As we had noted in our story about Elon Musk declaring all SpaceX photos public domain
, Flickr (where most of those photos were hosted) did not allow
an official public domain dedication. And while it offered Creative Commons licenses, the CC0 public domain dedication was not among the options. Flickr is not the only site like that -- many sites that offer CC licensing don't include a CC0 option. Last week, there was an interesting piece by Jessamyn West exploring why it was
that Flickr chose not to offer a public domain option. She found an old forum post
by Flickr founder (and now Slack founder/CEO) Stewart Butterfield, where he explained the reasoning as such:
The reasons we don’t have a PD option: (i) Unlike CC licenses, you can’t take PD back — once it is done, it is done. I spec’d out a three stage confirmation (including typing out that you understand what it means) but this was seemed like too much and we didn’t want the support hassle. People are free to use the description field to specify their PD desires. (ii) There are liabilities that we don’t want to take on if we allow people to claim something is public domain without actual checking the chain of title — if they don’t own it in the first place, we can get in trouble. (This is also true of CC images, but at least that can be changed after the fact and there is less of a chance of the image just “escaping” in the wild.)
Of course, those reasons really don't make that much sense in reality. You can't really take back CC licenses either. The very first thing that Creative Commons tells potential licensors is that the licenses are not revocable
. Once you grant a CC license, it stays that way.
Thankfully, the Yahoo folks who are currently running Flickr realized that this was an opportunity -- and have now announced that it has added both "public domain" listings and a CC0 dedication
as options when uploading images:
We’ve been proud to support Creative Commons licenses since 2004, and we’ve become an important repository of U.S. Government works and historic images from galleries, libraries, archives, and museums around the world (check out The Flickr Commons for examples).
But we’ve heard from our community that we’re missing two important designations: Public Domain and Creative Commons 0 (CC0). Many members of our community want to be able to upload images that are no longer protected by copyright and correctly tag them as being in the Public Domain, or they want to release their copyright entirely under CC0.
So, starting today we’re happy to support these two new options. One of the first accounts on Flickr to change its designation was SpaceX, which has uploaded more than a hundred gorgeous images of its launches. These extraordinary photos are now available for others to freely use, enhance, and promulgate without restriction under copyright law.
This is a great move -- and we're thrilled to see Flickr take such a stand (even if it should have happened years ago). Hopefully other platforms will follow suit.