Update (7 Jan 2010) I heard yesterday from Flickr Support that the situation regarding incorrect licensing in the Flickr ATOM feeds described below has been resolved, and the correct licenses should now be displaying in those feeds. Thank you Flickr Support.
A few weeks ago I noticed something odd about the representation of creative commons licences in the ATOM feeds coming from Flickr. In my photostream on Flickr I have a picture of dry stone wall, licensed as CC-by-nc (Attribution-NonCommercial Creative Commons) and a schematic diagram of a FRBRized complex resource licensed as CC-by (Attribution Creative Commons). Looking at the ATOM feed that is available for my photo stream, we see
<?xml version="1.0" encoding="utf-8" standalone="yes"?> <feed xmlns="http://www.w3.org/2005/Atom" xmlns:dc="http://purl.org/dc/elements/1.1/" xmlns:flickr="urn:flickr:" xmlns:media="http://search.yahoo.com/mrss/"> <!--snip--> <entry> <title>Dry stone wall</title> <link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/philbarker/4015001528/"/> <id>tag:flickr.com,2005:/photo/4015001528</id> <!--snip--> <author> <name>phil barker</name> <uri>http://www.flickr.com/people/philbarker/</uri> </author> <link rel="license" type="text/html" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/deed.en_GB" /> <!--snip--> </entry> <!--snip--> <entry> <title>FRBRized complex resource</title> <link rel="alternate" type="text/html" href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/philbarker/3877477899/"/> <id>tag:flickr.com,2005:/photo/3877477899</id> <author> <name>phil barker</name> <uri>http://www.flickr.com/people/philbarker/</uri> </author> <link rel="license" type="text/html" href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/deed.en_GB" /> <!--...-->
I’ve snipped out some of the irrelevant information, but the important bits are lines 14 and 26, which identify the creative commons licences under which the Dry stone wall and FRBRized complex resource images are released. According to this Dry stone wall is released as CC-by-nd (Attribution-NoDerivs; it should be CC-by-nc, i.e. Attribution-NonCommercial) and FRBRized complex resource is released as CC-by-nc (Attribution-NonCommercial; it should be CC-by, i.e. Attribution).
I’ve checked with colleagues and other photostreams and the miss-identification of CC licences in the ATOM feeds is quite general.
Is this just nit-picking? Well, no, it’s not. Any commercial service that gets content from Flickr and uses the Flickr ATOM feeds to work out which images they’re allowed to use is going to be using the wrong images as a result of this, possibly even using images illegally. They could be misled into believing that it was OK to use my picture of a Dry stone wall for commercial use so long as they don’t modify it.
I reported this to the Flickr support back in mid-October. Their front-line tech support didn’t seem to get what the problem was at first (not surprising, really, it’s not your usual how-can-I-copyright-my-photo type of query) but on explanation they recognized that it needed escalating. Since then I’ve heard nothing; and evidently the problem hasn’t been fixed. Until it is fixed, beware: the licensing info in Flickr ATOM feeds ain’t worth the XML it’s written in.