Creative Commons Surprise

Back in the early 90’s I wrote a few programs and released them to the nascent Internet via services like CompuServe and Usenet. I was not looking to make money for them. I “copyrighted” them and made them available for free. A few years later, I found some of these programs on a CD-ROM of shareware that someone was selling. They were clearly violating my copyright — right? I could probably have taken them to court but what would my damages be since I was giving the software away for free? They could just claim as some did that they did not charge for the software but for the service of making the CD. Not worth the fight. It still felt like a betrayal.

When I post pictures and video on the Internet, I recognize that it could end up getting stolen. Copyright law is quite a mess so I am a proponent of Creative Commons (CC). The basic idea of CC from my point of view is that I can share my creation and other people can use it so long as they give me credit. There’s nothing in CC that says they have to notify me that they have used my work. Most everything I post to YouTube is under the license “Creative Commons Attribution license (reuse allowed)” or the CC BY license.

All that being said, I was surprised to find –thanks to Google– my name associated with the National Science Foundation on August 24, 2016 in an article called Flood forecasting gets major upgrade by Aaron Dubrow.

There’s my picture at the head of the article. Below the image is a link for attribution information.

There’s my name — properly attributed. The only problem is that I could not remember where I had posted said picture. I looked in my journal and found the Tweet where I published the picture — in 2010. It had been raining — a lot. I found myself unable to get home as all the roads were flooded. I joked that I now lived on an island. This was not the first time this had happened. We had several 100-year floods that decade.

So the Twitter post led me back to YouTube where I had posted a video under CC. The article author in 2016 had found my video, grabbed a single frame, and used it in his article. Remember — this is the purpose of Creative Commons. Actually the purpose was to allow derivative works. A single frame is arguably derivative. Since the attribution does not reference where it came from, it did not help my YouTube traffic hits. I would a preferred it if the attribution would have linked back to the source video but that is not a requirement of CC.

When I look at my video, I can see that a Russian YouTuber included my video entirely in Russian Video Spam. Either they or YouTube recognized this use and added the attribution. I can only assume that this is some attempt to post spam on YouTube to generate traffic to get advertising money.

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