I want to do whatever Commons people do
January 21, 2011 4:55 PM   Subscribe

Is the way I'm using Creative Commons-licensed material kosher? If it is, are there any special considerations or pitfalls I should know about? I thought my plans were sound but now I would like a second opinion.

I'm using "by-sa" licensed photos from Flickr users in two ways:

1) To illustrate posts on my band's web site, using a Wordpress plugin called Photodropper. It is configured to only find photos that can be used in a commercial context. My site's footer states that posts are "licensed under a Creative Commons License unless specified otherwise", making my postings by-sa. Authors of the photos are credited and linked directly under the photo.

2) To create "track art" for single songs posted to Bandcamp. I will generally do some cropping and other light editing, then add some type for the song title and upload the resulting image. The song is released under by-sa. Original authors are credited in the track description on the Bandcamp page as "Track art photograph by John Doe:
www.flickr.com/photos/johndoe/6712377689".

Now, all the photos I use allow for commercial use, so I think I'm good to go there. As I'm releasing both posts and songs as by-sa, I also feel I'm properly sharing alike. As for the other license elements:

-Do the descriptions above properly satisfy the attribution requirement?

-Does the way I'm editing photographs and using them as artwork to accompany a musical work fall within accepted CC definitions of a "derivative work", i.e. is it allowed as such a work?

Finally, I'd like to know if you have any tips about pitfalls or other things I should keep in mind. Do you have related experiences you could share? If you use CC-licensed works in a similar manner, do you notify the original author? I'm a little bit worried that, assuming I am indeed working in satisfaction of the license, an original author might misunderstand its terms (or forget they had licensed their work under it) and get cross with me, or maybe just if they don't like what I did with their work.

I hope that covers everything, if you need more details do let me know. And thanks for any input you guys might have!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Does the way I'm editing photographs and using them as artwork to accompany a musical work fall within accepted CC definitions of a "derivative work", i.e. is it allowed as such a work?

I'm not sure exactly what you're asking here, but my (not-a-lawyer) understanding is that derived work is a very broad category: anything that contains some nontrivial amount of the original work (i.e., isn't an original, unrelated work) but which isn't identical to the original work is a derived work. Both you and the original work's author have some copyright rights in the derived work. The "sa" part of cc-by-sa is requiring that your rights in the derivative work (the cropped or otherwise modified image, album cover, track image, whatever) are not used to restrict the derivative work more than the original was.

It's not clear to me whether (track art plus song) is itself a derived work which has to be cc-by-sa licensed, but since you're doing that anyway it doesn't matter. (I would think that since the song and the art are easily separated you could license the song under other terms.)

an original author might misunderstand its terms (or forget they had licensed their work under it)

This definitely happens, but I'm not sure what you can do about it ahead of time. I think you're well within the spirit and the letter of the CC-by-sa license (again, IANAL).
posted by hattifattener at 5:23 PM on January 21, 2011


IANAL; IAA CC-license-user.

To the best of my knowledge, both of these uses are entirely legit, and you're well within the margins of the share-alike provisions with the uses you've mentioned. Repurposing the photos as album art certainly counts as a derivative work, and even if it wasn't "derivative" the use would still be legit under cc-by-sa. (Specifically, note that free redistributing of an unmodified CC-licensed work is almost always OK - you don't need to worry about if your use is "derivative enough".)

CC licenses are non-revocable, so if the original artist objects to your usage, your response is up to your personal ethical judgment.
posted by NMcCoy at 5:25 PM on January 21, 2011


Do the descriptions above properly satisfy the attribution requirement?
CC-licensed photos on Flickr use the version 2.0 licences, which — given that you’re only dealing with work that can commercially exploited — means CC BY 2.0 and CC BY-SA 2.0. The attribution requirements are laid out in section 4b of the CC BY 2.0 legal code and section 4c of the CC BY-SA 2.0 legal code.

