Creative Commons on Facebook

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Licensing your Facebook content has always been a tricky ordeal. If you’re comfortable allowing reuse of your photos, updates and other information, the nature of Facebook made it difficult to express those licensing terms.

However, yesterday, the Creative Commons Organization announced the launch of its new Facebook application, which allows you to embed your licensing terms on your profile page.

While this is great news for Creative Commons buffs who want to make their works licensable (including myself), the app does have some limitations to it that prevent it from being more than the “stop gap” solution that the CC Organization admits it to be.

How it Works

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When you click to install the application, you are presented with a screen such as the one to the right. It asks you to choose which items you wish to license, giving you the choice between photos, videos and text or any combination of the three, and then asks you the standard two questions for selecting a CC license.

Once it is done, the application will then embed a box on the sidebar of your profile page (shown below) that will express your license. The finished license box includes information about the person granting the license, in this case you, the works that you chose to license, the license they are under as well as a link to the application’s home page, which explains the license in more detail (including that it only applies to copyright and does not affect right to publicity or privacy rights)

Installing the application, literally, only takes a few seconds and it is very easy to use overall. The process only requires a few clicks and the box added blends in very well with the profile. If you want to see a sample of it, you can look at my Facebook profile.

Limitations

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As useful as the application is, it does come with a pair of pretty serious limitations.

First, the license itself is only displayed on the wall and info tabs. It is not displayed along side the photos or other tabs. Though the other tabs may contain content that one doesn’t have the ability to license or would not wish to license in such a manner, the photos can be expressly licensed by the application though the license itself will never appear alongside them.

The second problem is that the license is all or nothing. You either license all of your images or none of them, all of your updates or none of them, etc. There is no way to license specific images or galleries while not licensing others. This may worry many who have a mixture of creative and personal works in their Facebook profile and may not want all of it to be used in the same manner.

Both of these problems are actually due to limitations on the app placed by Facebook. According to the application’s author, until Facebook integrates properly with CC, there won’t be any way to license images individually, as people do on Flickr now. Thus the application, by the author’s own admission, is just a “stop gap” for true integration.

Bottom Line

In the end, the new CC application for Facebook is something of an inelegant solution to the problem of licensing content uploaded to the service. It works well enough to get the job done, and that alone should give CC fans a reason to celebrate, but it pales in comparison to what could be acheived with proper integration.

Hopefully, the outcome of this will be more pressure on Facebook to consider allowing users to license their content and perhaps pushing them to implement a more robust scheme. In the meantime though, this application is the best solution by far and one that Facebook-using fans of the commons should likely jump on.

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