Laurel L. Russwurm's Free Culture Blog

a writer, the copyfight and internet freedom

Politicians: Publicity Photos need a CC License

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Copyright symbol with a Maple Leaf embeddedCitizen journalism is on the rise and playing a much larger role in the political arena.

As a blogger, I make use of images in all of my blogs. But when I can’t take my own, I look for photos online. But © copyright, all rights reserved means I can’t use an image.  And Canadian copyright law makes every photograph copyright © all rights reserved as the default.

Both Google and Flickr offer an Advanced Image Search option. When looking for images to use in my blog, I choose to search “labelled for reuse.” I can tell you right now that Google returned zero labeled for reuse image results for the incumbent in my riding.

[I would have screen captured the Google page to show you here, except that I can’t, because the page is “protected by copyright”. Isn’t copyright fun?]

Canadians can’t even use images included on Government of Canada web pages paid for with our tax dollars because they are protected by Crown Copyright. And if you haven’t heard, CBC does the same thing. They don’t allow citizens to reproduce anything from their website, even when it is of a non-profit public service nature.

blogger legality

That makes it copyright infringement to reproduce the photo without permission. As a blogger, I don’t have time to ask, so it is easier for me not to not use photos unless they are licensed for re-use, rather than risk legal ramifications (EFF calls that the chilling effect). So people who want to include your photo – and provide you with needed publicity – won’t.

The flip side is that when you are in public life, total strangers can legally take your photograph and publish it without your permission. So what is likely to happen is that unflattering images will appear on flickr or WikiMedia Commons that are licensed for reuse. Unflattering images make attack ads possible.

Permission

Privately granted permission can easily be withdrawn, disavowed or legally challenged. Most bloggers don’t have legal departments, nor pockets deep enough to risk spending the rest of our lives in court arguing this.

Wikipedia

Wikipedia is not an advertising medium, which means that famous people or political parties can’t make their own (presumably biased) pages.

One photographer who takes photographs of politicians to include in Wikipedia explained how he was forced to include an incredibly unflattering photograph of a highly placed Canadian politician in Wikipedia page. He had never been able to get a good picture of the man, and an unflattering photograph is better than none.

Which is an excellent reason for famous people or political parties to license images they can live with for reuse. You can post licensed images anywhere online, on your website, blog, even as an Identi.ca avatar, or on a free Flickr page.

If you don’t, someone else will.

Creative commons double c enclosed in a circle, with black text at right reading Creative Commons and in red dot CA

Creative Commons

There are other ways of licensing to get around the over-stringent copyright law we have today, but the one I know about is Creative Commons on licenses. I’ve blogged a bit about it in CC is for Creator’s choice.

Creative Commons Zero or Public Domain logo

The photographer owns the © copyright, and can license a good image through on the Creative Commons license choosing page.

For the widest possible dissemination of any information, the best license is CC0.

Written by Laurel L. Russwurm

April 25, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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