
What does this mean? Well, if you click on the link you’ll be taken to the relevant page of copyright law giving you the relevant information. At that point you’re on your own. Thanks, I think.
Why doesn’t flickr just have a “public domain” option? That’s a completely different discussion which I’m not going to have here. Check out the flickr discussion and flickr’s official opinion on the matter if you’re interested.