Tag Archives: Copyright

“Flick” This Controversy

It’s certainly been a couple of bad days for Flickr and Yahoo!. First on 30 January 2007, Flickr made a couple of very unpopular announcements. Here’s the full-text of those announcements.

30th January, 2007

A pair of items for your attention:

1. In our ongoing efforts to Make Flickr Better®, we’re introducing two additional limits: the new maximum number of contacts is 3,000 contacts (good luck with that), and each photo on Flickr can have a maximum of 75 tags.

We love your freedom, but, in this particular case, limiting these things will actually improve the system performance, making pages load faster across the site for everyone and cut out some unwelcome spammy behaviors. Both of these new limits apply equally to free and pro account members.

If you have questions or comments about these changes, we’ve opened a topic in Flickr Help.

2. On March 15th, 2007 we’ll be discontinuing the old email-based Flickr sign in system. From that point on, everyone will have to use a Yahoo! ID to sign in to Flickr.

We’re making this change now to simplify the sign in process in advance of several large projects launching this year, but some Flickr features and tools already require Yahoo! IDs for sign in — like the mobile site at m.flickr.com or the new Yahoo! Go program for mobiles, available at http://go.yahoo.com.

If you still sign in using the email-based Flickr system (here), you can make the switch at any time in the next few months, from today till the 15th. (After that day, you’ll be required to merge before you continue using your account.) To switch, start at this page: http://flickr.com/account/associate/

Complete details and answers to most common questions are available here: http://flickr.com/help/signin/

If you have questions or comments about signing in with a Yahoo! ID, speak up!

Then Yahoo! decided to start using pictures posted to Flickr for their new Wii portal. As near as I can tell no announcement was made about this; they just started doing it.

To many these things seem petty an unimportant but it’s caused quite the uproar in the Flickr community and said uproar is bleeding over onto other sites (e.g. Digg). Are these things really worth all the anger spilling out? It’s all a matter of perspective. The new limitations on contacts and tags aren’t anything I forsee as causing me problems. I don’t have anywhere near that many contacts and cannot imagine having them. As for 75 tags, that seems like it would take an obsessive amount of work to get that many tags on a photo.

Since that’s more of a none issue let’s move on to one causing a much bigger stink, the forced merger of people’s Flickr & Yahoo accounts. For those unfamiliar, Flickr used to be a separate company. Back in those days one could sign up with Flickr using nothing more than an email address1. Signing up with Yahoo! requires considerably more detailed personal information. This by itself is enough to cause some people to be very nervous about merging their accounts. There have also been reports about people having problems merging their accounts and concerns about how Flickr/Yahoo! will handle some people having multiple Flickr accounts. Especially since Yahoo! has a habit of deleting accounts they think are inactive if you don’t log in frequentally enough. It’s a lot to take in and many of the “Old Skool”2 Flickr users aren’t happy about it. While I do have a Yahoo! account, I’ve yet to merge my Flickr account with it. I liked having them separate, but very soon I won’t have any choice. While I sympathize with the Old Skoolers, I’ll be combing my accounts before the deadline and find the excitement over this issue to be more than a bit overblown.

The last issue is probably the most interesting as from a quick reading of Flickr’s TOS and an immediately small knowledge of copyright law; this seems like a sticky widget of a situation. According to Flickr’s TOS, any images pulled from Flickr must link directly back to that photo on Flickr. What Yahoo! did with their Wii Portal is to take thumbnails and initially link to a secondary page before linking back to the original photo on Flickr. Plus, Yahoo! was originally just grabbing any photo on Flickr tagged with Wii. This included photos marked as © All Rights Reversed and photos marked with Creative Commons licenses forbidding commercial use. This angered even more of the Flickr community and Yahoo! did eventually change their Wii portal to only grab photos with appropriate licenses.

Personally, I any one of these issues would be enough to stir up a hornet’s nest of trouble within the Flickr community. But having all of them happen so close on top of one another was enough to really get some people’s blood boiling. Will I be abandoning Flickr over all this? No, I like the community too much and I still plan on integrating this gallery on this site more into Flickr. However I will be keeping a much closer eye on where Yahoo! takes Flickr as we move on into the new year.

1 For the free accounts anyway.
2 This is what some of the Flickr users who signed up in the pre-Yahoo! days call themselves. For the record, I also signed up (for a free account) in those days and I don’t consider myself an Old Skool user.

Creative Commons Works!