So, let’s look at the two places to check you’re satisfying the requirements:
My site's footer states that posts are "licensed under a Creative Commons License unless specified otherwise", making my postings by-sa. Authors of the photos are credited and linked directly under the photo.
I think you’re almost there, assuming your credit includes the name and pseudonym of the original author. If the link is going back to the Flickr page for the photo, you’re probably satisfying the requirement to convey the URI associated with the work, though it’s possible that the author may specify an additional URI either with the photo or on their profile page, which you have to include if it contains copyright notices or licensing information for the photo.

Additionally, if there’s a title attached to the work (most Flickr photos fall into this category), you also have to cite that. If there are any copyright notices associated with the photo (check both the photo page and the Flickr user’s profile), you have to reproduce those too (this seems to be fairly rare on Flickr for individual photographers).

Section 4a of both the CC BY 2.0 and CC-BY-SA 2.0 licences states that you have to include the URI of the licence (i.e. a link back to it). I don’t think your blanket “licensed under a Creative Commons License unless specified otherwise” statement quite meets the mark here: I think you will need to explicitly state the licence for every photo you use (especially as they may differ from the exact licence used for your blog post).

In most cases, I would imagine something like this would suffice:
Kittens Playing Football by John Doe. [Insert any copyright notice here.] Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0.
Right, next:
To create "track art" for single songs posted to Bandcamp. I will generally do some cropping and other light editing, then add some type for the song title and upload the resulting image. The song is released under by-sa. Original authors are credited in the track description on the Bandcamp page as "Track art photograph by John Doe:

www.flickr.com/photos/johndoe/6712377689".
You have to satisfy all the requirements outlined above and also identify how you used the original photo in your derivative work. I’m a bit concerned that “Track art photograph by John Doe” might make people assume the finished track art was entirely produced by John Doe (incorrectly attributing something to someone can be almost as bad as not attributing at all!). I might go with something like this:
Track art incorporates the photo ‘Kittens Playing Football’ <http://www.flickr.invalid/link-to-photo> by John Doe ([insert any copyright notice here]). Track art released under a CC BY-SA 3.0 licence <http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en_GB>.
Apparently, you do not have to specify the original licence for the photo, even if it differs from the licence under which you are releasing your derivative work.
Does the way I'm editing photographs and using them as artwork to accompany a musical work fall within accepted CC definitions of a "derivative work", i.e. is it allowed as such a work?
I would have thought so. I imagine that it’s the track art that’s considered a derivative work (it would be a stretch to say that the music is derived from the photo featured on the cover), so make sure you’re clearly licensing the track art and not just the music.
do you notify the original author?
You don’t have to but it might be nice. A comment on the original photo page should suffice.
an original author might misunderstand its terms (or forget they had licensed their work under it) and get cross with me
Flickr does allow uploaders to change their photo licences at will, though CC licences are irrevocable. You may wish to keep a snapshot of the original page or perhaps look into archiving it using a service such as WebCite.
or maybe just if they don't like what I did with their work
If they don’t like your derivative work (the track art), they are allowed to request that you remove their name from it.
posted by kyten at 7:22 PM on January 21, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just as a follow-up note, I've found that a lot of people utilizing CC licenses on places like Flickr don't really understand them and aren't truly aware that their work can appear somewhere else. So if an image isn't REALLY obviously meant for others to use (by being in a Free Photos pool on Flickr, being on a site like MorgueFile, or on a totally public domain site like OpenClipArt.org), I go ahead and leave a note/e-mail mentioning how I plan to use it. Most people get back to me and thank me. If they don't, I move on to my second choice. Just a form of CYA or politeness, whichever way you look at it. I wish people understood CC better so that it weren't necessary, but it's worth it to me.
posted by wintersweet at 9:36 PM on January 21, 2011


The risk is that they change their license on their Flickr page and deny it was ever free to use. I asked Flickr in the past about this and they wouldn't help by revealing a photo's license history.
posted by JonB at 10:25 PM on January 21, 2011


Alright, thank you all. You've convinced me that I'm at least on the right track, and I will look into the points you've raised. Thanks!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:37 PM on January 22, 2011


Of course, if anyone has another thought on this to share, I'd still be interested to hear it!
posted by goodnewsfortheinsane at 6:38 PM on January 22, 2011


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