Canadian Photographer Claims Violation of Creative Commons License

Bill Patry calls attention to a dispute between photographer David Wise and MP Betty Hinton.  Hinton used one of Wise's photographers in a campaign newsletter in February. The photograph was posted on Flickr and licensed using a Creative Commons license. Wise says he would not have allowed Hinton to use the photograph because he disagrees with "her campaign and political viewpoint."  Moreover, the publication did not contain appropriate attribution.  The case is reminiscent of a legal battle between Adam Curry and a Dutch magazine which ultimately led to a court upholding the validity of the Creative Commons license.

Update: Link to David Wise's posting on the issue. 

Update II: Andres Guadamuz provides a terrific analysis of the legal issues associated with this case. 


  1. inaequitas says:

    Unfortunately I cannot seem to find any information on what CC license was used. To echo previously raised concerns [over at Bill Patry’s blog] the fact that he does not agree with somebody’s politics is not [or at least, should not be] a legal issue; where the license was violated is what the case should be about.

    Though I suspect that reactive payment is not sufficient because the photographer, upon being contacted to sell his photo, would have declined the offer and they could not have used it in the first place. At which point his personal views would have been enforced that way.

  2. Rich Lafferty says:

    May as well link to the photographer, I figure.

    Right now his Flickr profile reads in part, “I’ve had to yank my CC license due to widespread abuse”, so I’m forced to conclude that he didn’t know what he was doing using a CC license in the first place, since taking away a CC license only stops the people who were willing to abide by the license in the first place.

    It wouldn’t be the first time that someone licensed something under CC but who really didn’t want their work to be free — even Seth Godin ended up in the “but I didn’t expect anyone to take me up on it!” situation recently.

    (Even his current “license” grants permission for non-profit use in one paragraph, and then explicitly removes permission for “marketing purposes, non-profit groups included” in the next. I think he’d be better off relying on the CC legal team!)

  3. Rich Lafferty says:

    (Ah, no links in comments. David Wise is user “syldavia” on Flickr.)

  4. The blog linked to under his flickr profile says the photo was listed under a CC Attribution ShareAlike license.

    >the fact that he does not agree with somebody’s politics is not [or at least, should not be] a legal issue

    Creators have the Moral Right to integrity so, he’s allowed to decide who can or can not use his work. But, he waived that right when he used a CC license on his work.

  5. Scruffydan says:
    If the photographer was using an attribution licence, and the publication did not have any then this is a clear violation of the licence.

    As for the Political viewpoints arguments, they are not valid here. The CC licences do have exepmtions for commercial use of the licenced works, but not for political use. Perhaps a new CC licence could be created that excludes political use for licenced works.

  6. Spatial Mongrel says:

    Hello, I am the photographer at the centre of all this:

    Just to clarify, I put my photos up as a cc, atrribution, share-alike because I genuinely wanted to share my photos and allow them to be used in art, and for creative purposes, and to give back to the community a resource that they would not otherwise be able to afford. Since this whole episode, I’ve changed all my photos to full copyright to give me time to read up on the cc license because, as commenters here have stated, apparently I didn’t really realize what I was getting into. Since putting the photos up under cc, I’ve since found my photos used in all sorts of ways – in great ways – by local artists who’ve done neat mashups and by local non-profit groups, but also as advertising for large corporations, in glossy magazines – used by people who don’t need free stuff, and who slap a copyright symbol on my work without any accreditation or permission at all. I think this is wrong, and this latest bit of abuse – and then mailing to my door! – was just the last straw for me. I support the cc system, I just need to figure out how to make it work best for what I, with my utopian vision, would like to achieve.

    Unfortunately, it looks like I’m about to have the full weight of the Ottawa legal system that all MP’s benefit from, about to come crashing down on my head – because I want fair compensation for this infringement. I don’t think I’m being unreasonable, just fair payment for the photo, acknowledgement of the wrong, plus legal fees paid to date. Apparently, this is out of line, and shame on me for asking for such a thing.

    If anyone knows a good pro bono lawyer, or has some fundraising experience to battle this, I could sure use the help.