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Monday, April 28, 2008

Creative Commons

Addressing the key concerns of rights and licenses for image usage, an organization has proposed a revolutionary solution all pros should know

Is CC the right fit for professional photographers? Before answering that, one has to understand the dynamic nature of a modern audience's expectation. The immediacy that online interaction provides has irreversibly shifted how photographers, publishers and image viewers interact.

Considering how quickly digital photographs can be captured, viewed and sent, image availability is now taken for granted. In seconds, photographs can be retrieved from anywhere around the globe via Google, Flickr and other sites. In fact, the ease by which photographs are now accessed and the frequency in which they're posted online have fostered a sense of entitlement to such work by many within the general public. Photographs more than ever are seen less as intellectual property and more as free content.

creative commons

Figure 2

What might surprise you is that this concept of “photographic free content” isn't just tied to younger generations who are in an academic environment or are transitioning to a professional environment. Online-immersed creative professionals are also falling prey to this mentality, regularly pulling comps from nonstock image sites such as Flickr.

This is no doubt the darker side of image use online. Those infringing copyrights in such a manner are a mixed population of people who are and aren't aware of copyright law. Their unlawful actions can be kept in check via infringement lawsuits as specified under current copyright law. The caveat to this is the requirement that you've taken the appropriate steps to maximize your legal rights by filing copyrights with the Library of Congress and that you discover the infringement.

For the likes of Professor Lessig, the current definition of illegal activity and infringement raises the question of the compatibility of current copyright legislation with the technology shift created by the Internet. The broadening adoption of Internet applications and services fostering user-generated content inclusive of blog software and photo/video-sharing sites has literally transformed how photographs are discussed, shared and published. Online publishers now expect permission to use copyrighted material immediately, as in minutes, if not hours, and a growing expectation is that permissions even be pregranted.

As stated by Professor Lessig, on the one hand, “Copyright law says every use of creative work—in a digital context—triggers copyright because every use produces a copy.  And on the other hand, copyright law says any trigger of copyright either requires the user to get permission from the copyright owner or renders the user an infringer of copyright unless fair use excuses him or her.”

The crux of this scenario is what prompted Professor Lessig and his colleagues to found CC.

creative commons

Figure 3

Creative Commons strives to improve efficiencies with copyrights and the granting of permissions via six predefined licensing models. The freedoms these licenses grant range from completely unrestricted commercial/noncommercial use with attribution and the permission to modify the work to noncommercial use with attribution and no permission to modify the work. These licenses are referenced in Figure 3.

CC also has developed an incredibly passionate following and has been adopted by the online imaging heavyweight Flickr, which boasts an image library of more than two billion photos. The growing CC community aims to get content owners to think about image rights and to garner community support behind copyright owners. Leveraging this growing movement, CC has been pursuing two larger objectives to increase respect for copyright holders and to create a licensing/interaction model that lawmakers can reference as an alternate to the existing copyright framework more fitting to modern photographer/photo-publisher interaction.


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