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Megan

Can you sell public domain images as stock?

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Hey all,

 

Today, I found one of my images on Alamy, but it was uploaded by someone else. Normally, I'd be really angry, but this particular photo is one I uploaded onto Wikimedia Commons a long time ago. At the time, I licensed images on that site under public domain (I was only 12 or 13 and didn't know any better). I understand that, with that license, people are free to use my image without my permission or giving me credit, but are people allowed to sell it as their own? Can you sell public domain images on a stock website like Alamy?

 

(Also, the photo is cropped down and not very high quality, I'm surprised it got through QC!)

 

Thanks!

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Posted (edited)
25 minutes ago, Megan said:

Hey all,

 

Today, I found one of my images on Alamy, but it was uploaded by someone else. Normally, I'd be really angry, but this particular photo is one I uploaded onto Wikimedia Commons a long time ago. At the time, I licensed images on that site under public domain (I was only 12 or 13 and didn't know any better). I understand that, with that license, people are free to use my image without my permission or giving me credit, but are people allowed to sell it as their own? Can you sell public domain images on a stock website like Alamy?

 

(Also, the photo is cropped down and not very high quality, I'm surprised it got through QC!)

 

Thanks!

 

I think there are more threads about this - try search public domain in the forums - this is one: https://discussion.alamy.com/topic/11364-images-sourced-from-public-domain/?tab=comments#comment-206384

 

Edited by Niels Quist
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Megan, I don't know the details of how Wikimedia Commons works, but I would be surprised if a minor could be held to the terms of an agreement unless her/his parents also agreed to it, so maybe you could look into reasserting the rights to your work.

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20 hours ago, Niels Quist said:

 

I think there are more threads about this - try search public domain in the forums - this is one: https://discussion.alamy.com/topic/11364-images-sourced-from-public-domain/?tab=comments#comment-206384

 

 

Thanks for the link, Niels. Seems like a complicated situation. I'm just not sure why someone would want to buy my image from Alamy when they can get it and use it for free from Wikimedia Commons. And since the image is not marked as public domain on Alamy, it seems like a fraudulent practice to take public domain works and sell them as one's own. 

 

13 hours ago, KHA said:

Megan, I don't know the details of how Wikimedia Commons works, but I would be surprised if a minor could be held to the terms of an agreement unless her/his parents also agreed to it, so maybe you could look into reasserting the rights to your work.

 

Thank you, KHA! I never thought of that, I should look into it. All of the photos I've uploaded to Wikimedia Commons were done while I was a minor, and while I learned about licensing partway through (my later images were licensed under Creative Commons), I'd ultimately like to reassert my rights on most of those photos.

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52 minutes ago, Megan said:

 

Thanks for the link, Niels. Seems like a complicated situation. I'm just not sure why someone would want to buy my image from Alamy when they can get it and use it for free from Wikimedia Commons. And since the image is not marked as public domain on Alamy, it seems like a fraudulent practice to take public domain works and sell them as one's own. 

 

 

Thank you, KHA! I never thought of that, I should look into it. All of the photos I've uploaded to Wikimedia Commons were done while I was a minor, and while I learned about licensing partway through (my later images were licensed under Creative Commons), I'd ultimately like to reassert my rights on most of those photos.

Apparently no-one in the US has ever later successfully disaffirmed a licence they issued as a minor. I don't know anything about US law but it seems to me that unless you disaffirmed on the day you turned 18 you'd stand no chance of reasserting your rights. Any user would probably have a good-faith defence- since, as the guidance says, minors can hold copyright and licence images, how could they know you were a minor who might later change your mind about a licence?

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Releasing an image for public domain use doesn’t automatically  nullify your copyright unless you specifically sold or transferred that. This means that it is indeed fraudulent for someone to advertise or sell that work as their own. 

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Posted (edited)
5 hours ago, Wandi said:

Releasing an image for public domain use doesn’t automatically  nullify your copyright unless you specifically sold or transferred that. This means that it is indeed fraudulent for someone to advertise or sell that work as their own. 

I think that's right. A CC licence is still a licence. I've collected infringement settlements on CC images of mine merely because they were unattributed, because it's a breach of the CC licence terms.

Incidentally, I don't CC anymore. I prefer to get paid for licences. The few I did release, years ago, are all over the place, some commercial, some not. I can still find them.

Edited by spacecadet

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On 17/04/2019 at 12:30, spacecadet said:

Apparently no-one in the US has ever later successfully disaffirmed a licence they issued as a minor. I don't know anything about US law but it seems to me that unless you disaffirmed on the day you turned 18 you'd stand no chance of reasserting your rights. Any user would probably have a good-faith defence- since, as the guidance says, minors can hold copyright and licence images, how could they know you were a minor who might later change your mind about a licence?

 

Just for clarification, I wasn't necessarily suggesting she try to go after all past legitimate uses of her work; more that she could research the ability to rescind the agreement and prevent future uses of her work. (Although if an image hasn't been used in a physical format that can't be undone, it might not be a great difficulty to ask even past users to stop using it.)

 

I really don't know anything about Creative Commons, but in general I would think the onus would be on an organization to establish that they weren't dealing with a minor before entering into a contract, if they wanted that contract to remain enforceable when challenged.

 

Perhaps where contract law comes up against copyright law is still a gray area.

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