Boing Boing recently pointed out a music video created by Jonathan Coulton. Mr. Coulton went to Flickr and found a bunch of images with Creative Common licenses. He then created a touching music video based on those images. This is the sort of thing that could not have been done without Creative Commons as Mr. Coulton would have have been tied up for weeks & weeks searching for the copyright owners of the images to get each of their permission to use the images in his project.

Mr. Coulton also has a selection of his other songs (also CC licensed) on his website which are worth downloading.

Dvorak vs. Creative Commons

In a recent opinion piece on PCMag.com, Mr. Dvorak shows off his stunning lack of comprehension of the benefits to Creative Commons Licensing.

Will someone explain to me the benefits of a trendy system developed by Professor Lawrence Lessig of Stanford?

CCL is a simple way for content creators to let everybody know what they’ll allow others to do with their work. There’s no lag time in tracking down the content creator/copyright holder/legal department and then phoning/emailing/snail-mailing them to find out if it would be okay to take their work and do X with it (whatever X might be). This simplifcation of the process allowing others to remix existing content is a wonderful benefit to the public and content creators alike. Content creators can take any CC licensed material they like, mix it up into something new and put it back out much more quickly without worrying that they’re going to be sued for breaking somebody’s copyright. The public benefits because this allows a lot more content to be created much more quickly.

A bit later in the article, Mr. Dvorak starts complaining about the optional commercial provisions in the CCL scheme.

This means that others have certain rights to reuse the material under a variety of provisos, mostly as long as the reuse is not for commercial purposes. Why not commercial purposes? What difference does it make, if everyone is free and easy about this? In other words, a noncommercial site could distribute a million copies of something and that’s okay, but a small commercial site cannot deliver two copies if it’s for commercial purposes. What is this telling me?

Provided that the content creator tagged the content as having the Non-Commercial provision in a CC license; then it’s telling you that creator does not want to use their work in a commercial fasion. How hard is that to comprehend? The sad part is you almost picked up on a key reason people use CC licenses but you had to go at it backwards. Yes, a noncommercial site could distribute a million copies (of an appropriately licensed work) for free and that’s a great thing; articularly for the non-mainstream, unknown content creator who just wants to get their work out in the public eye.

Then Mr. Dvorak comes up with this bit of nonsense:

This is nonsense. Before Creative Commons I could always ask to reuse or mirror something. And that has not changed. And I could always use excerpts for commercial or noncommercial purposes. It’s called fair use. I can still do that, but Creative Commons seems to hint that with its license means that I cannot. At least not if I’m a commercial site and the noncommercial proviso is in effect. This is a bogus suggestion, because Creative Commons does not supersede the copyright laws.

If he had done even a modicum of research on the Creative Commons website; he would have found their page detailing the Baseline Rights included in ALL CC licenses. The only thing “bogus” about this suggestion is Mr. Dvorak’s claim that it’s the Creative Commons folk who are making it. A Creative Commons license doesn’t say you cannot have any fair use rights; it simply says “Hey friend, here’s some stuff for you to play with, so long as you’re willing to play by the rules.” And then it gives you a convenient link to check out what those rules are. Along those lines, Mr. Dvorak complained that the Creative Commons folk could sue somebody and ruin what little fair use rights remain to the public and again a quick look through the Creative Commons website puts paid to that bit of nonsense.

For his next delusion, Mr. Dvorak decides the Creative Commons folks are somehow corrupting Public Domain. I would have thought having a clear & concise document specifying that a work has been dedicated to the public domain is a good thing. *shrug* Maybe that’s why I’m a no-name blogger and not an editor at PC Magazine.

There are several more examples peppered throughout the remainder of Mr. Dvorak’s article. All of these examples could have been cleared up if he’d bothered to do a bit of looking around the Creative Commons website, but probably the most basic bit of guff that he writes is in the last paragraph of the article.

And it seems to actually weaken the copyrights you have coming to you without Creative Commons.

With this one sentence, we can see Mr. Dvorak appears to actually understand what a Creative Commons license does1. I would suppose since he has the basic idea that he does not agree with the concept behind Creative Commons and so wrote this rather inflamatory article. It seems to me Mr. Dvorak is suffering from RIAA syndrome. That is to say, he’s an established content creator who just does not understand –and doesn’t want to understand– the evolving landscape of the business environment.

1 A CC license removes the specific restrictions on the use of your content that you decide do not need to be on the content. One could consider this an intentional weakening of the copyright.

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