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The “Share alike” Creative Commons Licence

ucylcjh27 August 2015

In an interesting case from the USA, a photographer, Art Dragulis launched an action for copyright infringement against the Kappa Map Group because he objected to the fact that they had reproduced his photograph of a rural scene on the cover of a commercial publication. Kappa had not requested his permission to do that and naturally one would usually require the permission of the copyright holder to re-use their work.

It transpired however that Mr Dragulis had posted the photograph on Flickr in 2008. In doing so he had chosen to make the photograph available under the Creative Commons “CC-BY-SA 2.00” licence. In contrast to some CC licences which include the “NC” stipulation, the CC-BY-SA licence does permit commercial re-use of the work (in this case, the photograph).

The court held that Kappa were justified in using the photograph for the cover of their published atlas, given that they had credited Mr Dragulis as the creator of the work and also included the correct licence information. In doing so they had fulfilled the CC licence requirements.

The court also discussed the “Share alike” requirement: Under the CC scheme only “derivative works” would need to be made available on the same terms (that is free of charge) under the “SA” licence. Kappa had presenting the photograph unmodified as part of a “collection” of copyright works. The only change they had made was some minimal cropping of the photograph which did not make it a derivative work. Therefore Kappa were entitled to reproduce the photograph and also charge for their atlas.

The case illustrates the importance of being careful in your choice of licence, since the photographer could have selected an “NC” licence. There are full reports by Techdirt and the 1709 Blog.