I bristle slightly when I reads something that seems to conflate Open Textbooks and Open Educational Resources (OER).

Only slightly. The success of open textbooks, not only for what they are providing and creating benefits to students, is that it finally is something the wider swath of academia has awakened to. So the bristling matters not.

But to be, the pinnacle of open content reuse, be it maybe almost pedestrian, is the digital image. Perhaps because digital photos are made in great abundance, that we have great splashless reservoirs of open licensed images to draw from, that there is nothing too exciting to crow about. The volume of shared open photos, does it support or counter the reusability paradox?

Why not issue a shrug from Second Life? (yes, the relevance referees can throw a flag on this play)

Shrug
Shrug flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

No answers here, you have just waded through the meandering intro a blog post here trickles out.

One of the sad downfalls of internet content, maybe due to the bidirectional link, is a means to finding where content is reused. My colleague Scott Leslie once spent some time trying to ponder how this might be done (did you ever find it, Scott?).

I got a whiff of it today. It’s a good odor.

I have written before how I use the (free level) service of pixsy in the way maybe it was not created for. The usual purpose is for photographers to track down unauthorized use of their photos so they can issue legal claims of copyright violation.

I know of this first hand from a current project. I used a flickr photo for a web page that was licensed CC BY and as I usually do I provided attribution. But I had made on another site, what I thought was a development space, a copy of the content in a different platform, a prototype that was not used. What I forgot was that the platform was open. The photographer tracked it down with pixsy and threatened legal action because the image was un attributed.

That’s not my way of using pixsy. Since my flickr photos are largely all licensed public domain, there’s no need for it. But because I like to maintain a collection of my photos that are reused as a flickr album, I use the level of pixsy I get a a Flickr Pro member (it monitors 1000 photos, how does it pick?? I dunno) to sometimes go in and see what it has found in its scans of the internet.

My home page at pixsy shows it has found 5953 matches for use of my flickr photo.
My pixsy page

And just to document I am not in this for issuing takedown notices…

My pixsy account indicates I have issued 0 takedown notices of the 1o included in my plan.
I plan to never use the 10 takedown notices I get in pixsy

If I browse the 5953 matches, I can see a preview of the image, and an indication of where it was most recently found:

You can see that it tracks the date my photo of insulin bottles appeared on another site (Feb 7, 2021), the country where the site is hosted, and even some categorizing of sector. This is just the beginning. Clicking the image yields more:

I can see the name of the web page it appears on, the URL for the page as well as the direct link to the image (which I can smell from the URL that it’s a WordPress site). The pair of images are the one used on the site (left) and my original (right). That little slide lets you compare the two, which you can see might come into play if the image as been re-edited.

Now we get to the info on my original image:

Pixsy knows the image came from flickr, the date it was uploaded there. But wait, scroll down. Of the more information (which you can see how much money I make from this) is the link for me to jump to the original.

I don’t need to go there to recognize my own photo. But I will use this information to go there, and if not done so already, I add this image to my collection/album of reused photos. I usually add a comment to indicate where it was spotted. Follow the photo to see all of this.

2014/365/307 Eight Bottles
2014/365/307 Eight Bottles flickr photo by cogdogblog shared under a Creative Commons (BY) license

I am rather “chuffed” as they say in the UK that my photo of my insulin bottles was used by a student author in an undergraduate biology research journal. My small beef is that the attribution (labeled “Source”) just goes to the results of a Creative Commons search result that produces a broken image and no information. Uncle Alan’s recommendation for attribution is to go upstream of the search results to the source.

But that matters nada to me.

Actually I could go nuts and issue a pixsy takedown notice as this photo happens to be CC BY and it is not attributed. That is not how I play this game.

So I could spend maybe years wading through and finding all the 5953 reuses… but what a minute! That one photo was tracked in 75 different sites!

That’s a bit mind bending, humbling, and yes, a wee bit ego stroking. But I’m not about to go look up all 75 (well not tonight).

But every few months I peek in here, as you do find some nice human reuse of photos (in blogs) and yes, commercial uses. It’s a interesting foray to see how widely (or not) attribution is done. And again, it’s rewarding that images are attributed when they are published under public domain. This flies in the face of the mantra of “public domain meaning you do not have to attribute it.” Always. Be. Attributing.

Moreso, whatever reverse searching gyroscopes are at work here are damn impressive. But use it for good reuse checking, not for spitting out takedowns.

Unless that’s your thing.

It’s not mine.

It does so that the reuse of photos is much much more than I will ever know. Does that make by cringe at all the money I am not making from them? Nope. That’s not my game.


Featured Image: Yes, if I played by the Rules of Licenses, I would not have to attribute my own photo. If that is your logic, consider what your non actions say to a reader.

2011/365/87 Narcissus 210
2011/365/87 Narcissus 210 flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com 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.

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