If you’re getting into the whole idea that sharing your images (and your architectural designs for that matter) is a good thing then Creative Commons may be just what your looking for. What is it? Basically it’s a licensing framework that accommodates the more open sharing nature of the internet. It lets you decide how you want to share your content with an aim to make it accessible to as many people as possible without loosing all control of how it gets used.
Here’s how Creative Commons explains the background of why they exist.
The idea of universal access to research, education, and culture is made possible by the Internet, but our legal and social systems don’t always allow that idea to be realized. Copyright was created long before the emergence of the Internet, and can make it hard to legally perform actions we take for granted on the network: copy, paste, edit source, and post to the Web. The default setting of copyright law requires all of these actions to have explicit permission, granted in advance, whether you’re an artist, teacher, scientist, librarian, policymaker, or just a regular user. To achieve the vision of universal access, someone needed to provide a free, public, and standardized infrastructure that creates a balance between the reality of the Internet and the reality of copyright laws. That someone is Creative Commons.
How do I use it?
Almost everything I publish to the web is provided under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License. This means that people can use my images for personal use as long as they provide attribution, but this license does’t allow for commercial use. On my website I call this an Open License to make it easier for my clients to understand and to also explicitly list the media uses that are available. I list everything I can think of like blogs, magazines, newspapers etc. This is so people understand that I want them to share this content and that they shouldn’t feel guilty.
When don’t I use it?
If a client has a specific reason why the images can’t be shared then obviously a Creative Commons license doesn’t make a lot of sense. In this scenario I just don’t put the images on the web and avoid the issue altogether. A typical reason for this might be a contractual limitation, or an arrangement with a media source.
The common sense approach to sharing and licensing
If you’re a pragmatic person then you have probable figured out that as soon as you put an image up on the web then people are already using your images for all sorts of things. They are probably using them for inspiration, concept boards, screen savers and what ever else. By providing a Creative Commons license (or any other license for that matter) you don’t change these garden variety infringements of typical copyright law. So the reason I use a Creative Commons License is not so much about protecting my images, but making it safe for people to use them for what they are already using them for, and to encourage people to share them in a healthy way.
How do you create a Creative Commons License?
Creative Commons provides a online tool that asks you a few questions and then provides you a nice little icon with a few embedded links to the license, your URL and a few other things. You can find it here.