Sunday, November 14, 2010

Media establishment fighting back

By Nicolás García [CC-BY-SA-2.5], from Wikimedia Commons
I've become aware of two cases of old media trying to take back from the Free media movement.

The first is the usage of Wikimedia Commons images by Encyclopedia Britannica online. We are very diligent about copyright in Wikipedia and Wikimedia Commons. Multiple groups of people concern themselves with nothing but assessing images and global copyright laws, to make sure our materials are as legal and as Free as they can possibly be. Not so much Brittanica it seems. They happily ignore all license and attribution requirements that these images have, often just giving the username in plaintext (Examples image by
, image by Toby Hudson). For Creative Commons, a full link to the license is required if in any way possible. And just for kindness, a link back to the Wikimedia Commons description page might be nice/a good idea. The Wikimedia sites do the same for Flickr, it's very easy. Britannica, if you are listening, please read this Creative Commons FAQ.

Is it really required that our users start sending copyright infringement notices to Britannica in order to get issues like this solved ? I know we don't make it easy atm to reuse our material, but come on, these guys are no amateurs and surely they can do better ?

Another development that is starting to affect Commons, is the partnership of Flickr with Getty images. Flickr users can opt-in to a program whereby people can ask for your image to become part of the Getty images collection. Getty images however only excepts exclusive image deals and it seems that when your Creative Commons image is picked up by Getty, it automatically loses its Creative Commons license in Flickr and is switched to an "All rights reserved" status. This is actually allowed, a Creative Commons license is not revocable but you can stop using it on any further distribution. The earlier distributed copies however will remain licensed under the Creative Commons license.

This is already becoming annoying when we need to check the history of an image that has not been automatically checked by our Flickr bot. The larger danger lies in the possibility that someday Google or another large software company, starts filtering for copyright infringements in image search. Google is already doing this kind of thing for Youtube videos and it is logical that as some point in time image data will follow. With such techniques, it becomes possible that valid distribution of previously Creative Commons licensed material, perhaps hosted on Wikimedia Commons, might be tagged as copyright violations, because at a later time Getty appropriated the rights on an image. It would be wonderful if Flickr could make the "licensing history" of an image visible, that is what we need to defend ourselves against such practices.

I have to hand it to Getty however; Smart way to reclaim territory on the Free media movement. Using your industry power and monetary payout to force people into dropping a licensing model they voluntarily chose. I guess Creative Commons will have much more work to do in the coming years.

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