There are dozens of online photo-sharing platforms. When
using such photo-sharing venues, photographers should take care not
to make the same mistake as Art Drauglis, who posted a
photo to his online account through the photo-sharing site Flickr,
and then discovered that it had been published on the cover of
someone else's book. Mr. Drauglis made his photo available
through a Creative Commons CC BY-SA 2.0 license, which
permitted reproduction of his photo, even for
You might be surprised to find out how much online content is
licensed through the "Creative
Commons" licensing regime. According to
recent estimates, adoption of Creative Commons (CC) has expanded
from 140 million licensed works in 2006, to over 1 billion
today, including hundreds of millions of images
In the decision in Drauglis v. Kappa Map Group
LLC (U.S. District Court D.C., cv-14-1043, Aug. 18,
2015), the federal court acknowledged that, under the terms of the
CC BY-SA 2.0 license, the photo was licensed for commercial use, so
long as proper attribution was given according to the technical
requirements in the license. The court found that Kappa Map Group
complied with the attribution requirements by listing the essential
information on the back cover. The publisher's use of the photo
did not exceed the scope of the CC license; the copyright claim was
There are several flavours of CC license:
The Attribution License (known as CC BY)
The Attribution-ShareAlike License (CC
The Attribution-NoDerivs License (CC
The Attribution-NonCommercial License (CC
License (CC BY-NC-SA)
The Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License
Lastly, a so-called Public Domain (CC0)
designation permits the owner of a work to make it available with
"No Rights Reserved", essentially waiving all copyright
Looks confusing? Even within these categories, there
are variations and iterations. For example, there is a version
1.0, all the way up to version 4.0 of each license. The licenses
are also translated into multiple languages.
Remember: "available on the internet" is not the
same as "free for the taking". Get advice on the use of
content which is made available under any Creative Commons
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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A recent Saskatchewan Court of Queen's Bench decision allowed a court-appointed receiver to sell and transfer intellectual property rights free and clear of encumbrances, finding that a license to use improvements of an invention was a contractual interest and not a property interest.
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