Don’t be afraid of Creative Commons

Suw wrote about the case last week when Virgin Mobile Australia used a Creative Commons licenced photo in an ad campaign. She called it an abuse of goodwill. Now Robin Hamman has warned people to think twice about re-using Creative Commons licenced photos. Virgin Mobile Australia kept to the letter of the law in terms of the Attribution Creative Commons licence, but, as Suw said, they are guilty of “flagrantly abusing its spirit”.

I’m a huge advocate of Creative Commons licenced content, and I’m trying to increase the use of CC audio, video and images at the Guardian. At the moment, Guardian management has taken a cautious approach, worrying that even if people have licenced their works allowing commercial use that people might think twice if a media company uses their images, audio or video. I wasn’t involved in those discussions, although I would have liked to make a more pro-CC argument. (Part of me wonders if there were union considerations as well. But as I said, I wasn’t privy to the discussion so that’s only speculation.)

But I’ll provide a couple of quick examples of how acting with goodwill and keeping both to the letter and spirit of the law can be a way to increase engagement with your community and broader, more distributed online communities, even if you are a commercial media company. On the Guardian’s Food Blog Word of Mouth, editor Susan Smillie set up a Flickr group and encourages blog fans to share their photos. Anna Pickard used a picture from Flickr on a post about sweets that people bring back from their holidays abroad.

I used a picture from Flickr to illustrate Republicans hatred of Hillary Clinton on our new US-focussed blog, Deadline USA. I take care to link back to the original photo, credit the user and link to their profile and make sure that it is clear that this is CC-licenced content, not content under Guardian copyright. If I have contact information, I let the photographer know that I used the picture. This morning, I got a nice message from the Flickr user who created the illustration, azrainman. He thanked me for making the extra effort, and even gave me a little link love.

This is what blogging and social media is about, knowing the social norms and taking part in this global conversation as an equal even if you do work for a big media company. If you’re looking to boot-strap your community on your site, it’s always good to plug in and play (nice) with established digital communities.

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