That dog named “Loki” is not rolling over, she is flipping (?)

In my last post, I suggested questioned perhaps that The Chronicle of Higher Education was not following the guidelines of reusing my flickr Creative Commons Share-ALike licensed photo. With some twitter nudges by Bryan Alexander, I did get an answer from the Chronicle via Ron Coddington, pointing to a Creative Commons FAQ on sharing such licened content on a password protected site:

Can I share CC-licensed material on password-protected sites?
Yes. This is not considered to be a prohibited measure, so long as the protection is merely limiting who may access the content, and does not restrict the authorized recipients from exercising the licensed rights. For example, you may post material under any CC license on a site restricted to members of a certain school, or to paying customers, but you may not place effective technological measures (including DRM) on the files that prevents them from sharing the material elsewhere.

And really the confusion of Share-Alike is that the license does not say you have to share the content in the same way as the original, but merely that the license must be the same as the original. Likewise, as Chris Lott pointed out, you can equally use something licensed BY-SA inside an intranet or a locked down LMS.

The thing is… I ought to read my own blog. In September 2010, I announced that I was going full circle BACK to using CC-BY on my photos. I had tried on SA and even NC in a short time span.

I cannot even remember when/why I went back to SA since then. I am pretty sure it was upon reading the rational Wikimedia Commons uses for Share-Alike. I had rationalized (I think) that it took care of disallowing commercial use of my stuff, because any money making way of doing it is not going to put a share-alike license in their product.

I am not even sure I can fathom that logic any more. The ironic thing is, I wrote in 2010:

And this is the LAST time I will switch me flickr license.

I’m done chasing my license tail.

Caveat Emptor in “Never Say Never” and “Last”.

I’m most likely in the next few days, flipping my flickr photos and my blog license back to CC-BY.

I am come back around that the least restrictive license is the better. And that I really do not care if anyone “uses my images to make money.” If anyone can get filthy rich from something made from my images, that’s a feat for them. I would never do anything to make money from my own photos, so there is no loss for me. I cannot lose what I did not make.

I did trace back in 2010 to Leigh Blackall’s Illegal Rhetoric of Share-Alike; he made a case that it was problematic in education, mostly in examples that made from content of mixed licenses. I think that the examples Leigh described are treatable in the manner of the Comprehensive Attribution Statement described by Mike Caulfield.

The thing I am left with more after all of this is that here I am, someone who has been practicing and spreading the word of Creative Commons for quite some time, as are the people on my Chronicle wagging blog post… and we are still not clear on the shade of meaning differences.

Look how simple it is.

How do we expect people new to coming to an understanding to make sense of all the flavors of licenses? We want school kids to make these choices? (. And there are people out there who want even more kinds of licenses. CC-BY-MC-GD-ER-TZ-XD?

I am not trying to tell anyone else what to do here.

But I am going back to the simplest, and frankly, I’d rather focus my energy on the sharing rather than the licensing of the sharing.

And heck, I will probably change my mind several more times.

Because I can.

top/featured image credit: flickr photo by Jon Grado shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. Thing that made -SA clearer for me is that the -SA requirement only kicks in if you modify the original to make an adaptation. It’s that adaptation that you would need to Share Alike. If you are not modifying the original, you can stick an -SA behind a paywall.

  2. interpRetlike us who r pretty close to the whole thing continue to misunderstand or interpret ut differently then the licenses r definitely problematic

    For some reason i do care about NC. Basically not having NC means someone can collect a bunch of free stuff and sell it to others for money. I do care about that because i don’t want anyone to be tricked into paying for sthg i made and shared freely. It’s not that i want the money it’s that i don’t want someone else to pay for my stuff. If that makes sense

  3. I, too, use BY only, but I like Maha’s point about the reason for SA–not so much that one minds if someone else makes money off one’s stuff, but rather that others shouldn’t be paying for something that is also available for free. That is an interesting reason; I have always said I’m not worried about other people making money from what I make because I’m not going to try to do so myself; as Alan says above, I can’t lose what I never had or will have. That said, I still worry about the ambiguity with NC scaring people off from using what I make. I have heard some saying in various blogs and elsewhere that it’s possible educational uses could be counted as “commercial” insofar as there is an institution making money off the courses. That may be totally false, or apply just to “private” rather than “public” institutions, but the lack of clarity about what counts as a commercial use is the worrying thing, that might make people think they can’t use my stuff when I’d be perfectly happy if they did.

    As to Maha’s question; I was always under the impression that it was a question of commercial use rather than commercial entity–so, sold for money in other words. Or used in something that is connected to making money, such as in an advertisement. I’ve even heard some saying that if one has ads on a blog, then one shouldn’t use any NC materials. But really, it’s pretty ambiguous!

    1. I cannot discount the possibility of what Maha describes, but I also cannot discount the possibility of a meteor landing in my yard.

      As far as I know, in my 10+ years of sharing photos, I am unaware of anyone making money or defrauding others to pay for something that used my photo.

      It’s our own choices; again, I prefer myself to make the choice that causes the least friction against reuse. NC, SA, even ND carry baggage of confusion

      1. Actually, Alan, I did read somewhere about this happening. That someone collected some CC-licensed material and sold it in a book. Some people argued that the person made an effort to curate the material, but really, it felt like a rip-off. Also, think about people who share their data openly (this is different but still relevant) and then have someone else take it, do research with it, then publish it in a closed-journal. Oh wait, that’s what people do all the time with Twitter data and stuff. Oh, well.

        1. As I (hope I) wrote, I do not discount this has happened. And there is a heightened difference when it happens to you.

          For me, I weigh the relative possibility–to me if I ran the probability it would approach zero– of such an infraction versus the costs of making sharing my photos that much harder, less understandable, for many more people. Yes there is some possibility a meteor could fall on my next week, does that mean I stay inside? (this argument is ripe for shooting down).

          I weigh that possibility against almost a weekly message of someone’s appreciation of my shared photos, of knowing it is going into teacher projects, movies for non profit organizations, the cover of a an author’s first novel… it does not register. Even if that person sells my CC photos in a book, I cannot count that as a loss because I would never even attempt such a thing. You cannot lose something you never will have.

          The more letters you add to a license, thinking it protects what you own, the more difficult the re-use becomes. It’s a choice I make for me, not for anyone else, and I choose the license of least friction (and ought to go to CC0).

  4. I want people to modify my work = NO ND

    I want people to share my work, even if they modify it, and not necessarily under the same (even if they can grok what “same” means—which I don’t, even now) terms = NO SA

    People do collect CC licensed work and sell it, but it happens so rarely and as long as the attribution is there, I’d rather be a victim of that success and have my stuff out there than not (and who wants to try do define NC beyond the most obvious cases anyway? Anyone? Not me.) = NO NC

    So, CC-BY I will remain, at least until in Whitmanesque and Cogdogigian fashion, I change my mind and contradict myself.

    1. I aim to be Lottian. In fact, I ought to just go to CC0.

      These scenarios where “someone will make money from my stuff” is the realm of fantasy fiction. If anyone can really make money from my photos, I consider it a gift. I don;t take photos to make money, I take photos because I enjoy taking photos. If I never intend to sell/market my photos, how can I think of a potential financial loss of something I intend to never do?

      I tried last night to convert all my flickr photos back to BY and the technology failed, as did the customer support.

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