Photographers Don’t Understand Creative Commons

Posted on 8/24/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

TechDirt reports that photographer Art Dragulis took a photo of Swain’s Lock along the C&O canal in Maryland and uploaded it to Flickr. Roughly four years later, he discovered Kappa Map Group was using his photo for the cover of its Montgomery County, Maryland atlas. He sued for copyright infringement. And he LOST.

When Dragulis posted his picture he attached a Creative Commons BY-SA-2.0, license that allows commercial use of the photo in exchange for attribution. It was just one of many shots he took on a hike. It never occurred to him that someone might want to make a commercial use of his image.

But, Kappa Map Group found the shot among more than 10 billion Flickr images and complied exactly with the terms of the Creative Commons license by crediting the photo:

    “Photo: Swain’s Lock, Montgomery Co., MD; Photographer: Carly Lesser & Art Drauglis, Creative Commons, CC-BY-SA-2.0.”

Sorting Through 10 Billion Images

Of the over 10 billion images available on Flickr (and over 1 million new photos added every day) only about 349 million of them have some type of Creative Commons license. Of these, only 32,143,573 of the Creative Commons images are available with an “Attribution-ShareAlike" License.

But, if you’re an art director or graphic designer looking for free photos, you can go here and search Flickr for just those photos that are free to use with attribution being the only requirement. If you search for “Swain’s Lock” guess what is the first of photo that come up of the 26 photos with that Creative Commons license. Why wouldn’t image users with limited budgets check out this source first?

Understand Your Licenses

If your goal is to get your images used in as many ways, by as many people, as possible then go ahead and make your images available with a Creative Commons license. But don’t be surprised if someone uses your image in a commercial way that generates a lot of revenue for that user. And don’t expect any share of that revenue. Most of all, don’t waste your time and money to hire a lawyer in an effort to collect something from the user.

Using Flickr

This doesn’t mean that placing images on Flickr is always a bad idea. Some photographers like Todd Klassy earn significant revenue from commercial users who find their images on Flickr. They simply mark their images as “all rights reserved” and require anyone who wants to use one of their images to contact them and negotiate rights. For more on Klassy’s operation check out this story.

Many customers are using Flickr to find the images they need for their projects.

Copyright © 2015 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff