HOME
          
LATEST STORY
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
ABOUT                    SUBSCRIBE
Nov. 9, 2011, 10:30 a.m.

“Consumers of Creative Commons licenses do not understand them”: A little more context to Wired’s use of CC

A few months back, a photographer said Wired was misusing Creative Commons-licensed images on its (for-profit) site.

I noted yesterday that Wired was releasing its future staff-shot photos under a Creative Commons license. They’re choosing a “noncommercial” license, but they specifically state that editorial use (by bloggers, websites, or even print publishers) doesn’t count as commercial use in their eyes:

We welcome editorial use by bloggers or any other publisher, but we are not authorizing commercial use, like using one of our photos in an advertisement.

What exactly constitutes commercial use is a controversial topic in Creative Commons circles — but I forgot to mention one small controversy from a few months ago that I think sheds some light on the debate.

Alex Wild is a biologist who blogs about science photography for Scientific American. (He’s also a fine shooter himself. That’s one of his photos above, of Temnothorax rugatulus, marked up with paint to be better tracked in the lab.)

In August, Wild wrote a post detailing why he didn’t use Creative Commons licenses on his photos:

The reason is simple: I am evil consumers of Creative Commons licenses do not understand them. In particular, they seem to miss one key bit of information:

Creative Commons licences are contracts.

[…]

Creative Commons only functions properly when both content creators and content users have the same understanding of the simplified CC contract. In my experience, content users fail at this more often than not.

He singled out one particular content user who he argued didn’t understand CC’s terms: Wired. He checked the most recent posts on Wired’s science blog using CC-licensed images and found that 80 percent of the images allowed only noncommercial use:

WIRED is a private for-profit entity. Danielle Venton, the author, is a paid blogger. Both earn money from the site’s advertising revenue, which, as you can see from the screen capture, forms a substantial presence on the site. The commercial nature of this context should be uncontroversial. The blogger, to remain compliant with U.S. copyright law, needs to obtain permission for use that goes beyond the stated non-commercial CC license.

Of course, the commercial nature of this context is controversial, or at least not universally agreed upon. In a sense, the question is whether noncommercial means the same thing as nonprofit. A nonprofit institution can still buy and sell things; a for-profit institution can engage in lots of behavior that isn’t explicitly commercial.

Wired isn’t the only for-profit publisher using noncommercial CC images. (And from what I can tell, Wired did not respond in any way to Wild’s post.) Here’s a post complaining about The New Yorker using one, for instance. But it’s interesting to see Wired’s declaration of editorial-use-as-noncommercial within the context of it being criticized for seeing editorial use as noncommercial.

POSTED     Nov. 9, 2011, 10:30 a.m.
SHARE THIS STORY
   
Show comments  
Show tags
 
Join the 15,000 who get the freshest future-of-journalism news in our daily email.
Ken Doctor: Why The New York Times hired Kinsey Wilson
The former chief content officer at NPR will be moving up I-95 to one of the most important digital positions at the Times.
Why Google is taking another shot at helping readers pay for news
Google Contributor is the latest tool the company has designed to help readers pay for what they read online. But its previous experiments in supporting paid content have had limited success.
In Canada, newspapers’ attempts to experiment with ebooks haven’t seen much success
A number of papers across the country started ebook programs in the early part of this decade, repurposing their archives or producing new work. They haven’t been the moneymakers some had hoped.
What to read next
718
tweets
Ken Doctor: The New York Times’ financials show the transition to digital accelerating
The numbers may look flat, but they contain a continuing set of ups and downs. Up next: executing on a year’s worth of launches.
540Here’s some remarkable new data on the power of chat apps like WhatsApp for sharing news stories
At least in certain contexts, WhatsApp is a truly major traffic driver — bigger even than Facebook. Should there be a WhatsApp button on your news site?
502Controlled chaos: As journalism and documentary film converge in digital, what lessons can they share?
Old and new media types from journalism, documentary, and technology backgrounds gathered at MIT to share practices and discuss mutual concerns.
These stories are our most popular on Twitter over the past 30 days.
See all our most recent pieces ➚
Encyclo is our encyclopedia of the future of news, chronicling the key players in journalism’s evolution.
Here are a few of the entries you’ll find in Encyclo.   Get the full Encyclo ➚
San Francisco Chronicle
Next Door Media
ESPN
The Fiscal Times
Connecticut Mirror
DocumentCloud
PolitiFact
The Nation
The Ann Arbor Chronicle
FiveThirtyEight
Minneapolis Star Tribune
The Daily