A few months ago I wrote about the Terms of Service (ToS) offered by content hosting services. I used Flickr, which is part of Yahoo!, as an example for being careful about the details in the ToS. The Yahoo! Terms of Service actually includes clauses that make it difficult to share CC-licensed photos on Flickr. (It goes without saying that Flickr does allow users to mark their photos as CC-licensed at its site; I was talking certain restrictions that come with the site's ToS). Here I wish to use Flickr again in order to illustrate the value of content aggregation, and to show how content hosting services like Flickr can leverage upon such aggregations. It is not my intention to pick on Flickr. Other content hosting services act for their own benefits as well, as will be shown later in this post.

On June 16 this year, Flickr extended a deal with Getty Images, a well known stock photo agency. About two years ago, Flickr and Getty Images announced a program in which, based on individual agreements with Flickr users, Getty Images can select a user's photos into its Flickr Collection and act as the user's agent in licensing the user's photos to others. It is estimated Getty Images has added around 100,000 images to this collection by going over the Flickr site looking for licensable images. Flickr's new deal with Getty Images will allow you, a Flickr user, to add a "Request to License" button by yourself to each of your Flickr photos. Now if someone wants to license one of your photos, he or she can use the button to contact Getty Images. Getty Images will then broker a licensing deal for you.

This means that Getty Images may not need to trawl the Flickr site for licensable images anymore. The "Request to License" buttons connect your photos to people who may want to license them from you. Note that all licensing deals still have to go through Getty Images as the button only informs Getty Images, not you, when it is clicked. Before the "Request to License" button will appear beneath all your photos (you cannot opt out some of them), you must first agree to license your Flickr photos exclusively via Getty Images. Whether this three-way exclusive arrangement (between Flickr and Getty Images, and between Getty Images and Flickr users) is really necessary, of course, is debatable.

What about the photos you already released under CC licenses on Flickr? What happen to them if you join the Getty Images program? Good question! According to Getty Images' FAQ, "... if we do select an image that is available under a Creative Commons license, it will automatically be changed to All Rights Reserved on Flickr and from then on you must observe the exclusivity obligations ...". Flickr's FAQ on Getty Images also emphasizes, "... if you proceed with your submission, switching your license to All Rights Reserved (on Flickr) will happen automatically". I do not think what Flickr and Getty Images are doing is right for CC-licensed photos.

It is not right because Creative Commons licenses are irrevocable (3.). If I release a photo under a specific CC license, say CC BY-NC, it remains so until it goes into the public domain. I can license the same photo to others under other terms (i.e., "dual-licensing" the photo), but everyone can continue to use the photo under the terms of the CC BY-NC license. Surely Flickr and Getty Images can propose to manage the rights I still reserve on my photos (e.g., commercial use of my CC BY-NC licensed photos); what they cannot do is to reverse any CC-licensed photo back to "All Rights Reserved". Flickr should just mark my CC-licensed photos as such, even if I joined Getty Images' program, and the "Request to License" buttons were added all over to my photos. For people who have copied and reused CC-licensed photos from Flickr, the act of systematic re-marking these photos as "All Rights Reserved" is even more unfriendly to these and other potential users. By erasing the photos' CC-license information, it can certainly cause confusion. For the reasons stated above, I will not consider joining Getty Images' program.

Huge and diverse sets of user photos aggregate at Flickr's site. Flickr leverages on this aggregation and makes deals with Getty Images. And it is not just about photos and images. The fact that various photographers and image users gather at its site puts Flickr in an even better position to make deals: Flickr can connect for Getty Images the licensors with the licensees. For this, Flickr adds the "Request to License" functionality to its site. As Flickr is the only one who has full access to this aggregation of contents and users, it gets to decide which deals to make, how to structure the deals, hence what functionalities to add to its site. To be fair, a Flicker user must opt in to join the Getty Images program. Why am I complaining? I can just stay put and stay out of it if I don't like it. The question remains, however, on whether Flickr and its business partners will implement programs that I can like. It will be great if the Getty Images program is implemented by using CC+, a protocol for users to ask for rights beyond those already granted by a CC license. But the decision is not for me to make, and all I can do is to decline what Flickr has to offer.

Flickr is not alone in acting more for its own benefits than for its users. Other content hosting services do the same. I noticed that on July 8 it was announced that the social networks giant Facebook had acquired Nextstop, a start-up operating a popular travel site mixing social networks with recommendation systems. As a result of the acquisition, the Nextstop site is shutting down on September 1; its users are offered an export tool to save their data. Although individual contributions to the social travel site can be exported, the community is gone. Originally it was planned to release the entire content at the site under a Creative Commons license. But the plan has since been abandoned.

Note: This entry was first posted at the Creative Commons Taiwan web site.


