Creative Commons Images and Watermarks

Mark at eClippings recently re-posted this image from Dion Hinchcliffe. The image itself is interesting, but what struck me was that it had the Creative Commons condition icons and the source URL embedded in the image itself at the bottom. I’m calling this a watermark but I may be using the term incorrectly.

When I saw this I was torn. On the one hand my first reaction was – hey, that’s a great idea, remove any ambiguity about the rights associated with the image regardless of where it ends up, and also clear up how it is to be attributed by including it’s original URL. If you buy into the argument that lack of clarity about rights and the hardship of clearing rights is a major inhibitor to the reuse of digital resources then it seems to make sense, right?

On the other hand, I can see arguments to the effect that such marks could be a hinderance to reuse (if done in an ugly way that mars the original image or if they take away from the re-users contribution to the remix). And if they are such a great idea, why aren’t we seeing this more often. There are already lots of scripts out there to automate watermarking of images, and it would be simple to offer these as a service that people could tie into. But is this a good idea?

I have self-interested reasons for asking this question. Within my work on SOL*R I have to advise content authors on how to display either a Creative Commons or BC Commons license in their work. My reply has always been “Hey, they’re your rights and it’s your content, so if you feel strongly about people respecting these, assert them as often as you like.” The funny thing is the issue isn’t people wanting to use license tags excessively, its people not wanting to use them at all because they haven’t included them up front on a template or the like.

So, is this practice one to encourage? Should we instead use XMP for this (and build apps that automatically just add it in without extra work from the user)? Or leave well enough alone? Feedback (through email, as my overworked butt has still not migrated this to WordPress as promised) always appreciated. – SWL