Creative Commons and Photographs
Canadian copyright legislation has improved over the years, especially since the implementation of a significant amendment in 2012. However, unless you’re a lawyer, a librarian who specializes in copyright, or a very interested layperson, the laws surrounding copyright in Canada are daunting, to say the least. Now, add into this the idea of posting an image onto your internet blog (or presentation) and the notion of multiple nations and international copyright laws having an effect.
In Canada, if an author or creator wanted to use a photograph from another individual, they would have to abide by one of the following processes:
1. Purchase the photograph and ensure reproduction within the blog, etc. was permitted through a written contract. This purchase could be done directly from the photographer, through the photographer’s agent, or through an online stock photo agency.
2. Obtain permission directly from the photographer or photographer’s agent to use the photograph and have a written contract outlining permission for the specific use and timeframe.
3. Find a photograph through a Creative Commons site. Credit the photographer in accordance with the Creative Commons license.
4. Utilize photographs from the public domain. Public domain is applied with a photograph where the copyright has expired or may not have been in effect initially. Several sites, including Public Domain Pictures host these sources however caution should be used as the original image may not be as available as advertised or releases may need to be obtained prior to use. For more information on some public domain sites or information around these images please visit 99designs.ca.
I suppose a fifth option exists which is to use the photograph without permission and hope that no one finds out or takes the efforts to pursue legal options. For me, the third option, utilizing Creative Commons, is not only the easiest but also the most respectful to the photographer’s rights.
What is Creative Commons?
Creative Commons is a non-profit organization that began in 2001 to expand the range of creative work available to the public. Creative Commons describes themselves on their website as providing “free, easy-to-use copyright licenses to make a simple and standardized way to provide the public permission to share and use” creative content of the artist within defined conditions chosen by the creator.
As of the time of this blog post, there are seven regularly used licenses under Creative Commons version 4.0. These include license CC0 which frees content globally without restrictions. Under license CC0 no attribution to the creator is required, remixing of the original creation is allowed, and use by commercial organizations is permitted. On the distant end of the spectrum, license BY-NC-ND requires attribution to the creator, does not allow the piece to be used for commercial purposes, and does not permit the piece to be altered in any manner. Full license descriptions are available through the Creative Commons website.
To find Creative Commons images you may apply the following strategies:
1. While utilizing Google search engine, choose “Images” after entering your search term. Next, select “Advanced Options” and ensure “Labelled for reuse” is selected. Your original search will be refined and will include those images tagged for credited or uncredited use. Note that some errors occur in this process or some items are purposely mislabeled to lure you into the website. Check the original source file and ensure there is a Creative Commons license attached, or that the creator has clearly indicated the reuse guidelines.
2. Search for your image through Creative Commons sites such as FlickrCommons, Pexels or Pixabay. At these sites, each image outlines the required Creative Commons license requirements. These sites are my go-to for all blog posts, presentation graphics, etc. I have always been able to find quality images that meet the needs of my projects. All images in this blog come from these sites.
This blog post scratches the surface of Creative Commons licenses and copyright law. I hope you found some of the information valuable. If you use these sites often for your projects, please consider adding your own photographs or creating a piece and opening the access to return to the Creative Commons community for others to use.
Thank you for taking some time out of your day. If you have a favourite Creative Commons source site, please comment below.
Enjoy the rest of your day!
Image: “Broken Explosion Glass” by Ed Gregory is licensed under CC BY 2.0