This may be one of my favorite all time portrait photos, capturing I think the playful but serious intent of Audrey Watters. during a Minding the Future event in 2013 at University of Mary Washington.

She had picked up a 3D printed shark jaw, and I barely got the camera pointed in time. I’m rather proud that Audrey still uses it as her twitter avatar.

That photo is shared freely on my flickr site, as it says, under Creative Commons ( BY-SA ) license. You do not need to pay to see the photo nor use it. You can download it, use it, as long as you provide attribution in some way and you share it in the same way. It is not behind a paywall.

That is how I read what Share Alike means. Quoting from the license:

ShareAlike — If you remix, transform, or build upon the material, you must distribute your contributions under the same license as the original.

No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

You may not apply… technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.

Witness a technological restriction on the use of my photo that restricts others from even accessing this photo.

It is impressive and a well-earned honor that the Chronicle of Higher Education recognized Audrey’s work as a “Rabble Rouser”. I caught wind of this while traveling Friday, and I was pretty sure I saw the full article on my mobile device. Most of all, I was stoked to see the same photo used in the Chronicle article.

Yet when tweeted out again this morning by Bryan Alexander:

I followed the link again this morning, now that I am home on my laptop. Except this is what I see:




Now (insert cliché about not being a lawyer), but to my small mind, my photo is not being shared alike in the same manner it was original shared. You cannot even get to it without breaching the paywall.

All of the Chronicle Innovators are locked behind the paywall, including the founder and CEO of Lumen Learning (a company devoted to openness), plus others who most likely do their education work in the open. Without paywalls.


After two or more decades of awareness that creating scarcity of digital content is a physical paradox (the cost of copying is nil, and giving a copy does not take away the original), this is still the practice to create value in publishing.

Now, I know what may happen. If somehow my whinging even makes it to the shores of the Chronicle Fortress, they might go in and swap out my photo.

That is not what I want. That is treating the symptom and ignoring the disease. It is a digital disease of refusal to accept the way the digital world operates.

That is not what I want. So, because it is in the way Creative Commons works, I give permission to the Chronicle of Education to use by Creative Commons Share-Alike licensed image in a way te original was not shared. They can lock it behind a paywall. I grant them an exception.

I would hope, vainly, in return, they might reconsider the paywalling of content. I make a gesture to the castle, maybe they might open the window and smile back.



Or keep on going Paywalling and Paywalling Alike.

Top / Featured Image Credits: It’s my image, but for the record that photo is a flickr photo by cogdogblog (aka me) shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license. That means, you can use it if you share under the same conditions. That means you have to actually be able to access it in the first place.

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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. Thanks for doing this Alan, previously I had my default in Flickr to be non-commercial but after following your work I have changed it to CC BY-SA 2.0.

    Granted my photos that are publicly visible is a very small number but I am working on changing that by releasing more from private status and taking more photos worth sharing.

    I applaud you for keeping the conversation going, this is not about a “fight for your rights” or anyone else but (I think) keeping this conversation going about open resources.

  2. I wish the SA language were clearer on this as it is equivalent to using an image on an intranet, even if not-for-profit. Which I, as you, interpret to mean that SA images can’t be used in things like a closed faculty development community, LMS courses that aren’t open to the public, intranets for instructional designers, etc.

    That’s why I *don’t* use the SA, or even the NC. Not because I don’t appreciate the spirit, but because I ultimately find the conflation of uses as I’ve just listed and uses like the Chronicle’s to be a problem—and too many people in education think they are prohibited by the NC clause, much less understanding the SA. So, for me, it’s all simply CC-BY.

    1. Yeah, I think above all the field of license options makes it more complicated than it ought to be. If we, as people supposedly knowledgable in the field get tripped up, what are people new to the concepts, students, kids supposed to make sense?

      The more I read the license, it seems more about the license being shared alike, not the media. I was totally BY a few years ago for being the most simple, switched to SA upon reading Wikimedia Commons rationale and somehow thinking it took care of NC without the fuzziness of NC. Contemplating again a switch to Occam’s license.

  3. The photo is one of our favorites too. I recall that during the planning stages, the playful moment you captured elicited smiles from all involved at The Chronicle—photo editors, designers and editors. Your portrait and the other photos help humanize the individuals we profiled in our annual Digital Campus package.

    My understanding of the use of CC images on password protected sites is based upon this entry in the CC FAQ:

    It states:

    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. (Note that charging for access may not be permitted with NC-licensed material; however, it is not disallowed by the restriction on ETMs.)

    In this case, your photo is available to all who subscribe to The Chronicle (“paying customers”), and we have not restricted use of your image in any way to them. Those who have access to premium content on can use any CC image without interference or restriction from The Chronicle, as long as they follow the terms as described on CC.

    I’m delighted that we found your photo and were able to use it as part of our coverage, and I hope other subscribers appreciate it as much as we do. Even better if they legally share it.

    BTW, I’m the editor of visuals for The Chronicle of Higher Education and The Chronicle of Philanthropy:

    1. Thanks Ron for the long and thorough reply. I’d rather aim for highest reuse and really do not have a problem with the way the Chronicle used the photo. It does make it clear that the license has elements of non clarity. I’m ready to just switch to BY as that is the most permissive and least vague

  4. Did they crop the photo? (Seems like it). Isn’t that a transformation? If so, it would seem like a paywall (especially one that actually shows you the transformation but doesn’t allow access to it) would fall under the SA clause.

    But whatever. You’ve been ripped off by far greater sources before. And will be again. It’s inevitable for one who creates as much awesome shit as you do.

    Oh, and happy birthday, you old dog!

    1. It’s not ND. I am or intrigued that we as people well aware of CC cannot sort out fully the licenses. That’s a symptom right there.

      Thanks, I feel younger every year (except when I have to walk up a steep incline)

  5. Weirdly, I’ve always assumed a password limitation was enough to stop sharing-alike. When I did our Coursera MOOC, even though anyone could register, logging in fundamentally alters how sharing occurs. You also couldn’t track reuse on a password site.

    Adding to my “sheeesh open” list

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