Feeds

The tragedy of the Creative Commons

Bogus tags sour the cybernetic dream

The Power of One eBook: Top reasons to choose HP BladeSystem

The Creative Commons initiative fulfilled a major ambition last week - but it's taken only days for the dream to turn to crap.

Google granted the wish by integrating the ability to search images based on rights licences into Google Image Search. Yahoo! Image Search has had a separate image search facility for years, but Google integrated the feature into its main index.

The idea of making the licences machine-readable was a long-standing desire of the project, and lauded as a clever one. It was intended to automate the business of negotiating permissions for using material, so machine would instead negotiate with machine, in a kind of cybernetic utopia. Alas, it hasn't quite worked out.

As Daryl Lang at professional photography website PDN writes, the search engine is now choked with copyright images that have been incorrectly labelled with Creative Commons licences. These include world-famous images by photographers including Bert Stern and Steve McCurry. As a result, the search feature is all but useless.

Since there's no guarantee that the licence really allows you to use the photo as claimed, then the publisher (amateur or professional) must still perform the due diligence they had to anyway. So it's safer (and quicker) not to use it at all.

What's gone wrong, as Lang explains, is the old engineering principle of GIGO, or Garbage In, Garbage Out. "The system relies on Internet users to properly identify the status of the images they publish," he writes. "Unfortunately, many don't... Many Flickr users still don't understand the concept of a Creative Commons licence, or don't care.

"It's time consuming to put a different label on every image [in their collection], and there are no checks in place [our emphasis] to hold users accountable for unauthorized copying or incorrect licensing labels."

So Google won't take responsibility for the accuracy of the licensing metadata, and Creative Commons, as a small private internet quango, says it can't afford to. (The disclaimer on the website is simple: go find yourself a lawyer.)

Just as we predicted, in fact: the filtering is less than perfect, and it's a lip-service to creators.

Now, why did it have to fail?

Top three mobile application threats

Next page: You and your rights

More from The Register

next story
Stick a 4K in them: Super high-res TVs are DONE
4,000 pixels is niche now... Don't say we didn't warn you
BBC goes offline in MASSIVE COCKUP: Stephen Fry partly muzzled
Auntie tight-lipped as major outage rolls on
Philip K Dick 'Nazi alternate reality' story to be made into TV series
Amazon Studios, Ridley Scott firm to produce The Man in the High Castle
iPad? More like iFAD: We reveal why Apple fell into IBM's arms
But never fear fanbois, you're still lapping up iPhones, Macs
Amazon Reveals One Weird Trick: A Loss On Almost $20bn In Sales
Investors really hate it: Share price plunge as growth SLOWS in key AWS division
Bose says today is F*** With Dre Day: Beats sued in patent battle
Music gear giant seeks some of that sweet, sweet Apple pie
There's NOTHING on TV in Europe – American video DOMINATES
Even France's mega subsidies don't stop US content onslaught
You! Pirate! Stop pirating, or we shall admonish you politely. Repeatedly, if necessary
And we shall go about telling people you smell. No, not really
Too many IT conferences to cover? MICROSOFT to the RESCUE!
Yet more word of cuts emerges from Redmond
prev story

Whitepapers

Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Consolidation: The Foundation for IT Business Transformation
In this whitepaper learn how effective consolidation of IT and business resources can enable multiple, meaningful business benefits.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
How modern custom applications can spur business growth
Learn how to create, deploy and manage custom applications without consuming or expanding the need for scarce, expensive IT resources.
Securing Web Applications Made Simple and Scalable
Learn how automated security testing can provide a simple and scalable way to protect your web applications.