Of course you can; a more important question would be whether or not it’s legal. This is a question that will be decided in Dutch courts soon; Adam Curry has filed a lawsuit against a tabloid that used a picture of him flying a small airplane while smoking what might be a joint. In the suit, he is asking for € 5000 in fees for the use of the image, even though he posted it online himself. 

This raises some interesting issues. The picture itself (found here) was posted by Adam Curry himself on a public medium, which means that:

  • Adam Curry probably holds the copyright for this picture
  • On the other hand, the image was already available for anyone who wanted to see it, so claiming any sort of damages or other fees because is was published in a tabloid sounds like a strange idea.

nc-sa_license

The picture was published under the Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike license, which explicitly forbids commercial use. The editor of the tabloid claims the use is allowed under Dutch copyright law because it is “news”. It is also hard to verify whether or not the image had that license the moment it was published; as far as I know Flickr has no option to show the history for a particular image. The WayBack Machine suggests that he’s been using this license by default for a while, but that’s no absolute proof. So all in all this might prove to be an interesting case!

On a related note, lately I’ve seen many news media use image or videos attributing “YouTube” or “Flickr” as the source. While that might technically be correct, it is not the real source; I feel it would be better to show the actual author of the picture or video instead. I’m sure the first lawsuit about this is already underway somewhere…

Update: Interestingly, Adam Curry already won a case about the same issue three years ago; this was also about photos published by him on Flickr under the same license, that were later republished by a Dutch tabloid (Weekend).

Lawrence Lessig, Creative Commons’ CEO and chairman, added: “This decision confirms that the Creative Commons licensing system is an effective way for content creators to manage their copyrights online.”