Flickr and Creative Commons

July 28th, 2008

Filed under: Life and Everything Else


As a proponent of open-source software and freely usable culture I try to encourage others to make use of my work as much as possible by applying the GNU General Public License (GPL) to all of my software and the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike (CC BY-NC-SA) to any writing or photography.

Aside: The reason I use different licenses is that for software I have a reasonable expectation that commercial use of my software would result in feedback, bug-reports, translations, or patches that would further improve said software, whereas I do not feel that commercial use of photographs without compensation would improve my photography.

While I encourage others to make use of my work, I do expect them to respect the (liberal) license that I have applied to them and properly give credit where it is due. What particularly bugs me is Flickr’s so-so support of Creative Commons licenses. They encourage usage of CC licenses (decent) and display license information on the photo page (good):

Flickr Creative Commons license badge.

But in the HTML snippets that they provide users for showing an image in one’s blog, they do not include any attribution or CC license information as required by the CC licenses (bad).

One of the knocks against the Creative Commons effort as a whole is the lack of clarity as to how attribution should be done in different media. For web publishing however, how to attribute is quite clear – though buried as the 11th item in their FAQ. Major services like Flickr failing to provide good example of attribution and how to properly credit work just makes the whole Creative Commons thing that much less clear for the general public who now find Creative Commons work readily available and with copy-paste code that violates the license by default.

In an effort to push Flickr to provide a good example for users of Creative Commons-licensed works I’ve started the following thread (reposted below) on the Flickr Ideas forum. I encourage others to weigh in if proper attribution is important to you. Such a fix should only take a Flickr developer about 15 minutes to do, but first such a feature needs to hit their radar.

Flickr Ideas: Update embed code to properly attribute for Creative Commons Licenses

As discussed in this Help thread from a year ago, the “Share This” and “All Sizes” embed code does not meet the Creative Commons license requirements for proper attribution. To quote the FAQ:

How do I properly attribute a Creative Commons licensed work?

If you are using a work licensed under one of our core licenses, then the proper way of accrediting your use of a work when you’re making a verbatim use is: (1) to keep intact any copyright notices for the Work; (2) credit the author, licensor and/or other parties (such as a wiki or journal) in the manner they specify; (3) the title of the Work; and (4) the URL for the work if applicable.

You also need to provide the URL for the Creative Commons license selected with each copy of the work that you make available.

If you are making a derivative use of a work licensed under one of our core licenses, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work, ie. “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author]” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”

Further recommendations and guidelines for marking works can be found at the CC Marking project.

The creator’s name (2) and license logo/link (1) are required for proper attibution, but missing from the Flickr-provided embed code. This means that when a user copy/pastes the embed code provided by Flickr, they violate the license by default if they do not take other steps (not mentioned anywhere on Flickr) to give proper attribution.

After no response on the previous thread for a year, TeX HeX has utilized the Flickr API to create an embed code generator at that can take the URL of any CC licensed Flickr photo and generate the proper HTML code on the fly. This ImageCoder example page provides embed code with the results below:

Note the proper link to the license and attribution of the photographer. Also, note the very understandable description of how the Creative Commons license terms affect usage of the image:
Screenshot of the ImageCoder license overview

I applaud TeX HeX for his wonderful work, but this embed code really should be generated by Flickr itself as only a small percentage of users are going to find their way to ImageCoder.

Please Flickr staff, update the embed code with proper attribution lines so that users of our images can properly attribute by default.

Comment on this thread in the Flickr Ideas forum »

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