Creative Commons

Nov 30, 2013

A large number of you may have not heard of the non-profit organization Creative Commons, I certainly hadn’t – until I started INFORMission Weekly – and they became my lifeline. Leaving personal views aside, CC has truly changed the world – and this is how.

There is actually a media industry, of whose existence most of us are unaware – the photography industry/the picture industry. It sort of exists in the shadows, because it’s there – very much there, but we don’t know about. Okay, imagine you’ve gone to your favourite news site – Reuters, let’s suppose – and you see this wonderful photo of Narendra Modi. You go put it up on your Facebook wall, maybe later on your blog – then on your website. If you run a news weekly, you then put it there – or do whatever you do with a picture. More often than not, you don’t give a thought to the photographer or the history of the photo – but sometimes you do. “He’s a really talented chap,” or, “I wonder if the photographer imagined the picture ever being used like this,” or, “Does he/she even care what his picture is being used for?” We can’t always know – but as a general, they care more than you think.

I mean – some random pictures are alright – but those one in a million snapshots – bolt crossing the line with a lightning bolt in the background, the Afghan girl, or Tiananmen square. If the picture is the only one of it’s kind in the world – don’t you think it’s worth something? And therefore, there exists a picture industry – controlled by online businesses like Getty Images and Corbis, who sell pictures – paying something to the photographer and making him famous – while earning a great deal themselves in the process. Now, the most obvious question comes to the mind: what are they selling? If one can simply copy/paste any photo – everyone can get the photo for free – we often read just a vague line that says -this image maybe subjected to copyrights – but there’s nothing really telling us clearly if it is, or if its been reused, whats its original source – or even preventing us from just using it – some photographers may not want to be paid, but they want their pictures used and attributed to them, some want no attribution at all, some want the picture only to be used as it is. And a lot want to be paid. How do they communicate this to users. Users too have a problem: it’s illegal to use a picture without paying – but how do you know which ones you need to pay for, and which ones you don’t? How do you know how the photographer wants to use the picture, and whether he wants to be attributed? How do you legally use a picture without paying?

Creative Commons has solved all these problems. A non-profit organization, they have, just like Wikipedia, decided to do something to help society – without any personal motive – solve the picture problem. What they’ve done: create a legal license, that’s no the conventional copyright, for photographers that they may use on their pictures, which allows people to use the photos freely and legally. It is super-customisable: there is a license if you want only non-commercial use, a license if you want no attribution, a license if you want it used as it is in commercial and non-commercial places – the photographer can tell people exactly how he wants the photo used. And the user gets free and legal usage of photos. IW believes in attributing images and respecting copyrights – and we definitely thank Creative Commons for giving us a way to do so.

Photo Credits:

References:, The Hindu,, The Hindustan Times

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