Government office wants to use Creative Commons photos - kosher or no?
April 30, 2013 4:06 PM   Subscribe

I'm trying to get an idea of WHICH areas of Creative Commons I can draw from on Flickr. I work for a state doing something that, while noncommercial, does support business in a way. I want to use creative commons pix for a website we're putting up. So attribution, I get. That's easy. The others I'm not sure about - as a government office are we, by dint of our setup, considered non-commercial? And the non-deriviative works...does that mean we can't even crop it? And I completely don't understand "share alike" at all. Does that mean if we use THOSE photos we have to let anyone have our website template and content (which would be our only original work) for free with complete unrestricted use?
posted by rileyray3000 to Law & Government (11 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Can you get a legal opinion on this from one of the state's attorneys? That would be worth more than a legal opinion from AskMe.
posted by exogenous at 4:20 PM on April 30, 2013 [2 favorites]

I would stay away from creative commons licenses which refer to "non-commercial" and "share-alike" terms.

Even with the "attribution" style licenses (the "CC-BY") you may end up needing to give credit to someone you really don't want to have to deal with.

If I could I would limit myself to CC0 (e.g. close to public domain) and possibly CC-BY if you are okay with the original author. I would do this in order to be very conservative and to try to limit and dealing with any fallout from licensing confusing in the future.

The sharealike term means you need to be able to give away and allow anyone to use your combined work (e.g. website template, etc..).

That said, your government office may not be able to copyright work anyway. It may already be in the public domain. Your internal legal office may be able to help you.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 4:20 PM on April 30, 2013

There are a bunch of CC licenses that allow for commurcial use. Just look for ones without the crossed-out $ logo.

Sharealike means you have to allow others to utilize any modified versions of the photos you produce... so if you crop it in a certain way, for example, someone else can use the same cropped photo. Or if you draw a mustache on a tree in the photo, someone else could use the mustache-modified photo. Or if you mash together multiple sharealike images, someone else can use the new image you create. This happens because the modified image keeps the same license as the original--the sharealike license.

Pretty human-friendly explanations here.

I'm not a lawyer.
posted by jsturgill at 4:25 PM on April 30, 2013

You should get advice from your governmental unit's lawyers.

Creative Commons licenses are often summarized in a short version, but the full license is also available. The CC BY-NC 3.0 US license says:
You may not exercise any of the rights granted to You in Section 3 above in any manner that is primarily intended for or directed toward commercial advantage or private monetary compensation.
Personally, I think a number of photographers might think that doing something to support business is directed toward "commercial advantage," even if the commercial advantage is not yours. I'd stay away from the NC stuff for your use. The CC BY-ND 3.0 US license says:
"Collective Work" means a work, such as a periodical issue, anthology or encyclopedia, in which the Work in its entirety in unmodified form, along with one or more other contributions, constituting separate and independent works in themselves, are assembled into a collective whole. A work that constitutes a Collective Work will not be considered a Derivative Work (as defined below) for the purposes of this License.

"Derivative Work" means a work based upon the Work or upon the Work and other pre-existing works, such as a translation, musical arrangement, dramatization, fictionalization, motion picture version, sound recording, art reproduction, abridgment, condensation, or any other form in which the Work may be recast, transformed, or adapted, except that a work that constitutes a Collective Work will not be considered a Derivative Work for the purpose of this License.
Given the emphasis on avoiding "abridgment" or "condensation" to prevent a Derivative Work and the need to keep the work "in its entirety in unmodified form," I'd avoid cropping too.
posted by grouse at 4:37 PM on April 30, 2013

I'm a photographer with CC, attribution, non-commercial photos that others use.

I would say stick to CC-BY and if there are CC photos under a more restrictive license, just write the photographer and ask if you can use their photo.
posted by zippy at 5:10 PM on April 30, 2013

I work for a nonprofit organization, and we only use CC photos that are ok for commercial use, just to be on the safe side. But yes, definitely talk with your lawyers.
posted by lunasol at 5:49 PM on April 30, 2013 is a great flickr search tool -- you can search via "commercial" or "creative commons".
posted by changeling at 7:13 PM on April 30, 2013 [1 favorite]

I put a lot of photos online with non-commercial CC licenses on them. Occasionally people have asked me specifically if they can use my photos for commercial purposes and I usually say yes. If it's a small number of images, you may find that personally contacting the image owners is the best possible way to make sure you're using images that you're allowed to use.
posted by jessamyn at 8:08 PM on April 30, 2013

Generally, a lot of this can be settled by just contacting the photographers in question — they might not have the clearest view of their rights language either, and so asking them what they intend by it can save you a fair amount of grief down the road.
posted by klangklangston at 11:57 PM on April 30, 2013

Maybe have a read of this librarian's experience. Make sure you document the licenses. People aren't supposed to, but they may change the license later. Several solutions linked in the comments.
posted by Gotanda at 1:31 AM on May 1, 2013

You absolutely want to get your legal unit to look this over. Respecting copyright is a moderately big deal in government. I would not be surprised if you have a specialist IP group you can clear this with.

I deal with these sorts of issues several times a year. Getting it wrong isn't the end of the world, but it's a lot easier to get IP to look the wording over and clear it than it is to try to do this with a bunch of folks from the internet.
posted by bonehead at 10:57 AM on May 1, 2013

« Older ISO Small table to replace Keyboard Tray for Cat...   |   Road Trip in a Hurry Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.