The Deceptive Success of Copyright Licenses

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

In the 12 years of its existence, Creative Commons has achieved remarkable success, and among the most basic of metrics of its success is the number of CC-licensed works on the web. At last estimated there were 880M+ CC-licensed works making up the “global commons of CC-licensed information.” The strengths of Creative Commons can be summarized as such:

  • globally scalable
  • license as opposed to a contract
  • universal, unrestricted reproduction
  • no registration required

Of the 880M+ CC-licensed works out in the wild, approximately 330M+,1 or more than a third, are photographs and similar media. Compared to that, somewhere between 1.5M-2M, or approximately 0.2% of the commons, are open access science papers. The reasons for this skewed profile of the commons are many:

  • almost everyone has a tool, a phone with a camera, to create a photograph2
  • photographs are easier to create than scientific papers
  • photographs are easier to add to the commons with no vetting at source
  • a single dominant platform aids in making it easy to contribute photos
  1. Estimated ~310M photos in Flickr and ~23M media files in Wikimedia Commons make up the bulk of photos, images and similar files.
  2. The top five most popular cameras in use on Flickr are smartphones