Creative Commons and Copyright

I have a problem with people who break copyright and at the same time, I totally understand what it is like when you need a piece of audio or visual material for a project – you need to go and find it and pay the author.

The internet has brought about a free for all where the majority are under the hugely false impression that if it is on the internet it is fair game.

That is not the case!

If you didn’t take the photograph that you are using on your blog, no matter how artistically unsound the image is, it is NOT yours to use.

If you didn’t write that piece of music, which you have used to accompany your Youtube video, it is NOT yours to use.

If you didn’t write that Dooyoo review which you have copied and used on Ciao it is not yours to use.

So what is the solution for those of us who need a media form for a project.

The same as it has always been – you contact an agency and pay a licence fee for the use of the material. At one time this would have been a difficult job and involved going to a physical agency, for a photograph or piece of audio or film stock, probably in London (no good if you are in John O’ Groats) and paying a lot of money for a license to use the said piece.

Nowdays it is EASY and CHEAP to obtain audio and video stock – do the right thing folks and pay the media creator. There are plenty of media stock agencies where you can buy photo, video and audio stock. There are plenty of agencies online such as Dreamstime, Fotolia, Bigstockphoto, 123RF, Stockxpert, Mostphotos, where you can pay pennies for the use of a photograph.

So, I haven’t mentioned Creative Commons. Well, what this organisation supposedly allows you to do is to find media stock which is free to use and share. Normally when someone creates a media text, i.e. a photo, song, or film for example, they automatically reserve all rights to copy, reproduce and use that artefact themselves only.

Should someone else wish to use it, it is normally licensed out to them for an agreed time, a set amount of copies can be made, and limits to the type of use (i.e. for commercial or non-commercial purposes), normally for payment, or at very least a creator’s byline.

Sounds complicated, so you can probably see why Mr Blogger thinks ‘bugger this’ and just lifts an image off the internet to use on his blog.

Creative Commons is attempting to work around this. It supposedly encourages people to track down works where the author is prepared to allow his or her work to be used for free AND for a byline, credit or whatever you want to call it.

This is a double edged sword: Creative Commons might drive home the message that someone owns an image and you need permission (at the least) to use it, but I still think it gives the message that media forms are free to use, all you need to do is ask to use it – in fact you don’t even need to ask if the user has claimed in the text next to their image that they can use it as long as they give credit and a link back to where they found the image, usually Flickr.

Flickr embraces the Creative Commons notion and allows users to mark their images with a level of rights reserved, ranging from All Right Reserved, through to Some Rights Reserved, other rights might allow for an image to be used in commercial projects, others might limit a piece to be used for non-commercial purposes.

Where this works it is ‘nice’ – the photographer gets a credit, which might, just might drum up some interest in his or her work.

Thus far I haven’t mentioned the website. Well I figured the background I have given is necessary. The website itself is essentially an information site about Creative Commons aims, ethos etc. It also has a search engine that you can use to supposedly track down work that you can use with a Creative Commons License.

Perhaps I was using this wrong, but all it did was return a load of Google results, which in all likelihood you would click on to search for ‘usable’ works. In other words it wasn’t much help how I perceived it, was that Creative Commons, the organisation, would pick up a ‘click through’ credit from Google, rather than be of any actual help.

I am in principle against the idea of Creative Commons as it instills the idea that ‘if it is on the net it is free”. I have used the Creative Commons concept in principle in that if I have seen a picture on Flickr I have liked, I have contacted the author for permission to use on a blog. So am I contradicting myself – in one breath I am criticizing this notion of Creative Commons and in another breath I am saying I have used it in principle.

Well, I am taking a slightly aloof approach in that I am well aware of the notion of copyright and created works, and the importance of paying a photographer/musician/videographer/writer etc, and where appropriate giving them credit – there are a million others out there who aren’t aware of this.

I am not entirely sure of the legal position of this organisation. It is of the USA, so can’t see anything that they propose standing up in British law, however as far as I recall, websites such as Flickr who embrace Creative Commons, don’t go into the legal aspects of this on a country by country basis – I could be wrong here.

Creative Commons is sending out the wrong message to those who don’t know the difference between image theft and agreed and permitted use.

It is simple though, If you see a media form you want to use and you didn’t create it, you need to ask permission to use it, and if necessary, pay the creator and where appropriate credit them.