Most professional photographers are adamantly opposed to Creative Commons licenses , which encourage free uses of images. But in at least one important way, I think Creative Commons is a good thing for image sellers.
With widespread use, Creative Commons is establishing in the minds of users the very important copyright law principle that “All Rights [are] Reserved” by the creator or copyright holder of any work, and that it is left to the creator to specify who has what rights to make what uses of the work and at what cost.
Creative Commons defines six levels  that grant limited free uses to content found on the Web. All but one of the six Creative Commons licenses involve some type of restriction, and even the last requires credit be given.
Educating the “Right Click and Save” Crowd
How does this help image sellers?
There is widespread misunderstanding as to what rights people have to use anything found on the Web, including images. Because Creative Commons images are perceived as being “free,” the standard is broadly accepted and promoted by the Internet community.
But Creative Commons does more than promote the idea of giving away content. It also promotes the notion of reserving rights, as well as that anyone who wishes to use an image they did not create must obtain some type of license for its use.
The fact that there are six different variations of a Creative Commons license also establishes that the allowed free use is based entirely on the nature of the use — some uses are allowed, while others are not.
Those who charge fees for uses of their images are a very small segment of the Internet community. As such, this group has always had a difficult time getting their message of “compensation for use” accepted by the community at large.
With Creative Commons, a much larger and more diverse community is saying: “Yes, you can use my images for free, for certain specified uses, but there are limits, and I must be compensated at least by credit.”
This makes it far more difficult for the “right click and save” crowd to argue that they know nothing about usage rights. As more creators recognize that it is wise to put some limits on how their images can be used without their knowledge, more and more people will become aware of what is expected whenever they want to use an image they find online.
Five Licensing Options
Creative Commons helps photographers by teaching people that when they think about using images, they need a license of some kind, and that there are a whole range of available options.
As of today, licensing options include:
- Creative Commons. The allowable rights are specified in six license types, and the user is required to pay nothing as long as the use is within the specified parameters.
- Microstock. A lower-priced offshoot of traditional royalty-free, microstock sites base fees on file size. Virtually unlimited use is allowed, but the rights granted vary slightly from one distributor to the next.
- Subscription. The customer is allowed to download a specified number of images from a site, over a specified period of time, for a fixed fee.
- Traditional Royalty-Free. Fees, which vary among different distributors, are based on file size delivered and, once the fee is paid, virtually unlimited use is allowed. Microstock licenses are usually slightly more restrictive.
- Rights-Managed. Fees are based on the specific uses made of images. Discounts are usually available for customers that make volume purchases.