Flickr to copyleft trolls: drop dead

Pixsy’s predators no longer welcome.

Cory Doctorow


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Today’s a big day for users of Creative Commons images: Flickr has declared zero tolerance for copyleft trolls, predators who exploit a bug in out-of-date versions of the CC licenses in order to threaten good-faith users of CC images who make minor errors in the way they credit the images.

First things first: Flickr’s new community guidelines prohibit copyleft trolling: “Failure to allow a good faith reuser the opportunity to correct errors is against the intent of the license and not in line with the values of our community, and can result in your account being removed.”

If you are targeted by a copyleft troll who demands that you pay them because of minor errors in your Creative Commons attribution, here’s how to report them and get them kicked off Flickr forever:

Now, some background. Early versions of the Creative Commons licenses have a bug, a clause that says that the permissions conferred by CC licenses “terminate automatically upon any breach” — that is, if you violate any term of the license, it ceases to be in effect:

Core to the CC licenses is the idea of attribution. When you use a Creative Commons image, you must name the creator and link to the original, and name the license and link to it. Many CC users don’t understand this; they use an image and add something like “Image: Cory Doctorow/Creative Commons” with no links or specific licenses.

Under the pre-4.0 versions of the license, this can be construed as a “breach” which “terminates” the CC license. That’s where the…