A couple of days ago I received through the post a copy of Diplomat Magazine – a magazine which is sent free to all foreign embassy staff in the UK. It took me a minute or so to remember why they would send a copy to me.
This issue contains an article about the London Livery Companies. The online version of the article uses one of my photos (the one of Girdlers’ Hall) but the print version uses three or four more. The publishers had contacted me a few weeks ago telling me that they were going to use my photos and asking if I would like a copy of the magazine.
Notice that I say that they just told me that they were using my photos, not asking if they could use my photos or offering money for the use of the photos. This is because of the way that the photos were licensed. When the magazine found the photos on Flickr they were available under the Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike licence – which basically means that anyone can do what they like with the photos as long as they a) credit me and b) license their work under the same terms.
On investigation, I found that many of my photos were under the same licence. But the licence I now prefer to use is the Attribution Non-Commercial Share-Alike licence. This licence is the same as the previous one, except that it only applies to non-commercial use. Anyone wanting to use the photos for commercial purposes would need to contact me and negotiate a seperate deal.
I’ve now gone through and relicensed all of my Flickr photos under the non-commercial licence. But I’m starting to have doubts about whether that is really what I want.
You see, this isn’t the first time that something like this has happened. A while ago, I was contacted by an archeaologist who was using some of my photos of Cahal Pech to illustrate an article she had written about Mayan archeaological sites. Also, like many other people, some of my photos are in a couple of the Schmap guides.
In all of these cases, I’m pretty sure that these companies specifically search Flickr for photos that they could use without worrying about licensing issues. Flickr’s advanced search specifically allows you to search for photos by the Creative Commons licence they are released under. If my photos had been under a non-commercial licence when those searches were carried out then my photos would not have been found and the companies wouldn’t have even know of their existence.
So I need to have a bit of a think about why I take photos and why I make them available on Flickr. Clearly I’m not a professional photographer, so I don’t expect to make a living selling my photos. It would, however, be nice to sell the occasional photo for a small amount of money. I do like to see my photos being used by other people, but do I want to allow people to make money using my photos without me getting a slice? There are plenty of people putting photos on Flickr who don’t care about the issue (or haven’t given it any thought) so there’s no incentive for people who are looking for photos to look for ones that they have to pay for – even if it’s only a small amount.
Currently my photos are all marked as non-commercial use. That means that they aren’t showing up in commercial use searches. Will this mean that no-one ever uses my photos on a commercial project again?
I know that many of my readers put photos on Flickr under a wide variety of licences. I’d be very interested to hear how you chose the licence that you use.