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Sunday, October 28, 2007

My experiment with Creative Commons licensing.

Unlike a few of my friends who have eagerly embraced Creative Commons licenses for their writing and other creative work (rather than sticking with the conventional intellectual property conventions of copyright), I've been a late and partial adapter. Here's what I've learned so far.

I write professionally, and in my job I often work with writers, artists, and photographers who make their living selling the rights to their work. (UU World also publishes wonderful "amateur" writing and art by readers.) Professional interest probably accounts for my hesitation to release my written work under a license that freely allows others to republish or adapt them without permission. I have considered publishing my hymn texts under a Creative Commons license, but haven't got around to that yet; I have gladly given permission to the Congregational and independent liberal churches that have asked for rights to use my hymns.

Blossoming treeBut I'm also an amateur photographer and doubt I'll ever be trying to draw an income from my pictures — so I decided more than a year ago to start posting photos at Flickr under a Creative Commons license. I take pictures for pleasure and like the idea of making them available to nonprofit endeavors. Hearing from someone who wants to use one of my pictures for a brochure, when I don't expect or seek any money for them, always comes as a pleasant surprise. I like that.

It's been quite nice to hear from editors working with a variety of nonprofit organizations seeking permission to use photos I've taken. My pictures have shown up (with permission, but under the terms of the Attribution-Noncommercial license) in publications by the New Jersey ACLU, a French intellectual magazine (which featured this photo as a full-page image in the print edition), a state historical society bulletin on model trains, an online travel guide, an Episcopal foundation, and a website about spiritual landmarks. One student asked for permission to use some photos in a school project. I've also allowed one company to use a photo for a postcard campaign for clients, although I confess I'm leery of for-profit corporations cutting costs by using "free" content.

UU World and, the nonprofit magazines I edit at the ol' day job, use a variety of professional photo and art resources (Corbis, AP Images, Art Resource NY, Bridgeman, etc.), but we also use micropayment stock-photography services like iStockphoto. We've also looked for Creative Commons-licensed images on Flickr, but I think we've only published one or two.

(The quality and variety of images available through the low-cost and Creative Commons sources are improving, but if I had the budget, I'd still turn primarily to the professional services. One reason is time: It takes much more time to track down the right image with a Creative Commons license on Flickr than it does through a professional stock photography service, and often the photographer doesn't have a high-enough resolution image. Beyond that, professional photographers and illustrators deserve to be paid well for their high-quality work.)

As for blog content, I don't plan to turn Philocrites into a Creative Commons site. One reason I publish this site is to learn more about publishing — everything from site analytics and advertising to search-engine optimization and publicity — so I'm more interested in finding ways to draw readers to my site than in finding ways to distribute content freely. Those aren't mutually exclusive goals, of course, and almost no one would read this site if I wasn't focused primarily on offering interesting content.

Maybe someday I'll be in a position to blog purely for the amateur love of writing. Until then, my photos are published under a Creative Commons license, but my words remain under copyright.

Copyright © 2007 by Philocrites | Posted 28 October 2007 at 4:47 PM

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Jason Pitzl-Waters:

October 28, 2007 06:37 PM | Permalink for this comment

" photos are published under a Creative Commons license, but my words remain under copyright."

I think it is important to note that a Creative Commons license doesn't remove or supersede your copyright. CC-licensed work is still under your copyright, you are simply giving blanket permission on how it may be used. Any CC license you read includes the line: "Nothing in this license impairs or restricts the author's moral rights." So you retain the full ability, even under a CC-license, to request someone stop re-printing or re-mixing your work if they use your content in a manner you don't agree with.

Creative Commons is simply a way to "free" your content to spread in an easier fashion. People who want to re-print one of my blog articles can do so in an instant without waiting to contact me so long as they follow my CC-restrictions. Also, since I restrict commercial use of my material, I am free to "shop" my writing to for-pay venues if I so choose.

On the Internet, "fair use" is often murky, this way I can legally lay out what I consider fair in regard to my content, while retaining my ownership.

Jason Pitzl-Waters:

October 28, 2007 06:42 PM | Permalink for this comment

It should also be noted the Creative Commons offers a variety of different licensing choices tailored to different forms of content. One that I like quite a bit is the "Founder's Copyright" in which you agree to abide by the 1790s version of copyright, which expires in 14 years (or 28 if you renew once). After that the work enters the public domain.

phil on the prairie:

October 29, 2007 11:50 AM | Permalink for this comment

Nice photos, Chris. Schmap picked up a couple of pics I took of the Portland convention center, too. I love the web!

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