Thursday, May 29, 2008

All things in Creative Commons?

Like most of the bloggers I know, I publish my photos on flickr. I use a Creative Commons licence in an attempt to place some legal restriction on the re-use of my images. The badge is clearly displayed under the full-size, downloadable version of each photo, as it is on this blog. So where's the problem?

Well, the problem is that not everyone seems to realise there is a problem. Recently I was sent a small publication about lay ministry in the Scottish Episcopal Church - and there, completely unattributed, was one of my photos. Now, I had already used that photo myself for inclusion in the local paper - but this did not mean that it was up for free use by other publications. Not that I was looking for payment. All I want is for the photo to be attributed to me. There were several photos in this book, and no acknowledgment was made of any of the photographers. I happen to think this was merely slovenly attention to detail - the kind of unprofessionalism that gives an organisation a bad name.

Sad thing is, there's a sense in which, because it's the church and because I know one of the editors as well as the person responsible for producing the book, I feel I ought not to be feeling any of this - let alone blogging about it. I should be smiling sweetly and feeling happy to have been of service. And I am - but I'm also aware of all the people I don't know who have taken the trouble to mail me about using my work and who have linked me to their sites where I can see the photo in question clearly attributed to me. We need to respect people's intellectual property wherever we find it - and we need to demonstrate that respect.

There. Rant over. And I realise the CC licence has been upgraded. Need to do something about that...

Update: 3 June. As a result of this post and the ensuing comments I received today a full and unqualified apology from the Synod Office. It seems that those who sent photos with their contributions were assumed to have made the necessary checks. Conversation over for now - and perhaps another step made in tightening up publication guidelines.


  1. Anonymous11:38 PM

    Oh help - I've just used one of your pictures from Flickr on a blog post. You are acknowledged & linked, but it would have been more courteous if I'd let you know or even asked your permission. Apologies, and I hope you don't mind.

    his has happened to me on occasions. A while ago I saw one of my pictures on the front of The Seabird Centre's newsletters, unacknowledged. I had lent them a few slides for an exhibition sometime earlier and they had scanned this one and used it for another purpose entirely. As I sell underwater photographs occasionally, I was pretty cross. They may be a charity but they shouldn't abuse the goodwill of their supporters. I think the same applies in your case.

  2. gpm, I'm glad to see my photo looking so well - and properly attributed! Thanks for letting me know...

  3. Anonymous2:50 AM

    Dear Chris, I am new at blogging and chose your blog as one of my models for a blog I am going to launch. Did you contact the parties who used your pictures without attribution? My parish is St. Gregory's Episcopal Church in Deerfield, Ilinois, USA: My ancestor, John McGhie, was imprisoned at Dunnottar Castle and banished to the New Jersey Plantations in 1685 for refusing to swear fealty to James II, so it's rather ironic that I am now a priest in the Episcopal Church! I spent two weeks in 2000 at St. Michael's Church, Balnabeggan, Bridge of Cally, Perthsire, during which my wife and I traveled throughout Scotland. So I have great affection for the Scottish Episcopal Church, and often wish we were part of the Scottish Communion rather than the Anglican Communion!
    Hwyl a phob bendith, *
    Bill +
    * Welsh for "Goodbye and every blessing (hwyl also means "fun" and "religious fervor").

  4. Chris, I can certainly understand your husband thinks I am nuts, as I would rather give things away than sell them. Just the way I am "wired". Having said that, if I were in YOUR shoes, I would rather be ASKED so I could give the photo to them!!!! Every photo, every written word...everything has been created by someone. To just "swipe" something in the hopes that the creator won't "notice" is not nice. I would think people would have the common sense to ask if they might use your material BEFORE using it. Such is called "common courtesy"!!! Church or no church...after all, "the workman is worthy"!!!!!

    Just my 2 cents from across the pond.

  5. Mine are all CC Share and Sharealike non-Commercial, yet still have commercial companies who want to use my photos. I have no problem with this, and use the licence to know that they're doing it in advance.

