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.


“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.



The Metropolitan Police have started a new counter-terrorism campaign which encourages people to report any suspicious activity that they see. Suspicious activity like owning too many mobile phones and taking photographs.

I’m particularly puzzled by the poster about photography. It asks you to report people taking photos of CCTV cameras. Surely if you have a CCTV camera, then you know when people are taking photos of it. The CCTV system will record it.

I’m convinced it’s all just another ploy to make people suspicious of each other.

Update: Some lovely remixes of the adverts over at BoingBoing.


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.


Buying a Digital SLR (Part 3)

My D70 arrived yesterday. What a lovely shiny toy. Seems to play well with all my old lenses too.

Now I just need to work out what all the buttons do before setting off on holiday on Sunday.


Buying a Digital SLR (Part 2)

Problem solved. I’ve bought a second-hand Nikon D70 from Ebay.

Current Mood: Happy (but poorer)


Buying a Digital SLR

I’m prevaricating on buying a digital SLR. I have been for over a year. I’m pretty sure I know what I want, but I’ve been prevaricating so long that it’s now become hard to get hold of.

I’m pretty sure that I want a Nikon D50. I’m tied to Nikon because I have an old F65 (which hasn’t been out of the house for years) and I still have some Nikkor AF lenses that I’d like to continue to use.

But the D50 seems to have been discontinued and replaced by the Nikon D40 – which is cheaper than the D50. So why not buy that, you ask. Well, because the D40 has had the on-camera autofocus motor removed, so that my old AF lenses won’t autofocus on that body.

I’m looking on Ebay. And it seems that I can a D50 with its standard 18-55mm lense for about £300. That would seem to be the best answer to this problem.


I’m off to New Zealand in ten days time. That’s going to be photogenic, so I definitely want the camera before I get there. But we’re stopping in Singapore on the way to New Zealand, so there’s a chance that I could pick up something in Sim Lim Square. But will they have a D50? And, if they do, how much will it cost? Can I get one cheaper on Ebay?

Or should I just go straight for a D80?


Shozu for Nokia Series 60 v3

A version of Shozu has been released for Series 60 version 3. Amongst other things, that means that I can now use Shozu on my Nokia N91. This is good. I never really got on with Lifeblog.