It’s increasingly easy these days to publish stuff on the web.There are vast clouds full of photos, images, blog posts, presentations, etc. to browse through. Often I bump into things that look interesting, clever or beautiful; creations that I may want to use. This amazing photo of ice I would love to use in my presentation or this visual statement perfect to illustrate a post I might be writing. Unfortunately I can’t, in the first case, it would be stealing, in the second – I simply don’t know. What stands between us, is an aspect of intellectual property law – copyright.
So I plea to you, dear readers: please license and attribute.
The moment you publish a new blog post or upload your photos to a service like flickr or Facebook or twitter (unless the Terms Of Service state otherwise, so do read them) you have exposed a creation to which you have the exclusive right to copy or copyright. In such case, should anyone want to use your materials, they need your written permission to do so. You can license your own work and explicitly tell others, what you allow them to do, and under what circumstances.
Here is a little overview of popular licenses from full copyright (when you grant no rights to others) to putting your work in public domain.
For further details on some of the popular copyleft licenses (where you retain some rights and make it easy for others to use your work) go to:
Copyrights eventually expire and after some time (how long, depends on the local laws, and if you happen to own copyrights to the Mickey Mouse…) all work ends up in the public domain, that’s how things like the flickr commons can exist.
Now that I have found this interesting piece of creative work I’d like to use there are a few cases. If the work is copyrighted (as in all rights reserved) my only choice is to ask the author in writing, whether I can use their work. If, on the other hand, it’s in public domain, I’m free to do as I choose with the content. Many resources, however, tend to fall into the middle category of some rights reserved and if you pick from flickr’s creative commons or Wikimedia Commons you’re likely to be using materials licensed such that they require, at least, attribution.
Attribution means that when using someone else’s work you should attribute their authorship. Simply, you need to say who created the work you’re using; only it’s not that simple.
I see people do it in different ways: write the author’s name, write their nick, add a link to the original location, etc. however these may be incorrect and thus breaking the license. Creative commons licenses imply these five things about attribution:
- If the work itself contains any copyright notices placed there by the copyright holder, you must leave those notices intact, or reproduce them in a way that is reasonable to the medium in which you are re-publishing the work.
- Cite the author’s name, screen name, user identification, etc. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice to link that name to the person’s profile page, if such a page exists.
- Cite the work’s title or name, if such a thing exists. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice to link the name or title directly to the original work.
- Cite the specific CC license the work is under. If you are publishing on the Internet, it is nice if the license citation links to the license on the CC website.
- If you are making a derivative work or adaptation, in addition to the above, you need to identify that your work is a derivative work i.e., “This is a Finnish translation of the [original work] by [author].” or “Screenplay based on [original work] by [author].”
To avoid confusion, when you license your work, you can specify how you want your work to be attributed. Consider making life easier for others.
Now it’s time for you to act. Please go and:
- Put an explicit license notice on your website/blog
- Select a license on flickr
- Add licensing information to your facebook/twitter/G+ profile
- Review your attributions
- Prepare your own attribution format
- … and consider the implications of copyright
That’s all folks;
Disclaimer: I can claim no legal expertise in the area of intellectual property law so please treat this information as guidance and always refer to the regulations of your local jurisdiction and the specific license agreements that you rely on.