[cc-licenses] Flickr photos with revoked licenses

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Mon May 1 12:31:47 EDT 2006

Erik Moeller wrote:

>Unfortunately, Flickr makes it trivial to change the licensing for all
>photos by a user retroactively. So it is quite common that images
>which were labeled as free by the time my script spidered them, or
>even by the time they were uploaded, are relicensed later to a more
>restrictive license.
>What are our legal obligations? Do we have to retroactively delete
>these photos, or can we state that, since they were once flagged as
>being e.g. CC-BY, they can be assumed to always be CC-BY, no matter
>what Flickr says?
*IF* a work was genuinely *published* by the author, *intentionally*
under a free license (say CC-By or CC-By-SA), it is always available
under that license (i.e. if you download the image to your site, you may
continue to use your copy under those terms). (Actually this is true
for a non-free license, too, but it's much less important then).

*IF* the "original licensing" was simply a mistake (a bad interface
causes the work to be "published" under a license which violates
the author's *intent*), then I don't think this is true. That would also
indicate a very bad (and legally actionable, I would think) interface.
If that were happening, Flickr would be guilty of illegally
appropriating other people's copyright rights.

OTOH, if the license has changed, and you are serving the content
from the original source, then the new copy is under the new license,
so you don't really have the same rights anymore.

IMHO (and IANAL), a reasonably ethical policy would be:

1) "Grace period" for license -- don't assume the free-license is valid 
it has been under that license, for (say) a month. That could be regarded
as adequate time for the author to notice and correct an *error* (I.e. not
to change their own intent, but to correct a misapprehension of their 

You could argue in court that that period is a valid indication of the 
genuine intent, and that it would be the author's responsibility to act
in a reasonable time to correct a *mistake*.  Changing your mind later,
though, is not allowed by the licensing choice (not for an already 

2) Cache everything you use.  Don't just link.  Offer copies of the work 
the terms of the license.


Terry Hancock (hancock at AnansiSpaceworks.com)
Anansi Spaceworks http://www.AnansiSpaceworks.com

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