28 May 2009

Mass media ignore CC licensing

While reading a Norwegian online newspaper tonight, I noticed that the paper had used a Creative Commons-licensed picture from flickr as an illustrative image for the article I was reading. I thought it was nice to see how the CC-license was used in a mass media site.

The picture was good, so I thought I'd look it up, and look at other images from the same photographer. The paper had credited the image with the flickr screen name, so it was fairly easy to find. To my surprise I found that the image had "All rights reserved", the opposite of a CC-license. The picture was used illegally by the paper...

I think such a license-violation is pretty serious when done by a major paper. As the curious guy I am, I thought I'd check if this was the case with more images. I ran a Google-search for articles on the site with the text "Creative Commons" within the last month. I got quite a few hits, and ended up checking 14 images.

One of the photos used legally. From lyng883 with CC BY-license

Of these 14 images 1 had no info about photographer or license, 6 used the image without violating the CC-license chosen by the photographer and 7, 50% of the images, were in clear violation of the license. 2 of these 7 even had "All rights reserved".

I put the details in a Google Docs spreadsheet here, which have links to all articles I checked, and, if found, links to the flickr-pages of the pictures used. In addition the spreadsheet has my analysis (in Norwegian) on whether the license was broken, and, if so, in what way.

My conclusion from this is that the journalists in this paper have little or no respect for the licensing of the pictures they find at flickr. When journalists, which should be trained in this, and to be expected to withstand from illegal use of intellectual property, have such disregard for the licensing, are we then naive to think others respect the licensing?

Update: It seems that this in part can be caused by photographers changing the license on their pictures. This is likely the case for the first pictures I checked, the photographer for this has told me that it used to be under CC-license up untill a couple of weeks ago.

This case is more complicated than I first thought...

Update 2: The paper has now replaced the image in the article which I linked to in the top. Both a journalist and the editor of the paper have stated that the picture should not have been used, and that they probably made an error during the search that found the image. What they have not done, is fix the 6 other errors I also found. I don't think they really understood the full extent of this.

I do not know if the paper understands the problem of photographers changing the license on the pictures on flickr. There is a good change this paper actually never did anything wrong on the picture they now have removed. From the response I got from the journalist, it seems that they had fetched the picture some time ago, probably before the license was changed (as the photographer told she had done).

The interesting problem here is that the CC rules state that when you have applied a CC-license to a photo, or something else, this is permanent. The situation the paper ended up in shows why this is necessary. The problem is that flickr does not enforce this rule, the users are free to change the license any way they like. There is an interesting article in Wired on this problem.

21 May 2009

The Jacket

My previous post honored the memory of my late grandmother through a recipe of hers. A few days back I very briefly met someone who honored the memory of someone close to her through a jacket.

It happened on my way to work. I have a long commute to work, train first and then tram the last stretch. As I was waiting at the tram stop one morning, I noticed a woman wearing a suede leather jacket. It seemed old and out of fashion, and I was thinking she probably got it from the Salvation Army outlet. My first impression of the lady was that she was someone without a lot of money, living a hard life.

Then I noticed that the price tag, which was hanging in a string on her back. It was still attached to the jacket, like it would be if the jacket was hanging in a store. I also noticed that the tag was really old. Both the plastic pocket holding the tag, and the tag itself, had turned yellowish. I was a bit puzzled by this, but didn’t think more of it. I was thinking I should tell her about the tag, but before I got to it the tram arrived.

We both got on the same tram, she went onboard before me. It was a bit full, and I ended up sitting down next to her. Now I finally got around to warning her about the tag on her back. I just expected a slightly embarrassed reply from her, and a thank you. But the reply surprised me.

She did say thank you, slightly embarrassed. But then, while tucking in the tag, she told me why the tag was there. She had inherited the jacket from her dad when he died. Her father had been so proud of this jacket that he didn’t want to take the tag off. When she inherited the jacket she kept the tag on as a way to honor the memory of her dad.

I totally didn’t see that coming. I just replied with an ok, not saying anything more during the trip. But it made me think. I thought about how we nowadays we throw away perfectly good clothes just because they’re out of fashion. I thought about what kind of relationship she had with her dad. It seemed like she missed him a lot. I thought about how easy it is to make snap judgments of people I know nothing about. And I thought about how many people I pass by every day on my commute, people with interesting stories, stories that I will never stop to listen too.