From autumn vacation to bestselling book cover

Pelle Sten is a communications consultant at inUse. The text is taken from our publication “Build on others’ work” about how you can create media and build services on data and content that already exist.

In 2009, me and my girlfriend spent our vacation on Gotland. We took a weekend trip in mid-September after all the tourists went home – the perfect time to visit the island.

One place that we had decided beforehand that we had to visit was Fabriken, the austere modernistic hotel located on the islet of Furillen off the island of Gotland. Furillen was previously a military area and before that it was home to a quarry. The hotel has built an imaginative environment around this industrial ruin.

Tiltshift @ Fabriken Furillen
Photo: Tiltshift @ Fabriken Furillen, Pelle Sten, CC BY.

We swung past the hotel area while we were out on a drive and I took a ton of photos. Before we even left the site, I knew that the photos would be perfect for some tilt shift effects, where you use blurred and clear colors to create a dollhouse feeling. So I went home and processed the pictures and published them on with a Creative Commons licens.

A few weeks later, in the autumn of 2009, I received a message through Flickr from Sofia Scheutz, the designer who was working on the cover of Mari Jungstedt’s new mystery in her bestselling series of crime fiction novels that takes place on Gotland.

Right to build upon a work

My goal is to have as many people as possible share my photos, so I’ve chosen to license my public photos on Flickr under a Creative Commons license.

When trying to decide which license to choose, I picked the most permissive license. I had several reasons for doing so – it’s still pretty uncertain what not allowing commercial use of the work would really mean. I also appreciate the remix culture and know that others can create works that I might not have thought of with my own material.

Since I’ve licensed all of my Flickr photos with a free Creative Commons license, I can’t prevent anyone from using them, as long as they comply with the license terms. That’s why I really appreciated the fact that the designer contacted me before the book was printed.

A lesson from this and other collaborations is that many users still don’t really know what applies for Creative Commons-licensed content. For instance, there is no consensus about what it means that images can’t be used for commercial purposes. The fact is that information about what to do is more accessible for CC licensors than it is for CC licensees, those who will use the works.

Meanwhile, some informal additions to the rules have evolved; for example, it’s always good to link to the original work (even in paper editions) and it is encouraged to print the type of license an image has.

Personally, I was thrilled last year when the Berlin-based music site SoundCloud gave all musicians the opportunity to license their creations under Creative Commons. I’ve used it several times when I created both short and long videos, including Sweden Social Web Camp. It’s called karma.