I have a Google Alert set up for my name, to find new mentions of it online. Today I received a mail that my name came up in an article in the South China Morning Post (SCMP), as part of a photo credit. This made me curious.

An article on the amount of time elderly US citizens spend behind their computer screens published August 25th, uses a photo I made it turns out.

My mom is in a Hong Kong newspaper

The photo is from 2008, and shows my mom trying her first steps on a laptop, which we gave her for her 71st birthday when she started having mobility problems. E’s hand is pointing out things in the Gmail interface. This image is available in my Flickr account, and that is how the SCMP ended up finding it (it says as much in the photo credit). They likely used the Flickr’s search filter and had it set to ‘any Creative Commons license’. And that’s where it went wrong.

SCMP is a commercial company, and my photo is licensed with Creative Commons Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share Alike. Creative Commons is a way for copyright holders to preemptively state which uses of a work are always permitted. I license all my photos, and using Creative Commons give permission for any use that isn’t commercial, as long as the result is shared the same way, and as long my name is mentioned as the author.

SCMP did mention my name (which is how I found the article), but cannot comply with the non-commercial part of the Creative Commons license, and thus should have asked for my permission before using the image. Now I’ve sent them an e-mail with an invoice, for using my photo, and another 100% added for using it without permission. Payable in 15 business days.

To my pleasant surprise the SCMP’s photo editor (whom I mailed), responded within 20 minutes apologising and promising payment.

(full disclosure: I’m a board member for Open Nederland, the association of Dutch makers that serves as the Dutch chapter for Creative Commons.)