Licensing Photos

I like taking photos (although I seem to have rather got out of the habit of doing so). I like it even more when people want to use my photos. For that reason, all of my photos on Flickr are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike licence. This means that anyone can do whatever they like with my photos as long as:

  • They credit me
  • They don’t use them commercially
  • They license the work which uses my photos under the same conditions

That seems to accurately reflect the way that I want my photos used. Do whatever you want, but don’t make money out of my work. Actually, it means “don’t make money out of my work without asking me first”. My photos have been used in a couple of commercial situations and I’ve been happy to allow that use without a fee. The non-commercial clause is really there just to stop someone like the Daily Mail using my photos without paying me.

One place that I particularly like to see my photos being used is on Wikipedia. Searching on Wikipedia Commons tonight I see that there are two of my photos listed. I think it used to be more and I think that it will soon be fewer. That makes me sad.

The reason I checked Wikipedia Commons this evening was that I got a message on Flickr from someone who has been checking the licensing of Wikipedia Commons images. He was asking particularly about this photo of the 2003 “Stop the War” demo. He was asking as the description on Wikipedia Commons didn’t include the non-commercial clause that was mentioned on the Flickr page. He asked if I had changed the licence. I replied saying that I didn’t think I had changed the licence as the Attribute, Non-Commercial, Share-Alike licence pretty much summed up how I had always wanted my photos licensed.

He replied saying that he had removed my photo from Wikipedia Commons as Wikipedia can’t use images that have the Non-Commercial clause in their licence. Which is why the photo wasn’t returned by the search I ran earlier. And why I suspect that the other two photos will soon disappear.

I tried an experiment. I edited the description of one of my photos on Wikipedia Commons so that the licence was accurate. And when I previewed my changes the licence template expanded into a big warning sign saying that my photo was now a candidate for speedy deletion as it wasn’t licensed according to the Commons licensing policy. I quickly changed it back.

I don’t understand this at all. Wikipedia is a non-commercial project. I specifically chose a licence which would, I thought, allow my photos to be used on Wikipedia. But it seems I was wrong. I don’t see why Wikipedia requires a licence that allows commercial use. Does anyone know what is going on.

I really don’t want to re-license my photos to allow unrestricted commercial use. But I really want my photos to be usable on Wikipedia.

It’s all a bit of a dilemma.

Update: I thought this all sounded very familiar. I wrote something very similar in 2008.


Where’s Your Data

We hear a lot of talk about how cloud computing is the future. Those of us who still run some of our own internet infrastructure are increasingly seen as slightly eccentric and old-fashioned. Why would anyone host their own mail server when we have Gmail or run their own blog when there is WordPress or Posterous. In fact, why have your own server at all when you can just use Amazon EC2?

Well during September I was reminded of the downside of the cloud when I almost lost two old blogs.

One of the earliest blogs I wrote was on the use.perl web site. Yes, it all looks a bit ropey now, but back in 2001, it was cutting edge stuff. Everyone in the Perl community was using it. But it never really had a service level agreement. It was run on someone’s employer’s network. And, of course, that was never going to last forever. Earlier this month he announced that he was leaving that job and the use.perl would be closing down. Currently, I think that the site is in read-only mode and there are some people in the Perl community who are trying to set up alternative hosting for the site. I hope that comes off. There’s almost ten years of Perl history stored up in that site. It would be a shame to see all those URLs turn into 404s.

And then there’s Vox. I never really used Vox that heavily, but I dabbled with it for a while. And now it’s also closing down. Six Apart put in place some procedures to transfer your blog posts to TypePad, but for reasons I couldn’t work out, that didn’t work for me. What I really wanted was to import the data into this blog (which runs on Movable Type, another Six Apart product) but for some reason that option wasn’t available. In the end I managed to import the posts into Posterous, but I seem to have lost all of the tags (not really a problem) and the comments (a pretty big problem), Oh, and I’ve just noticed that the images are still being hosted on Vox. Better fix that before Vox closes down – tonight.

So I’ve learnt an important lesson about trusting the cloud. It’s all very well putting your data up there, but be sure that you have an exit strategy. Find out how you can get your data out. And how much of your data you can get out easily. I put all of my photos on Flickr, but I keep copies locally as well. But the again, that’s not really enough is it? Sure I’ve got the photos, but if Flickr closes down tomorrow, I won’t have all the social interactions that have built up around my photos.

These scares have made me start to think about these issues. And I’ve been tracking down some other old stomping grounds. I’m pleased to report that my first ever blog (hosted by Blogger, which is now owned by Google) is still available.

Where’s your data? How much could you reconstruct if Facebook closed down tomorrow?


“Selling” Photos

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.


Translating from Russian

A few day ago, I noticed this Russian blog entry which used one of my photos of Montserrat. When adding the link to Delicious I commented that it would be good if could read Russian so that I understood what was being said.

(Another) Dave reminded me that Google has a translation service which claims to do Russian to English translations. So I tried it, and the results were really pretty good.

City after volcanic eruption

In summer 1995, in one of the islands in the Caribbean eruption occurred. As a result, Plymouth city was almost completely filled ash. A layer of ash in a half meters.

In the town of 4000 people lived, and was the capital of the island. Clear solidified lava flows and ash was too expensive. The capital is moved to another city. A Plymouth declared a zone of exclusion.

The single comment just says “terrible”. Of course the translation isn’t perfect. But it’s a lot better than I expected it to be.


Flickr Stats

I’ve been playing with the new Flickr stats pages. I can’t give a link as each page can only be seen by the owner of the account, but your page will be at<username>/stats. You need to visit that page initially to opt in to the service. It will then start crunching all your numbers and will suggest that you come back to have another look tomorrow. I signed up yesterday, so I’ve just been looking at what you get.

From top to bottom of the page:

  • A line graph showing the number of views of your account each day for the previous month or so. From this it’s easy to see when a picture of yours has attracted some kind of attention which causes a spike in the graph.
  • A table showing the numbers of pages views for your photostream, individual photo pages, sets and collections. Numbers are given for the previous day, this week, last week and all time.
  • Lists of your ten most viewed photos both yesterday and for all time. Each of these lists has a link to a full list.
  • Information about the referrers for your photos. This is a list of the pages that people were looking at just before they came to your page. From this you can find pages where people are linking to your photos. Obviously most of the links come from within Flick (clicking on the “next photo” link, for example) but it’s interesting to see where else links come from. I particularly enjoyed exploring the Google referrers. It’s nice to know that this photo is the first result on a Google search for “frobisher crescent” and I’m really rather proud to see that a search for “working in banking” returns this photo in the first page of results.
  • Finally, there’s a breakdown of how you’ve organised your photos. There are graphs showing how many of your photos have the various privacy levels assigned, how many of them are tagged, geotagged, in sets and in groups, and how many of them have comments, are in someone’s favourites list and even how many have never been viewed. It seems that thirteen of my photos have never been viewed by anyone except me.

All in all, lots of interesting information. I recommend having a look.

Update: Oh look. There’s a help page that explains it all.


Flash Flood

I monitor an RSS feed of all photos uploaded to Flickr with the tag “balham”. Which is how I came across this set of photos of a flash flood in Balham today.

I’m trying to work out how close to my house this was. And vaguely dreading what I’ll find when I get home this evening.