I’m a hobbyist photographer who is not seeking to make a primary income with my images rather I enjoy posting and sharing my images with others for the love of photography and not so much for monetary gain. Sure, I wouldn’t hesitate to accept a nice license deal of one of my images but its not my primary motivation. I first learned about and considered using Creative Commons (CC) licensing when I noticed Trey Ratcliff was using CC for all of his images on Stuck in Customs. I’ve found CC to be a great fit for me as it allows me to share my images while still preserving some rights.
Over the past week, I’ve seen some interesting blog posts regarding CC licensing. Gary Crabbe’s “Why I Like Free Photos” post was the one that caught my attention. I found the post to be very informative and especially enjoyed some of the comments; however, I found it disappointing how it portrayed CC as only a free unlimited use license and ignored the fact CC comes in 6 different levels of licenses. Then there was a comment made by another professional photographer (Jim Goldstein that I have a great deal of respect and enjoy following) which stated “I’m not so sure that everyone using Creative Commons knows 100% what they’re giving up.” Jim’s comment was very concerning to me as I have fully embraced CC licensing on all of my images shared on Flickr so I dug into CC licensing to make sure I wasn’t making a horrible mistake.
Unlike how CC is typically portrayed by the naysayers, there are actually 6 levels of Creative Commons licensing. The same levels of CC are available as options when selecting licensing level on Flickr in addition to the option of “All rights reserved”. I verified that I was using the standard “Attribution Non-Commercial” license on my Flickr image license selection.
To my surprise, it turns out I was not only letting other use my images for non-commercial use but I was also permitting others to remix, tweak and build upon my images. I realized that what I really wanted was the “Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives” or as stated on Flickr “Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons” which prohibits changing my images in anyway and/or prohibits using them commercially.
Then I found one more very important clarification on the “What is CC?” page which states “Creative Commons licenses are not an alternative to copyright. They work alongside copyright, so you can modify your copyright terms to best suit your needs.” Thats a great point that I didn’t initially understand correctly. I bet many who select the CC license options on Flickr assume they are protected by CC but never submit the photos to be copyrighted which according to my opinion would void the CC license.
In summary, I think Jim’s comment was spot on; however, CC shouldn’t be viewed as a one size fits all. From my hobbyist photographer perspective, photographers can use CC to share images for personal use while still protecting the commercial value by selecting the appropriate level of CC such as “Attribution Non-Commercial No Derivatives” and it is very important to make sure images are copyrighted no matter which level of CC selected. I can’t claim CC is the primary reason; however, I’ve seen my website and flickr traffic double every month since adopting CC which has led to some exciting opportunities!
(Disclaimer – I’m not a lawyer so the thoughts and views in this post are just my personal opinion. If you are concerned regarding your image licensing rights, I highly recommend seeking legal advise from a professional lawyer who specializes in copyright law).
Update 4/20/2010: here is another great article regarding CC – “Shares well with others.” or “Like it? Link it!”
Update 4/21/2010: here is an awesome post thats a must read/watch for anyone interested in a lawyer perspective of copyrighting photos – Scott Kelby’s exclusive interview with Attorney Ed Greenberg for the Straight Scoop on Copyright, Model Releases, and Shooting in Public.