On Monday, 8 April 2013 Lee Hellen emailed me to ask about the obligations of a licensee in using images obtained from Brisbane City Council's Virtual Brisbane series on its Flickr account given the CC-BY 2.0 Generic licence. Lee – in a collaborative effort with other people - wished to use the images in a document about 3dQld pointing out opportunities available through new surveying and information technologies. Incidentally, I had just downloaded and installed SketchUp – 3D for everyone programme – free software emanating from a joint venture between Google™ and Trimble™. I recognised the influence of Sketchup in one of the Virtual Brisbane series.
As a further coincidence, on 5 April DRNM updated its information on Queensland Globe about release of a Google Earth App to layer Queensland Government datasets as announced by Premier Newman. However, the actual ability to improve these services will depend on more co-ordinated efforts by industry on Improving positional accuracy of the DCDB as envisaged in 3dQld venture. All these things are testimony to the power in networks of people and organisations in innovative processes. Innovation is about trying things that have elements of newness and unpredictability. The opportunities cannot be separated from elements of new risk-taking.
The CC system of copyright licensing began in 2002 with the introduction of the CC-BY 2.0 Generic licence. This licence was soon able to gain some acceptance internationally and the Creative Commons website provides a summary overview of its subsequent development in Australia. The system was born in a digital age where it was increasingly possible for digital technology enthusiasts to create mix, merge and mash up a variety of information from various sources – with audio and visual clips from photography, cinematography, music and various recorded performances.
One of the risks in merging information resulting from a variety of professional and amateur publishing sources is the risk of copyright offence infringement. The risk extends across national borders and the ability to appropriate the results of other people’s work without acknowledgement or the offer of payment soon became of more profound significance in arrangements for free trade.
Commercial publishers usually go to some lengths to let people know of their claims to copyright and their acknowledgement of the work of other persons. Australian copyright law acknowledges the creative work expressed as writing and provides a separate treatment for creative elements in theatrical performances, radio and TV broadcasts, photography, cinematography, drawings, logos, and various icons. In addition, the Copyright Act makes a further distinction between legal and moral rights. Commercial publishers usually indicate the extent of their research in the front matter of their publications or in the rolling of credits.
Returning now to Lee’s query, the short answer is that a licensee is free to use the information subject to giving attribution to whoever is entitled to receive it. However, this leads in turn to the following questions that follow as matters of logical analysis to inform a matter of practice:
1. Who is entitled to receive attribution; and
2. What should be said by way of attribution?
In downloading and incorporating works from the Flickr website under a CC-BY licence , the guiding principles should be to give due respect to the creative work done by other people; and to provide sufficient information by way of attribution to identify persons and trace the provenance of the information back to the source. Generally, the more professional publications and style guides provide examples of how this can be done.