Illustrating with Creative Commons

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Illustrating with Creative Commons
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Berlin-based Kiwi illustrator Judith Carnaby shares her experience with Creative Commons.
I first became aware of Creative Commons through reading about Lawrence Lessig and his work. The more I read about the development of Creative Commons and the copyleft movement, the more interested I became in the CC licences as a less restrictive and more inclusive way to license my work.

Swimsuit calendar by Judith Carnaby
Swimsuit calendar (July) – Lawrence Lessig. Judith Carnaby, CC BY-SA

My first illustrations published under a CC licence were for Sam Muirhead’s 2013 Year of Open Source swimsuit calendar, created as a part of his crowdfunding campaign. My illustrations for the calendar (see example above) were of the heroes and heroines of Free Software, Open Hardware and Free Culture, depicting some of the people who have done most to exemplify or further the cause of a more open, collaborative or more freedom-conscious approach to working, thinking and licensing.
It was sent as a thank-you to Sam’s crowdfunding donors, and due to his focus on Open Source, he also wished to release the images online, with an Attribution-ShareAlike licence, so that people could download, remix and distribute the images. Working with Sam and learning about the people I was illustrating made me think a lot more about the licensing I used for my own work, and since then I have licensed my personal (non-commercial) work under an Attribution ShareAlike licence.
I chose that particular licence because I like that the Attribution ShareAlike licence gives others the freedom to be able to use my work in any way they wish to, but only if they then allow others to use that work in the same way. By including the sharealike restriction in the licence, if someone wishes to use my work commercially then they must also open up their own work, which I feel is a positive thing.
Judith Carnaby, Self Portrait
Judith Carnaby, Self Portrait. Licensed CC BY-SA

One of the most interesting recent developments for illustration has been the large-scale and high-resolution releases of public domain images from the collections of institutions in the Netherlands, the UK and New York City. Having a huge wealth of unrestricted imagery that can be used and remixed opens up new ways of working, as well as deepening understanding the history and development of illustration as a discipline. More broadly, these online collections of illustrations give us greater and important access to the world’s cultural history.
In my personal work I can choose to license my work as I wish to, but my commercial work is often restricted due to the different needs of my clients. Copyright of commissioned illustrations usually belongs to me, the author of the work, unless there is an agreement for specific use of the illustration. That can depend on what clients are wanting to use the work for, and what length of time. For example, they may wish to use the image online for two months, or two years, after which I can resell or republish it as I wish. Contracts can include agreements that I, or the client, cannot use the illustration for any other purpose other than what was agreed upon. Using copyright agreements often protects an illustrator from being taken advantage of, but most businesses have a limited view on what copyright means and can unnecessarily restrict an illustrator’s right (or sometimes need) to reuse, remix or resell an image.
I like to work with clients who are aware of CC licences and use them in their own businesses. For example, I created the cover design for Thomasin Sleigh’s novel Ad Lib, which was published under a CC licence. Another example is the info-video for a bicycle sharing platform, BikeSurf Berlin (see below). To me it makes complete sense to license my work in this way. However, I am disappointed that no one seems to have used or remixed my personal work at all!

How does BikeSurf work? from Sam Muirhead on Vimeo. Licensed CC BY-NC-SA
Icon credit: Self-portrait by Judith Carnaby, licensed CC BY-SA

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