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It’s Not Really Sharing When the Default Is Not

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Roberto Rizzato â–ºpix jockeyâ—„ Facebook resident

Let’s stop politely nodding and play lip service to sharing content. Let’s stop doing sort of sharing, like sort of pregnant. You do or you don’t. And save the trotted our excuses, “most people don’t know about creative commons”, “the default is turned off”. It’s bull, lazy bull turds, and its time to turn it up way past 11.

Frankly, if all a site does is trot out creative commons like little stickers pasted on for decoration, its like one of those “save the planet” bumper stickers hanging on the bumper of a Hummer.

Look at all the great content on ITConversations, my favorite source for tech podcasts. Their content pages do not even indicate a creative commons license (example). If you lift the hood and peek at the source code, you can find however the RDF code for a cc license:

Their entire site is licensed with a Sampling 1.0 license…. which is “retired and not recommended”.

Are we serious about Creative Commons or not?

Did I chew up some rogue catnip today. You bet I did.

We are building a new technology resource at NMC (more on that in a week or so) and part of it is a library of media– and we are being strict about only listing content that is licensed for re-use or public domain (YouTube is a whole ‘nother story- can you believe they have no creative commons option? we are just linking to their policy page as a pseudo license).

Technically we are not housing any media- all of it is via reference/embeds/links to the source. But that’s not the issue.

The challenges have been first with content on Slideshare – as I call it “the YouTube for PowerPoints” and really is one of my favorite services. And while you can set a default license on your account, I have heard more than one person say it is not always obeyed.

Unlike flickr, there is no batch tool to revise your content (it is one by one). Don’t try to tell em its a technical issue. Its something akin in query language to

Or maybe there is a left join or two in there, but its not hard.

And while creative commons licenses are listed on content pages, there is no way to even search for re-use licensed content. The data is in their database (every presentation has a license set to it); why not expose it in the search? I was forced to crunch google queries by forcing results to come from and to exclude ones that had “All Rights Reserved” on the page:

Okay, I can deal with end arounds for a site that for some reason cannot search on the data on is own database. Am I nuts to want to be able to find content I know that I can share?

But what was more insane (before I had nailed down the google search above and I was getting more false positives) was the sheer number of Slideshare presentations that were listed as “©All Rights Reserved”. Ok I can accept that from maybe some of the corporate decks, but I was looking at ones from librarians, teachers, ed tech folks with the clamps locked down.

Like this one on Collective Intelligence and E-Learning 2.0, there is even on slide 18 topics of open access and open content, and even a little Creative Commons chart:

Yet on this presentation’s Slideshare page:

No lest you think I am tossing too much blame the author’s way (I’ll toss a little), it’s more the norm than not on Slideshare. Heck, if someone like Bryan Alexander who shares voraciously has presentations stamped “©all right reserved” then there is something wrong in the machine.

The usual shrug then is to blame for making the default to be All Rights Reserved. As is, it is 3 clicks deep in to even find the setting:

So here is the rub- if an online medis sharing site is about sharing (even includes it in tis name) and states its purpose as:

Individuals & organizations upload documents to SlideShare to share ideas, connect with others, and generate leads for their businesses.

then how can you start sharing when the default is set to the opposite? In the vein of Lessig’s Two Cultures discussion in Remix, Slideshare poses as a RW culture but starts you out as RO.

The counter is of course that with slideshare, even if the content is licensed “All Rights Reserved”, I can freely link to it, and even embed it in my own web page, so yes, the content is shared, though it really always resides at Slideshare. But I cannot unshackle the statement of sharing something stamped “All Rights Reserved.” Maybe I am harping over nothing.

