Rethinking Creative Commons

Last September, I changed the licensing of my Flickr stream to release all content under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives license. It seemed like the right thing to do to let non-commercial entities enjoy my work as long as they provided me with credit.

Unfortunately the spirit of my licensing intentions doesn’t always jive with the ambiguity of the Creative Commons licenses. What exactly is commercial use? Selling a T-shirt or print of the photo is obviously commercial… but what about a blog that uses the photo and also runs advertisements? What exactly is attribution? Crediting the photographer by real name? Online username? No explicit credit but linking the photo to a Flickr page? I know in my mind what my answers would be to these questions, but the license doesn’t answer the questions.

Enforcing a Creative Commons license often leads to the role of being an educator, and then quibbling over details. Last week, I encountered three different situations where someone was using a photo of mine (released under Creative Commons) in what I understood to be a violation of the license agreement. I posted an update on Twitter after encountering the third one, which led to a couple people making pleas that I should simply work with the offenders to educate them about what the license really means.

Writing an email that explains the license along with the specific issues for a violation probably takes 20-30 minutes. Responses and followup can eat up more time. Doing three of those in a week is simply time that I don’t have.

I’m no longer releasing my personal work under Creative Commons*. I’ll continue to grant no-fee usage rights in some cases, but they’ll be on an explicit and as-requested basis. I support the spirit of the Creative Commons license but unfortunately the details are vague. I hope that in the future there will be a more explicit license that can easily be applied to my work on places such as Flickr that will allow more more fine-grained control and less confusion.

* Of course, if one of my clients requests Creative Commons licensing for their photos, that can be included as part of the contract.

Facebook: Rights vs. Business

Recently Facebook was in the news over a change to its terms of service. Specifically, Facebook removed a clause that explicitly stated that their license to display and use content would expire if a user removed their content from the service*.

Photographers have a dilemma when it comes to using Facebook to promote their business. Facebook is a major social network, and having a presence on Facebook is a good marketing move to increase exposure to a wide audience. On the other hand, even after the recent public outcry over Facebook’s terms, the content licensing terms continue to give Facebook a non-exclusive license to use uploaded content in any form they choose, including resale, creating derivative works, and displaying the content outside Facebook.

This becomes a dilemma when one considers things such as uploading portfolio images. Displaying your work for potential clients = good. Giving Facebook the rights to do anything they want with your work = bad.

I made the choice to leave Facebook, at least until they move to more reasonable licensing. Other photographers love Facebook. It’s a personal choice, but one should know what is at stake.

Last week, I gave a presentation at Ignite Portland giving a quick overview of social media, social networks, and content licensing:

* I was actually the first to blog about the expiration clause being removed. See Facebook Terms of Service Change: Content is now Licensed Forever which was a followup to Facebook’s Rights Grab: I’m Out on another one of my blogs.

All of My Flickr Photos Now Have Creative Commons Licensingflic

After some consideration, I’ve changed the licensing on my Flickr stream; all of my work there is now available under the Creative Commons Attribution – Noncommercial – No Derivative Works license. In short, you may use and share the photos for non-commercial purposes, unaltered, as long as you provide attribution to Aaron Hockley as the photographer. A link to is always appreciated.

This was a decision made considering a variety of factors including the desire to share my work with the community and the changing landscape of professional photography.

Head over to Flickr, view all of my collections or sets, or browse by tag. If you’re down with RSS, you can subscribe to my Flickr feed as well. Enjoy!

Heineken Steals Images, Insults Photographers

Last month I noted new photography restrictions at Burger King and noted I’d be voting with my dollars and not supporting their business. I’m now learning of another anti-photographer company which should be avoided: Heineken.

The details are emerging on this Flickr discussion thread but in short, Heineken used a bunch of photographs without permission. When confronted with potential legal action, Heineken sent an insulting response, which I’ll paraphrase as “we don’t think we did anything wrong, but here’s a couple dollars to make you go away.”

As an international megacorp, the folks at Heineken have a big legal department which would probably go after any infringers upon its brand; it’s a shame they’re insulting photographers when their own illegal use is noted. Best of luck to those who have had images stolen; I’d encourage photographers everywhere to vote with your dollars and avoid Heineken’s brands.

Photographers Not Welcome at Burger King

My office for my day job is across the street from a Burger King. It’s not the healthiest of options, but I’ll eat there occasionally. Last week I noticed this new sign on the door:

Photographers Not Welcome at Burger King

As a private business, Burger King is certainly welcome to set their own policies. But I have to wonder… are they that uptight about lawsuits that they’re going to prohibit photography in a fast food restaurant. I doubt I would’ve been taking many gallery-worthy photos at my local BK, but their policy turns me off as a photographer and as a customer. I’d urge other photographers to choose alternate fast food instead of support a company that won’t allow photography.