Understanding Flickr’s Creative Commons Copyright Lingo

By Alyice Edrich in Art Business Advice > Art Marketing Tips

Last month, I wrote about using Flickr as an image hosting service for your blog. What I didn’t do was explain how copyrights work, or what Flickr’s default licenses mean. Today we’re going to do just that!

Please keep in mind I am NOT a copyright attorney and this information is provided without warranty; when in doubt, contact a licensed attorney.

Now that the legalese is out of the way. . .

Under current copyright law, when you create something, you are automatically protected from someone else using your material without permission. However, getting people to cooperate can be tricky, since most people do not fully understand how copyright law works. That’s why it’s important to tell others up-front what permissions you offer when showcasing your work.

How Creative Commons Works

When using Flickr’s default licenses, you are essentially using what is known as the “Creative Commons” license. Creative Commons is an organization that was created to help everyday people understand copyright law and apply it to their works.

However, within the Creative Commons license there are various options for stricter or more lenient sharing of your work, and unless you go to their website and read up everything, you can still find yourself confused. So let me break it down for you.

All rights reserved, or “©”

If, like most artists, you place “© Name” or “© Name, Year.” or “© Name. All rights reserved.” below or above your image and/or text, you are stating that you own the copyrights to the work being shown and that you do not give permission for others to use your image and/or text without your express permission.

This is, after all, the standard copyright solution. However, there are many other options under the Creative Commons license. For example:

Attribution, or “CC BY”

By placing “CC BY” below or above your image and/or text, you allow others to share your work provided they give you credit.

This can be tricky because unless you specify in more detail what your terms of use are, you can essentially be telling viewers that they can sell your works, make derivatives of your works, and even distribute your works without any monetary compensation whatsoever—all they need to do is give you credit for the original works.

Share Alike, or “CC SA”

When you use “CC SA” you are stating that you are giving others permission to take your work and create derivatives of your work and then distribute such work—as long as they do so under the same license that you used.

Non-Commercial, or “CC NC”

Non-Commercial, in and of itself, means that you allow others to share your work as long as they aren’t getting monetary compensation for your work.

No Derivative Works (also No Derivs) or “CC ND”

No Derivs, in and of itself, means that you allow others to share your work as long as they do not make any changes to the original work.

You can mix and match any of these requirements as well, like so:

Attribution Non-Commercial, or “CC BY-NC”

Attribution Non-Commercial then, means that you allow others to share your work for non-commercial purposes (i.e. on their blogs or collages) provided you are given credit.

Attribution Non-Commercial Share-A-Like, or “CC BY-NC-SA”

Attribution Non-Commercial Share-A-Like Creative Commons means that you are allowing others to take your material and make derivatives of the work for personal use only provided they give you proper credit for the original work.

Attribution Non-Commercial NoDerivs, or “CC BY-NC-ND”

Attribution Non-Commercial NoDerivs means that you are allowing others to take your material and use it “as is” for non-commercial purposes provided you are given proper credit. Your work, therefore, could end up on blogs, in books, in magazines, and in company newsletters but you would not see a dime for the usage of your works.

The good thing about understanding what this terminology means is that you can then use the same verbiage to protect your own art! Heck, you can even get the buttons and code to distribute your preferred Creative Commons license on your blog.

And of course, if you find yourself still confused about copyright law, I highly encourage you to check out these three, rather informative, web pages. . .

Copyright Laws of the United States

10 Big Myths About Copyright Explained

10 Common Copyright Permission Myths


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