In a little Twitter venting (thats what 140 characters are for) I had an interesting response with @kfasimpaur

And actually I think the opposite. I think the default should be open. If you set up an account on an internet hosted site devoted to sharing media, why is the default for private and protected? It makes no sense to me, and promotes a pandering to RO culture. Make the choice clear when you sign up, “Your new account is set up to share content under [insert menu] creative commons licensing because it is Groovy and the Right Thing to Do. If you do not want to share, then set your preference to Stingy”

This is opposed to what we have now, where when you set up accounts, the question is often not asked, and the setting is bured 3 levels deep in preferences.

Let’s stop tip toeing around being an open sharing online culture. Let’s make the default be RW. If not, then it’s just paying lip service. It just does not feel right

cc licensed flickr photo shared by Roberto Rizzato â–ºpix jockeyâ—„ Facebook resident

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An early 90s builder of web stuff 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. And he is 100% into the Fediverse (or tells himself so) Tooting as


  1. I have to say – I dropped the ball on this one! After reading your post, I ‘tabbed’ on over to my slideshare account – as I wasn’t really certain what License I was using on SlideShare. (I know what it is on flickr!!) As a person who shares openly as much as she can, I was shamefully surprised to find that “all rights reserved” was the setting for my slideshare presentations. I just naturally assumed that my slideSHARE (note the word) files were exactly that – shared. My bad! Needless to say, the license has been changed quick smart. Thanks for the heads up CogDog – happy flossing!

  2. Good post. I’ve been thinking about this more myself too.

    Question for you on YouTube…my reading of their terms of service is that even with something that is CC-licensed (for example, Khan Academy vids, which until recently were only available on YouTube….fortunately not the case any more), you are prohibited from downloading them via a service like Zamzar. Since embedding doesn’t require an open license, how could anything on YouTube be considered “open” in any sense?

    If I’m reading the TOS wrong, I’d love to hear it.

    1. Don’t take me for an expert, but I’ve given this a bit of thought, so this is my opinion; I’d fact check it with other folks.

      YoTube is strangely absent in its lack of providing a way for people who upload videos to provide creative commons to content. I’ve read somewhere that it is coming soon.

      Embedding is different for downloading, because what you embed is only a reference to what sits on YouTube’s servers, and if they yank the video, there goes your embed (note the examples you see where because of the use of popular music, a certain video will not play in an embed but will play on YouTube itself, thats a twist).

      Probably, technically, downloading from YouTube is a violation of the TOS, but they do not seem to be policing this- its messy and it would be suicide to their users who would pelt them. I feel they are looking the other way, and instead patrol more harshly for the uploads of copyrighted content.

      It seems like they are looking the other way, and probably if you download for your own purposes, you have less to worry about.

      I’d expect sometime in the future that they might provide an option to content uploaders to allow downloads of the content, the way Slideshare does, but I am only guessing.

      So if you want to be perfectly legal, you should not download and reuse YT content, but my hunch is most people (that is humans, not movie studios or corporates) would desire that their video gets re-used.

      I break the rules myself. Oops, did I say that?

  3. Hi, Alan

    This post really resonated with me. Last week I uploaded my first photos to Flickr–actually they were photos taken by one of my students at our TEDxYouthDay event (I don’t take many photos myself)–anyway, I was pleased to discover that I could set (or change) my Flickr default to a CC license of my choice and apply it to all my photos retroactively at once.

    Fast forward to yesterday . . . I was organizing my Slideshare account with tags to create a “Presentation Pack” widget, when I noticed that most of my slideshows were still set on the default “All Rights Reserved.” I did take the time to change each and every one to CC, but this was a definitely a time-cosuming, tedious task. At the very least I think all sharing sites should walk users through the step of choosing their own default rather than presuming to establish the default for them.

    Thanks so much for your Flickr CC Attribution Helper, btw, I refer people to it often.


    1. Thanks for sharing your experience, Honor. As a media, it seems that CC is really not as critical as photos- how often is a presentation really remixed or incorporated into other works? It’s just not as much part of the DNA- Slideshare is a place to post and embed presentations and it does that very well.

      That said, it ought not to be too technically difficult for them to offer a feature to batch convert, but obviously its not high on their priority.

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