Thursday, 31 January 2013

Why I went Creative Commons

You post your work online so you can be found, right?

Blogs, Sites, Search Engines, & Social Media = Sources of Traffic

Like most other people for a long time I was afraid of having my images stolen, I disabled the ability for people to download my photos and included a copyright notice with all of my images. I've seen people use massive watermarks and demand that no one can even mention their work on a blog without permission. I've been posting images on Flickr since November 2008, that's over 4 years and in that time I've been known for my extremely high levels of activity in the community. You'd imagine that through my interaction in the Flickr community it would lead to Flickr itself being my highest source of traffic on Flickr, but it isn't. Flickr itself only constitutes 30%-45% of my daily traffic while search engines, blogs, forums, and other websites like Reddit and StumbleUpon contribute the majority of my traffic. Social media has also proven to have an immense effect on the number of views I get. Sharing a link to one of my photos on Google+ or Twitter creates a massive spike in traffic. Also from passively allowing my content to sit on Flickr and absorb views over years has brought me offers for licencing my work. This has lead me to realize the importance of making my material appealing for people to share online.

After Sharing on Google+
The other day I posted about one of my most viral Flickr postings ever; my Canon lens collage. I included a link back to Flickr telling people how to view the image bigger and so far it's given me a spike of traffic with a tail end going over a couple of days.

After Sharing on Twitter
I haven't traditionally been keen on Twitter, but over the past several days I've been sharing my photos through the Twitter share button on Flickr. Every time I Tweet any of my photos it causes a massive spike in views as shown above.

What I've Chosen to do

I've chosen to make my work more appealing for people to share, use, and pass around online. I've chosen to license my work as "Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons". Under this licence people may share or remix and adapt my work under the conditions that they attribute it to me and that it isn't used commercially. Doing this helps make my work more appealing to those who'd want to share it knowing that I won't come after them and extract my vicious revenge on their family. This isn't the only thing I've done, over the years I've made it so my work is more and more available to people. Right now on Flickr I have it set so anyone can download the full resolution original files of all of my work, that's right all of it, 100%, and without any watermarks at that! (my name is in the metadata though) Before you call me insane, two of the largest photographers on social media +Trey Ratcliff & +Thomas Hawk both offer all of their images under Creative Commons and can be downloaded at full resolution without watermarks. Doing all of this will help my content go more viral since the basis of going viral is through the sharing of content that people will talk about and recommend to others. All while making sure that I'm attributed to help ensure everything is traced back to me.

Trey Ratcliff's Work
All of Trey's work can be downloaded at full resolution without watermarks. In this screenshot is a photo he posted on Google+.

Thomas Hawk's Work
All of Thomas' work can be downloaded at full resolution without watermarks as well. In this screenshot is a photo he posted to Google+.

Billy, Are You Insane?

Maybe a little, but for the longest time my fears of switching to Creative Commons have prevented me from doing so. I've known Thomas Hawk for years and for all that time I've known him he's been a proponent of Creative Commons. It's only through my own experiences online that I've come to the conclusion that it's the better licence to deal with when it comes to this online sharing environment if you want to get your stuff out there. There's of course the fear of having your work stolen, which is everyone's fear when they first post something online. We've all heard of crazy horror stories but in the years that I've been putting my work up online have I ever seen it used commercially without me being compensated? No, but under this Creative Commons licence that would be a violation since I don't give permission for people to use my material commercially. What I have seen though are people who'll use something I made as a profile pic or post it to their friends or sharing it on their Tumblr. Do you know what this has done for me? It has gotten me thousands of views! I want to encourage people to do this since it brings in more people who will actually buy a print, watch my show, ask for a Tibby T-shirt, and become friends. Sure you might have something stolen along the way but opening yourself up will help you make a greater return in the long run.

In closing, I'd like to share a quote from +Thomas Hawk about his views on the copyright of his images that's been in my head since I first read it. 

"I look at my photography like this. When I make an image it belongs to me. It belongs to me while I take the photo. It belongs to me while it sits in my camera. It belongs to me while I process it on my Mac. It belongs to me while I let it sit in an archive folder waiting to be uploaded to the internet.

Then I upload it to the internet and it’s like I’m taking a bird and opening my window and letting it go. Off she goes. Her song to be enjoyed by the entire world — certainly no longer mine.

There’s a wild band of parrots that flies around San Francisco. They squawk and make beautiful noise in the trees above the city. I think someone made a movie about them once. They are far more beautiful and interesting than the parrots who live in the cages at the pet store."   -Thomas Hawk

Billy

5 comments:

  1. I have adapted my strategy on this in the last few years. While I have not changed the labeling on my photography, I will allow people to use images for non commercial under many circumstances (with credit given). I find a lot of images of mine in use commercially when I do a google image search (many plugins available to make this easy) however.

    Now that you have a blog and many images on G+, what do you plan to do when you find one of your images in use commercially?

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    1. Well Michael I guess it would depend on the circumstances and how much I'd be losing out on. Perhaps there are some examples of my images being used commercially without my knowledge but I'd try to approach it in a way that would be a win for everyone.

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    2. I generally pursue commercial infringements and having them pay for a retroactive license. I've had decent success with that so far - and haven't gone legal with anyone yet. Sometimes they haven't played ball and I've simply use the DMCA to have the image (or often their whole site) taken down. Often though they are apologetic or they blame their website designer and end up paying. At the very least (depending on the country) it is easy to not allow people to continue to infringe on your image if you don't want them to.

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  2. Great writeup, Billy and good perspective. I've had a simular mentality about my photos for a long time and it's a good method just to let go of them under the Creative Commons licensing. Commercial purposes is one thing but to get your images out there in this day & age using social media is a huge advantage.

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  3. I don't know if you know this article:
    http://thispicturesucks.wordpress.com/2009/07/13/creative-commons-and-the-case-of-the-hotel-pool-sperm/

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