Wikipedia And Creative Commons

Last modified on April 15th, 2008

I received an email a while ago from an editor at Wikipedia, asking me if I would mind if they using one of my juno photos on a page. The only catch is that they wanted me to change the license of the photo to allow for commercial use and derivative works.

I’m a big fan of Wikipedia — I use it all the time. So I really wanted to help those guys out and let them use my photo. Since I paid for the entire Juno trip myself, I have a hard time actively letting other people make money from my work. As a compromise, I offered to grant Wikipedia a non-revokable license for use of that photo on their site, but wanted to maintain the non-commercial license for people using the photo.

They came back and said that wasn’t possible, and that they were worried that if someone took the photo from Wikipedia and used it commercially that they would be held liable. To me, it’s not a very good argument, considering the same thing can happen on Flickr any day of the week. But it is what it is.

So, in the end I turned them down, which I’m actually kind of bothered by. I don’t think I’m in the wrong as I really feel strongly that other people shouldn’t profit from my work. I already let people use all the photos anyway for non-commercial use, but just feel like changing the license to allow for commercial usage was a pretty big request.

Any comments?

7 responses to “Wikipedia And Creative Commons”

  1. Andrea says:

    Hmm, that’s kind of a hard call. On the one hand, you’d like to support Open Source, but on the other – at what (or whose) expense?

    In the end, I think I would have done the same. As hard as it is.

  2. I completely understand and agree with you on what you did. The only comment that I have is. Open Source is a developer and others working together for a common gaol. For istance creating a great chat program or application. Now this helps out a common goal. This does not effect anyone except usually the time and effort of the people involved. This would be like Duane creating a great plugin for wordpress and I come around and say for the sake of open source can I have commerical license for it. No effort by me.

    Just my two cents.

  3. We got a similar requests for one of Arieanna’s Juno photos. And I’ve been thinking about the same issues as you. Maybe they should get their lawyers to create an no liability addendum to the CC non-commercial licenses?

  4. Duane Storey says:

    Yah, they need to get their lawyers to handle it. Blindly forcing people to make unrestrictive licenses on their photos is the wrong approach — even the guy who contacted me admitted as much.

  5. What do you feel about watermarking pictures that you make available for commercial usage?

    I like picking images off of Flickr and Wikipedia for my slides. I usually link back to where the image came from. I would not mind at all if the images themselves contained a watermark attribution.

    I would probably prefer it actually. It makes my job of attribution easier.

  6. Raul says:

    @ Parveen – Good point on the watermark, but I do think people should still go through the process of attributing. I got a Pro Flickr account so that I could upload my photos and share them with the blogosphere, and I go through great pains to attribute.

    @ Duane – I am 100% with you on this one. I already have a pet peeve with Wikipedia’s lack of standards. I had entirely forgotten about the photos issue. Thanks for reminding me.

  7. Eva says:

    Hmmm.. This is something that requires some thought.

    I’m not the greatest of photographers but in the past 6 months I did get 2 requests to use 2 of my photos I have on Flickr. One is for an italian cook book which they would credit me for the photo. The other is a picture of a bowl of shark’s fin soup.

    The bowl of shark’s fin soup would have been used to illustrate an article which is basically a rehash of other news articles about shark’s fin. Considering the nature of the article, I wasn’t sure if I wanted to have my photo and name attributed to it in that article.

    Just my small experience with requests for photos…

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