Free Getty Images have take backsies

It feels like a good day when you wake up to the news that Getty Images is making 35 million images free to use. That’s nice… or is it?


The embedd tool is only will allow users to (WSJ)

..include images on websites, such as non-commercial WordPress blogs. The eligible images also come with buttons for Tumblr and Twitter, where a link to the image can be shared. (The image itself doesn’t appear on Twitter, however.)

The obvious question about this is the elusive term non-commercial – attempting to define what is and isn’t commercial is a minefield. But the real question here is one of control. Poynter, referring to the Verge, picks up this point in their reporting of the release. Getty is not giving something for nothing and what they will have is control. Previously images were used without clearing copyright but by providing easy embedding code users will be encouraged to use the images in the ways in which Getty desires.

The new money comes because, once the images are embedded, Getty has much more control over the images. The new embeds are built on the same iframe code that lets you embed a tweet or a YouTube video, which means the company can use embeds to plant ads or collect user information.

The terms of service makes the control pretty clear. Under termination they write:

Notwithstanding any of these Site Terms, Getty Images reserves the right, without notice and in its sole discretion, to terminate your account and/or to block your use of the Site.

If they don’t like you, you don’t get to use the images any more. If you have built up a following based on images they provide – and by doing this provide them with viewers/customers/revenue you still have no rights to use their images if they decide not to share with you any more. As they are embedded images they don’t even have to demand that you take the images down.

This is conditional freedom. This is not a gift but a conditional exchange where those who embed images become the advance marketers of Getty. We have all seen this, this is classic social media thinking. We should know by now:

If you are not paying for it, you are the product being sold. Or an unpaid part of the sales team.

Lets be clear. Getty images has the right to do what they please with these images. I have no problem with their approach. I just want to point out the difference between giving something away while keeping the right to take it back and giving something away.

Compare this with the 100s of millions (if not billions) of images available under Creative Commons licenses. Here the exchange is free and non-revokable. If I use an image that a photographer has licensed under CC. I can use that image forever.

Now this is a free lunch.

Collecting Societies & Creative Commons

Moa Bergsten has written her final thesis for the completion of Masters in Law on the topic of collecting societies and Creative Commons licensing. But the essay is more than a theoretical standpoint it is an analysis of the situation in Sweden where the main copyright collecting  society has begun to allow member to use Creative Commons licenses. Thus the title of Moa’s work is Stim & Creative Commons Licensing.

Thus, the purpose of this paper is to analyze judicial problems that may arise when a copyright collecting society draws up conditions for the use of CC licenses within the scope of their right management mandate. (p6)

And from her conclusions we may read that the collecting societies are forced to accept both digital realities and to proide a continued service to their members.

The initiative of STIM to allow CC licensing is an outflow of flexibility and adaption to the digital reality. As a result a new member category is created and STIM is obligated to carry out the management with respect to the member group with due diligence and fulfill its responsibility as a trustee.

No doubt the new opportunity will cause complex interpretational determinations. However, this fact does not deprive STIM from its obligation to carry out the management in best manner possible. (p76)

Congratulations Moa on a well written, insightful and important work! Thanks for writing it in English. And thank you for allowing me to post it online. I only wish you had licensed it under a Creative Commons license.

Hatcher on Open Data Licensing

Here is an interview with Jordan S. Hatcher on “Why we can’t use the same open licensing approach for databases as we do for content and software.”

The mission of Open Data Commons is to provide legal tools for open data, and we’ve produced two legal tools to date.  We’re looking to expand our work to do more education and research around open data, as well as to build out a robust framework for the organisation and updating and maintaining the licenses. We’re very excited that the Open Street Map community is looking to adopt the Open Database License for their materials.

Open Flight data

An interesting site collecting and displaying flight plans is up and runningm the site OpenFlights is a site for “flight logging, mapping, stats and sharing”. They have also decided to release their data under the Open Database License (ODbL):

One of OpenFlights‘ most popular features is our dynamic airport and airline route mapping, and today, we’re proud to release the underlying data in an easy-to-use form, up to date for October 2009. Behold 56749 routes between 3310 airports on 669 airlines spanning the globe.

The data can be downloaded from our Data page and is free to use under the Open Database License.

Google Books goes Creative Commons

Some interesting news from the Creative Commons blog

Google launched a program to enable rightsholders to make their Creative Commons-licensed books available for the public to download, use, remix, and share via Google Books.

The new initiative makes it easy for participants in Google Books’ Partner Program to mark their books with one of the six Creative Commons licenses (or the CC0 waiver). This gives authors and publishers a simple way to articulate the permissions they have granted to the public through a CC license, while giving people a clear indication of the legal rights they have to CC-licensed works found through Google Books.

The Inside Google Books post announcing the initiative talks a bit about what this all means:

We’ve marked books that rightsholders have made available under a CC license with a matching logo on the book’s left hand navigation bar. People can download these books in their entirety and pass them along: to friends, classmates, teachers, and so on. And if the rightsholder has chosen to allow people to modify their work, readers can even create a mashup–say, translating the book into Esperanto, donning a black beret, and performing the whole thing to music on YouTube.

Can a license be too ethical?

The Gnu General Public License (GPL) holds an amazing position as the premier free and open source software license but this position may be slipping since its move to version 3 in 2007. In an article entitled Does GPL still matter? Yahoo Tech News reports:

A June study conducted by Black Duck Software, an open source development tools vendor, shows that the Free Software Foundation‘s GPL — although far and away still the dominant open source licensing platform — could be starting to slide. The survey found that despite strong growth in GPLv3 adoption, the percentage of open source projects using GPL variants dropped from 70 to 65 percent from the previous year.

This is interesting. But the question is what does this decrease (if it should be seen as a decrease) mean? The GPL has been in controversies before during its history (Wikipedia historical background) – in fact it’s monunmental position in free and open source software is built upon its unflinching ideological stance which has often been the root of controversy.

The question is whether the GPL has gone too far and is losing its position or if this should be seen as the GPL taking a new moral stance and waiting for the rest of the world to realise the wisdom of its position?

Wikipedia goes Creative Commons

The Wikimedia Foundation board has approved the licensing changes voted on by the community of Wikipedia and its sister sites. The accompanying press release includes this quote from Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig:

“Richard Stallman’s commitment to the cause of free culture has been an inspiration to us all. Assuring the interoperability of free culture is a critical step towards making this freedom work. The Wikipedia community is to be congratulated for its decision, and the Free Software Foundation thanked for its help. I am enormously happy about this decision.”

Read all about it here.

My licensing book is out

My short book on open licenses in Swedish Copyright – Copyleft: En guide om upphovsrätt och licenser på nätet is finished and it is online at the IIS, the organisation who commissioned the work. The book covers seven licenses and the Creative Commons system.

The licenses discussed/explained are the Free Art License 1.3, GNU Free Documentation License, the Sparc Author Addendum, the Ethymonics Free Music License, the Common Documentation License, the, the BSD Free Documentation License and the Open Game License.

I am happy that the work is done and I hope that it will serve to help the curious learn more about licensing.