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.

Revised Photoshop Express Terms: Better, But Still Disconcerting

Responding to the public outcry over the breadth of licensing conditions in Adobe’s original license for Photoshop Express (previous blog post), Adobe has posted a new Terms of Use Agreement to take effect on April 10th. They removed the part of the license agreement which drew the most ire; users no longer give Adobe the rights to use the images for any purpose whatsoever.

The new terms contain an interesting section about rights given to other users. Take a look at sections 6 and 7… here’s an excerpt:

You hereby grant Other Users a worldwide (because the internet is global), royalty-free (meaning that Other Users do not owe you any money), nonexclusive (meaning you are free to license Your Content to others) license to view, download, print, distribute, publicly perform and publicly display Your Shared Content subject to the limitations in Section 7.

It’s no longer a rights grab by Adobe, but posting any material for viewing apparently lets anyone use your content for any number of purposes. Again, it’s not a license I can agree with for my work.

If you want any sort of control over your work, take a few minutes and read the terms for any services used. Caveat emptor.

Adobe’s Photoshop Express Means Giving Adobe Your Photos

Last night Adobe released a free, web-based photo editor called Photoshop Express (which despite it’s name really isn’t anything like Photoshop). I tried it out, it’s not a bad online editor, but based on a tip from someone else today I decided to look at their Terms of Service:

8. Use of Your Content.

1. Adobe does not claim ownership of Your Content. However, with respect to Your Content that you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Services, you grant Adobe a worldwide, royalty-free, nonexclusive, perpetual, irrevocable, and fully sublicensable license to use, distribute, derive revenue or other remuneration from, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, publicly perform and publicly display such Content (in whole or in part) and to incorporate such Content into other Materials or works in any format or medium now known or later developed.

Whoa. What that means is that if you use their service and put any of your photos into a public gallery, you’ve given Adobe a no-restrictions license to do anything they want with your photos.

Not cool, Adobe. Not cool at all.

update 3/27 21:13 – see comments