Crowdsourcing and copyright

There’s an interesting app called Film Crew which I happened to see mentioned online, which allows anyone with a smartphone to be involved in shooting films and videos by following shared instructions. It’s made by Koburn, an interesting company which allows businesses etc to gather phone footage to be made into videos by their professional editors.

The app also allows you to organise your own film crew from friends and family, and then share it online or order it on DVD.

There’s a lot of talk for brands about empowering engagement, brand influencers, and premium marketing content, and it does seem like an interesting and potentially worthwhile way for brands in particular to pull together footage from events that they wouldn’t be otherwise able to film, which is a good thing.


The reward for those shooting footage is appearing in the credits.

There’s no mention of any financial reward, which may be possible on an individual brand basis. And presumably the copyright to any footage that you shoot will end up being assigned to the filmmaker responsible. There’s certainly nothing to clarify that position that I could find on the website.

That’s fine if you think being in the credit of a brand video is adequate reward, but I can’t help wondering whether it’s something that most people would be motivated by?

Obviously it potentially lowers the rewards available for selling video footage, which is something happening to all creative professionals in a global market – the availability of stock photography has had a big impact over the years. And although that’s a bad thing for professionals, it’s unavoidable that we all need to find ways to demonstrate additional value.

But the copyright thing still strikes me as interesting. We can all potentially contribute to films, but as we all know, we can’t use, remix or feature any non-Creative Commons licensed film, even in passing, without either automatic Youtube takedowns or manual legal action.

Call me cynical, but I’m less and less likely to contribute words, images or video to anything which doesn’t either assign copyright to the individual creator, or will be licensed under Creative Commons for everyone to benefit from. Regardless of any financial reward or my name in the credits…


Dear Flickr…

Despite all the other image sharing sites that have launched since I originally joined Flickr, I still love it. And having been a Pro paid member for around 5 years, and uploading thousands of photos which have recorded a frankly astounding 20,000+ views, it’s an embedded part of my life.

When I’m stressed or in need of inspiration, I always surfed the ‘Most Interesting’ photos, which has since been replaced by the Recent Photos page. It’s great to see amazing photography of all types being surfaced by other users…

But it’s such a shame that you can’t filter that page for Creative Commons images only.

There’s a work around using Advanced Search to stipulate Creative Commons images, taken after a certain time, and then ordering the results by ‘Interesting’, but it’s a pain to do that each day.

And I know that Flickr has partnered with Getty Images, which brings in revenue which Creative Commons images don’t.

But it’d be a great way to surface more amazing photos which could be shared and publicised to highlight Flickr’s amazingly talented users in a way which the likes of Instagram etc would never do.

It means I can more easily find a picture of a rock wearing sunglasses and share it:

Mysterious Roving Rocks of Racetrack Playa


Creative Commons is good for everyone:

I’m a huge fan of CC images. They enable me to share amazing images on this blog, which doesn’t make any money and doesn’t cover the cost of images.

They also tend to be more interesting than stock images, even when you’ve got a paid-up account.

And they can lead to publicity and payment for the photographers involved where the work/need is set to require it.

Any of my public uploads is always shared under a CC license for non-commercial use, and it’s meant that a quick phone image like this one:

Robot at the British Library Science Fiction Exhibition

Has ended up illustrating two blog articles around the web and  received around 1000 views.

Compared to the great photos my father used to take which are currently in a box in his loft, that’s pretty amazing to me.


The tragedy and cost of copyright prosecution

I didn’t know Aaron Swartz personally, but in addition to encountering and benefiting from his work on a variety of projects, I’d been following his court case due to my interest in copyright and piracy.

The news of his suicide has made me sad in two ways. One is the sadness I feel for anyone that feels taking their own life at the age of 26 is a solution.

The second is the sadness over how his case, and others like it are being handled. Copyright was originally created not to enrich creators, but to benefit the public good. Encouraging innovation was the aim, and enabling creators to benefit financially was means to do that.

I’d urge you to read the moving post by Lawrence Lessig, who knew Aaron and the case details, and despite his loss, manages to separate the various elements of what happened.

What sums it up for me is that the protection of a collection of academic articles, and the alleged value of them has led to the loss of someone who

was fortunate Reddit turned out as it did, but from his work building the RSS standard, to his work architecting Creative Commons, to his work liberating public records, to his work building a free public library, to his work supporting Change Congress/FixCongressFirst/Rootstrikers, and then Demand Progress, Aaron was always and only working for (at least his conception of) the public good.

I’m fairly sure the public good has lost far more this weekend than it ever could have gained from the prosecution.