幾月前我寫到內容存放服務網站 (content hosting services) 的「服務條款」(Terms of Service; ToS)。我以 Flickr(雅虎的網路相簿服務)為例,認為我們該注意這類服務條款的細節。雅虎的服務條款中的某些條文,讓在 Flickr 上分享以創用CC授權的照片,變得有些困難。(Flickr 允許使用者在它的網站上標示上傳的照片採用創用CC授權;我所要說的是它的服務條款所帶來的限制。)在這裡我想再以 Flickr 為例,說明內容匯集的價值,以及 Flickr 這類內容存放服務網站如何以內容匯集為槓桿,充分發揮它的效用。先說一聲,我並不是跟 Flickr 過不去。其他的內容存放服務網站的作法,也是以自身的利益為重,以下還會舉一些別的例子。

今年6月16日 Flickr 宣佈延續和 Getty Images 這家知名影像代理商的合作方案。兩年前 Flickr 和 Getty Images 宣佈一項合作方案,在使用者個別同意的前提上,讓 Getty Images 可以挑選這些使用者的照片收錄到「Flickr 選集」,也代理這些照片的授權使用。兩年來 Getty Images 從 Flickr 網站上估計已選取了約 100,000 張具授權價值的照片到這個選集。現在,如果你是 Flickr 的使用者,Flickr 與 Getty Images 的新方案讓你也可以自己就放一個「請求授權」的按鈕,在你的每一張照片下面。如果有人想請求授權使用你的照片,他就可以用這個按紐和 Getty Images 聯繫。Getty Images 然後會替你來談這筆授權生意。

這意味著 Getty Images 或許不用在 Flickr 網站裡東找西找可以拿來授權的照片。這些「請求授權」的按鈕直接將你的照片連接到想要授權使用的人的手裡。注意的是,所有這些授權生意還是得由 Getty Images 來談;這些「請求授權」的按鈕會呼叫 Getty Images,而不是呼叫你。此外,在你加上這些「請求授權」的按鈕到你的所有照片之前,你必須先同意由 Getty Images 獨家代理你在 Flickr 上照片的授權使用。至於這種獨家生意的三方安排(Flickr 和 Getty Images 是獨家生意;Getty Images 和你也是獨家生意)是否真有必要倒是可以辯論

至於你已放在 Flickr 上的創用CC授權照片呢?如果你加入 Getty Images 的方案,這些照片怎麼辦?這真是個好問題!根據 Getty Images 的常見問答集,「…如果我們選到的照片,你已用創用CC條款釋出,那麼它在 Flickr 上的標示,將自動轉為所有權利保留,而且從那時候開始,你必須遵守獨家代理上的義務…」。Flickr 的常見問答集也強調,「…只要你投件,照片在 Flickr 上的授權資訊將自動轉為所有權利保留」。我想 Flickr 和 Getty Images 這樣作,對已採用創用CC授權的照片來說,是不對的。

因為創用CC授權是不可撤回的(3.),所以這樣作是不對的。如果某張照片我已採用創用CC授權條款(舉例說,「姓名標示—非商業性」)授權給公眾使用,那在這張照片進入公共領域之前,這項授權都是有效的。我當然可以用其他的條件將這張照片再授權給別人使用(也就是說對這張照片作「雙重授權」),但任何人只要遵守創用CC「姓名標示—非商業性」授權條款的約定,依舊可以繼續使用這張照片。當然 Flickr 和 Getty Images 可以提出方案,來代理我依然保留的權利(例如,我以「姓名標示—非商業性」方式釋出的照片,在商業使用上的權利);不過它們可不能把已採用創用CC授權的照片回復到「所有權利保留」。如果我真的加入 Getty Images 的方案,Flickr 也應該持續保留我採用創用CC授權照片上的CC授權資訊。系統性地把創用CC授權的照片重新標示為「所有權利保留」,對這些照片過去以及未來可能的使用者來說,更是不友善。把這些照片的CC授權資訊抹去,只會製造困擾。基於以上理由,我是不會考慮加入 Getty Images 的方案的。

Flickr 網站上匯集了眾多、多樣的使用者照片集。Flickr 以匯集的照片為槓桿,和 Getty Images 談合作方案。匯集在 Flickr 網站上不只是照片和影像,而是各類的攝影創作者與影像使用者。Flickr 以這些匯集為基礎,更有談生意的本錢:它可以幫 Getty Images 串起授權人和被授權人之間的連結。也因為這樣,Flickr 在網站上加了「請求授權」的新功能。也因為 Flickr 是唯一可以全面取用匯集在它網站上的照片與使用者資訊,所以它就可以決定要談哪些合作方案,這些方案要採用何種架構,以及因此要在網站上製作哪些新功能。換個角度看,Flickr 的 Getty Images 方案需要使用者表態同意 (opt-in) 才能加入;我若不喜歡這個方案,不加入不就好了?這有什麼好抱怨的?問題的癥結還是在於:Flickr 以及它的商業合作夥伴,能否以我可以認同的方式來製作它們提出的方案。Getty Images 方案若是用 CC+ 來製作,那是再好不過的(CC+ 是搭配創用CC授權條款的一種協定,透過 CC+ 使用者可以取得進一步授權所需要的資訊)。不過這不是由我來作決定的;而我所能作的決定只是:拒絕 Flickr 所提出的方案。

Flickr 的作法可以說是照顧自己多於照顧使用者。這並不算特殊,其他內容存放服務業者也是這樣。我注意到7月8日有一則消息,社群網路的大咖 Facebook 買下 Nextstop 這家小公司。Nextstop 是一個受歡迎的旅遊網站,結合社群網站與旅遊景點推薦的系統。因為被收購了,這家網站就決定在9月1日關站。不過它提供了一項匯出工具,讓使用者可以匯出自己的資料保存。雖然個別使用者存放在這個社群旅遊網站上的內容可以各自保存,但整個社群是不復存在了。在被收購的當時,原本這個網站的所有者還打算將整個網站的內容以創用CC授權條款釋出,不過後來也放棄了這個規畫