Flickr Plans To Sell Creative Commons Photos And That's Okay…
from the permissionless-culture-is-okay dept
There appear to be a lot of people up in arms over Flickr’s announced plans to sell wall art prints of various Creative Commons-licensed images on the site. The uproar is mostly because people who chose a license like Creative Commons’ attribution license, and not a “non-commercial” license are not going to see any money from any images that Flickr (owned by Yahoo) sells. And that leads to angry posts like this one arguing that selling the work is “cheesy, desperate and not at all fine with me.”
Except… the license that was chosen says that, yes, this is fine with you. This doesn’t necessarily mean that Flickr/Yahoo’s decision was smart. The way it’s being done appears to be upsetting lots of people, and upsetting the core people who make your service work is — generally speaking — not smart. But this leads to a bigger issue, one that is highlighted nicely in a post on all of this by Tom Lee, in which he notes that part of open licensing is giving up control so that others can benefit. And this is a key point that is missed by many, unfortunately:
Open licensing is about giving up control so that other people can benefit. That?s all it will cost you: control. Having control feels nice. But you should ask yourself what it really gets you. And you should think about what others might gain if you were able to let go.
Furthermore, he notes that what Flickr is doing here really will benefit lots of folks:
Flickr?s sale of prints does not deprive photographers of their work or money. Users have the same ability to use their work that they always had. The vast majority would never have taken the steps necessary to profit from their work, so print sales do not deprive them of money. When a user really expects to sell prints, they should avoid Creative Commons licensing, which, as I?ve mentioned, is easily done.
Flickr?s sale of prints provides benefits to other people. People who work for and own Flickr make money. The vendors producing and delivering the prints make money. And people who buy prints get to enjoy works of art.
Parker Higgins posted some further thoughts on Twitter that are worth noting as well. Many of the people who are upset about this are angry that Yahoo didn’t ask them about this first. But as Higgins notes, that’s just bringing back the idea of permission-based culture, rather than recognizing that a big part of the value of Creative Commons (or any other such open license system or public domain) is getting beyond permission culture and recognizing that in giving up control, there are lots of benefits.
Free culture licenses aren't supposed to flag that you're a cooperative player in permissions culture. They're supposed to do the opposite.
— Parker Higgins (@xor) December 1, 2014
Now, one could make a reasonable cultural argument that Yahoo/Flickr should have approached this situation with more caution — recognizing how some people would likely respond to this, no matter how reasonable or legal it is. If I were in charge of the program at Yahoo, that likely would have been my approach. But, the troubling end result of this is that it may just lead more people to slap a “non-commercial” license on their Creative Commons works, greatly limiting the kinds of benefits that are out there, without providing any real benefit to themselves. In some ways, this gets to the heart of the problems we’ve noted with Creative Commons in the past — especially the fact that many incorrectly assume that all CC-licensed material is only for non-commercial use. It’s also why we think there’s a strong argument that Creative Commons should either drop or totally rebrand the non-commercial offering, so that this branding confusion is dealt with. The anger in this situation is just a rehash of that branding confusion — and the end result is that it reinforces this idea of “permissions” culture, rather than highlighting the benefits of sharing culture without first needing permission — even if for commercial reasons.