[OpenGLAM] Yahoo Starts Selling Flickr Users’ Photos

Lennart Guldbrandsson l_guldbrandsson at hotmail.com
Tue Dec 2 22:02:39 UTC 2014


If you haven't already read it, I highly recommend long-time Wikipedian Frank Schulenburg's response to this story:


Best wishes,

Lennart Guldbrandsson

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From: joomen at beeldengeluid.nl
Date: Tue, 2 Dec 2014 20:18:50 +0100
To: open-glam at lists.okfn.org
Subject: [OpenGLAM] Yahoo Starts Selling Flickr Users’ Photos

Yahoo Starts Selling Flickr Users’ PhotosPosted on December 2, 2014 by Susan Gunelius • 0 Comments

Last week, The Wall Street Journal
 reported that Yahoo! will begin selling prints of 50 million Creative 
Commons-licensed images uploaded by Flickr users as well as an 
unspecified number of other photos uploaded by users that will be 
handpicked from Flickr. Images bearing a Creative Commons licenses that 
allow for commercial use will be sold as canvas prints for up to $49 
each with no payments going to the image owners. Instead, Yahoo! will 
retain all revenues. However, each canvas print will include a “small 
sticker bearing the name of the artist.” Handpicked images won’t have 
the Creative Commons license that allows for commercial use, so owners 
of those images will receive 51% of the sales revenue with Yahoo! 
keeping the rest.
There are more than 300 million images on Flickr with Creative 
Commons licenses. Of course, the missing link here is the question of copyright owner vs. author.
 The person who uploads a photo to Flickr and puts a Creative Commons 
license on it might not be the owner of the copyright. In copyright law,
 the owner and creator aren’t necessarily the same person (or entity) 
either. In other words, many images on Flickr bearing Creative Commons 
licenses might not even be licensed correctly to begin with.

The ProblemThe problem is not what Yahoo! is doing. It appears that they’re 
following the purpose of Creative Commons licenses. The problem is that 
people don’t understand what the Creative Commons licenses mean, and 
they don’t understand their basic rights under copyright law.
Creative Commons licenses were created to foster sharing
 because some people believed that copyright laws were too stringent. 
There was no option that made it easy to give large audiences permission
 to share and use creative works. Fast-forward to 2014, and you can bet 
that a large number of those 300 million Creative Commons-Commerical 
licenses on Flickr were applied to images by people who didn’t 
understand what they were doing. The outcry among Flickr users’ who are unhappy with Yahoo!’s new revenue-generation strategy proves this.
Many Flickr users are changing the licenses on their uploaded images 
and others are removing their images from the site entirely. As Nelson 
Lourenco, a photographer from Lisbon, Portugal, told The Wall Street 
Journal, “When I accepted the Creative Commons license, I understood 
that my images could be used for things like showing up in articles or 
other works where they could be showed to the public. [Yahoo!] selling 
my work and getting the full money out of it came as a surprise.”
Copyright law exists so people can protect their creative work and 
exploit it for their own commercial gain. If owners of creative works 
choose to license their works using a Creative Commons license, they 
need to fully understand what they’re agreeing to and what they’re 
giving up.
Take a look at the license descriptions
 on the Creative Commons website. Start with the Attribution license 
which allows anyone to use images bearing this license, including 
commercially. The short license description doesn’t make it clear what 
you give up if you choose that license. Click the “View License Deed”
 link for the Attribution license, and it’s still not clear. The only 
reference to commercial use is a line that says, “even commercially.” By
 the way, it’s the License Deed page that Flickr users see when they 
click through to learn more about a specific Creative Commons license. 
Now, click the “View Legal Code”
 link for the Attribution license. Read through the legalese and you’ll 
see that nowhere in the text is it clear that works can be sold by other
 people for profit once this license is applied. While it’s allowed, the
 average person is unlikely to understand as is evidenced by the 
public’s reaction to Yahoo!’s plans to sell Flickr users’ images.

The Good NewsThe good news is that Yahoo!’s plan to profit from its users’ content
 just might help content owners in the future. “This is a classic case 
of the letter of the law vs. the spirit of the law,” says Intellectual 
Property attorney Kelley Keller.
 “Industry practices over time become the accepted interpretation of 
programs like Creative Commons. When someone like Yahoo! pushes the 
envelope, it exposes vulnerabilities that, when addressed, ultimately 
serve to strengthen the program.”
Copyright law is confusing, but with clearer laws, improved Creative 
Commons licenses, and educated content creators and publishers, 
creativity, sharing, and profits will be able to coexist so everyone is 
happy. We’re just not there yet.
Do you have any images on Flickr with Creative Commons Attribution, 
Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike, or Creative Commons Attribution
 NoDerivs licenses applied to them? If you don’t want Yahoo! to sell 
them and you want to preserve more of your rights as the owner of those 
images, you might want to change that license or delete your images.
Image: Joshua Gajownik for OpenSource.com licensed CC BY-SA 2.0

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