Is it OK for a company to sell your Creative Commons work without your permission or compensation? That’s the question Flickr users are debating right now after a the launch of the company’s new print making service.
For those unfamiliar, Creative Commons is an open-source framework for photographers, makers, artists, and more to define how their work may be used.
The 4 basic variations of CC are:
-no derivative works
Flickr embraced CC licensing many years ago and now hosts over 300,000,000 CC-licensed images. Last month the company began a new printing service that allows customers to choose from millions of CC-licensed photographs to buy as a high quality print. This service drew criticism from some, including the Wall Street Journal, for selling photographers’ work without compensation. Thomas Hawk has had a rocky relationship with the online photo service throughout the years, but even he came to their defense in a recent post:
“If you are going to license your photos Creative Commons with no restriction, then you ought to be prepared for this type of use. If it’s not Flickr selling them, anyone else can, legally. If you are uncomfortable with this idea, then you should not use Creative Commons without any sort of restriction.”
Which CC license should you use?
I love Creative Commons, but understand how confusing the different options can be. There are plenty of tools to help pick the right license for your work, but if you are looking to share your work as long as it isn’t being sold without compensation, I’d recommend Attribution Non-Commercial License (CC-nc). This is a fairly open license that allow others to share your work (with attribution), but does not give them permission to sell your work.
If you’d like to change the default CC setting for your Flickr photos you can do so by going to your Settings/Privacy & Permissions/Defaults for New Uploads. This one change your old uploads, but will be the default license for all new images you upload.
Should Flickr sell your CC licensed work?
While it’s true that Flickr (or any company) has the right sell fully open CC-licensed photos (where commercial use is permitted), they probably could have done a better job of explaining it to their users in advance. The good will they may be losing may not be worth the extra revenue that these prints may generate.
Flickr also passed up a great opportunity by offering a revenue share with all of the artists involved. Not only would this help keep goodwill, but it might have actually turned photographers into advocates for the printing business.
Sharing is magic.
After working on a project for a while, my number one goal is to get people to see it.
By marking my work as CC-nc, it easily defines how my work may be shared, without anyone needing to contact me for permission. As such, my work has reached a broader audience than it would have had I kept it fully restricted. If you are interested in easily applying Creative Commons to your WordPress blog, I recommend the Creative Commons Configurator plugin for easily setting it up.