    It shows laziness, an amateur approach to publishing. My guess is that it's the same people who believe a book is somewhat more noble than, say, a blog who don't understand their legal obligations as publishers, while the bloggers amongst us understand how to use these things legally and, if we have the time and inclination, add a polite message to our request beforehand.

    I'd complain, ask for the going rate of payment. It's cheaper for them than a reprint, after all. If you need an agent...

  6. Bill, I'm pleased you're using my blog in this way! And I love it that you're over there and I'm over here - the joy of blogging. Yes, I contacted one of the editors of the book, who apologised profusely but wasn't aware of the restrictions - print editors!
    Ewan - I appreciate the offer, but there's no money anywhere in the church as far as I can see and I'd be more likely to be giving than receiving. All I wanted was my name! (sound like John Procter in The Crucible now...)

  7. Ewan's point is good: "it shows laziness, an amateur approach". That is the perennial curse of the SEC: we present ourselves as cutting edge, but then drop some clanger like this that shows us up as "gentleperson amateurs". It isn't the money but complain like stink to the I&C people; it keeps them on their toes and stops thems from thinking they are somehow superior to the troglodytes who aren't as clever with technology.

  8. Anonymous2:24 PM

    I think it's a matter of perception. Copyright *should* be talked about and understood openly - then people could see that the CC licenses pre-emptively *permit* activities. There's only a few of them (-by-{nd,nc,attr}); not hard to remember.

    Fortunately there are clueful people out there. I have been known to sell digital rights for a photo to a company in order to work around the -nc clause on an image of mine, before now. (That was nice! :)

    More to the point, I also regard photographs I shoot for my church as a gift (in several senses!), but would revert to a CC license for use in wider contexts (such as the SEC flickr group :) .

  9. I think the point as far as this item goes is that no attribution was made. I don't regard myself as being in a position to sell my photos and would not in any case dream of charging the SEC for them. I take them for myself, and am happy to have them used, but think it's common courtesy as well as complying with CC criteria to acknowledge the origin of the images used.

  10. Anonymous4:01 PM


    Just to support your point that you have made which is that your photograph should have been properly attributed. It falls to whoever it publishing a document to ensure that this is done properly.

    For the record, as someone who has been at Information and Communications Board meetings for the last few years, the first I heard about this publication was when it arrived with the General Synod papers. It is not a publication that the I and C produced.

    Someone should have checked out the right way for your photograph to be attributed before publishing it. (And Fr Dougal should have checked out who actually published it before casting aspertions!)

    Should the matter be brought to the I and C (and I think it should) then it would surprise me very greatly if the I and C did not affirm to all around that the work should be properly attributed.

    As someone who was ordained priest on St Columba's Day almost 10 years ago, I can only say along with Finian, "To every cow its calf...."

  11. Anonymous4:05 PM

    I realise that I've made a presumption about which publication we are talking about. I'm presuming it is the one which arrived with the Synod Papers.

    Am I right?

  12. Kelvin, your presumption is correct. Thank you for your comments - and congratulations on your impending 10th birthday.
    Do I sign off with a maternal moo?

  13. Anonymous7:36 PM

    Yes, bovine analogies can go too far, can't they?

    There are other issues about the book too, of course. Does it represent the mind of Synod? Or of the General Synod Office? Or of others?

    At a time when Synod is being asked to discuss patterns of ministry (again) it seems odd to me that such a document should be distributed at this time.

  14. Is it, perhaps, intended to inform Synod's discussions?

  15. Anonymous8:01 PM

    Well, I'm sure that it is intended to inform synod's discussions. However, it does seem to have leanings in a certain direction.

  16. Hmm. like some others I assumed. Because the offending publication came with Synod papers :. it was an I&C production. Obviously I erred. But I'm a bit worried if I&C do not know who is publishing what in the name of the Church. Or if another Board is overstepping its boundaries.