I love Creative Commons, ok? I’ve followed, used, the licenses since the start, I have the t-shirts. And like many, I can rattle of the stack of letters and explain them.

But in my internet roaming, especially for my other strong interest, photography, I come across things in practice, well, that are much less cut and dry. Like a few posts ago when I fell into some slimy and weird toy spaces of public domain (not strictly CC, but in the same neighbourhood).

And I also love cacti. They are unworldly, especially to an east coast born suburban kid (well I did taste the Southwest through Roadrunner cartoons), but so intriguing in design and beauty that defies the probably of life with almost no water.

Both seem simple from afar, yet different up close, and occasionally you might get stuck by a sharp spine.

Have I exhausted the un-necessary metaphor? I can’t resist, this was my photo I found my searching my flickr stream on “details”.

On with the show.

It Starts in My Feeds

Old man internet warning- this started while reading my RSS feeds in my folder of Photography sites. I clicked to read the PetaPixel article Generative AI is a Minefield for Copyright Law. Of course it opens with the requisite surreal AI generated image, but frankly does not really give me anything new beyond what I’ve read before– especially from those great CC folks. Bottom line, no one can really say for sure where the clear rules and guidelines will land on generative imagery. It’s messy. Again.

But this is where it got me curious. Down at the credits bottom of the PetaPixel article it reads:

The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author. This article was originally published at The Conversation and is being republished under a Creative Commons license.


It is “being republished under a Creative Commons license”. What license is “a”? And where is the link to the license? I am an observer of attribution practice, and this one falls way short of the Creative Commons Best Practices. Okay, that’s just being sloppy. I am no perfectionist.

But I am curious.

I follow the one link to the original article published at The Conversation (I have read many great articles there, good writing happens, I declare). What’s curious here is I can find no mention of a Creative Commons license on the article. There is a footer assertion "Copyright © 2010–2023, Academic Journalism Society" — so I did around for more.

Not that it would ever be clear to look for license details under a link for “Republishing Guidelines” there it is.

We believe in the free flow of information and so publish under a Creative Commons — Attribution/No derivatives license. This means you can republish our articles online or in print for free, provided you follow these guidelines:


The belief in free flow of information is a nice sentiment. And there is is, they are asserting a CC BY-ND license across their publications. One license to rule them all.


The conditions.

Now this was somewhat new to me, but I heard the smart and esteemed Jonathan Poritz (certified facilitator of the Creative Commons Certificate) say in an online license quibble that adding extra conditions to a CC license… nullifies it (?) That seems to be clear on the response on the CC Wiki to the question “What if I want to add some conditions and I clarify what I mean by a specific term? Is there anything wrong with adding conditions on top of a CC license?” though the details written under License Modification fall into the Ask a Lawyer region.

Back to the conditions on The Conversation’s site- the first three seem to be the scope of the CC BY-ND license: “You can’t edit our material” (that’s ND), “You have to credit authors and their institutions” (that’s attribution), “You have to credit The Conversation and include a link back to either our home page or the article URL” (also mostly standard attribution).

The question to be is the next one:

You must use our page view counter when republishing online. The page view counter is a 1 pixel by 1 pixel invisible image that allows us and our authors to know when and where content is republished. 


Can they really make that a condition of reuse? To deploy a tracking pixel?

That smells a bit weird to me, along with there being no clear indication of the CC ND license directly on articles (hence why PetaPixel does not know what license to declare??).

Okay, this is truly quibbling, but thinking about these details is important, more than just a simple pat acceptance of the basic rules of licensing.

That’s a Weird Kind of CC0 at Rawpixel

For a recently published post I sought an image of a well known brand of candy– it’s not surprising of course that there are not many available- funny in that my google image search filtered for CC licensed results, a high ranking one was my own flickr photo of the spanish language version I spotted in Mexico (and likely that might be a copyright infringement, shhhh).

The one I liked (and used) was pointed from Google to rawpixel. There’s a great image! But zoom in close, and there’s some fishy things happening.


I am very familiar with the iconic roadside Americana photos of John Margolies, readily available public domain content from the Library of Congress.

Rawpixel does declare the image source (not linked) and the CC0 license. All kosher. So far.

But try to download the image- you are required to create an account. Even free, why do I have to sign up for an account to access public domain content (hint, the upsell answer is in the lower right corner). So rawpixel is repackaging public domain content but putting a requirement to download.

I can right control click and download easily (I did) and that trick of hiding images in a .webp file format is no barrier (Preview on OSX now converts it easily to JPEG).

But there’s more. What is that Editorial Use Only link, right below the link to the CCO license?

Content labeled “Editorial Use Only” are for use in news and events-related articles, non-commercial blogs and websites, broadcasts and other non-profit media. This content cannot be used for commercial purposes including advertising, promotions and merchandising.

Editorial content should not be edited or altered substantially from the original image.


Now wait a minute- how can Rawpixel put extra conditions on CC0 content? I’d say this is enforceable as wet tissue.

Compare this to the source of this same image at the Library of Congress. No logins required, the images are directly there in usable JPEG format, and there are no extra conditions.

The question is- why does Google give preference in search results to fishy re-packagers of public domain content over the actual source?

We all know the an$wer.

Who Cares?

You should. When we just grab stuff because some web site says its free, us, especially as educators, should be looking at the fine detail. The same is true for the inevitable world changing tsunamic technofad (look closely at the top results, outside of Wikipedia, is there a pattern?).

Again it’s something at a quick glance has a statistically valid appearance of resembling useful information. If you grab and go, because it’s done for you easily, do you understand/question what you got? Can you zoom in and get an understanding of how it works, where it gets its info from? Can you even view source?

Nice pretty cactus there.

Featured Image: My photo! CCO, natch!

2014/365/263 More to a Cactus Than a Bunch of Needles
2014/365/263 More to a Cactus Than a Bunch of Needles flickr photo by cogdogblog shared into the public domain using Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication (CC0)

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

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