May 12, 2009 | By Hugh D'Andrade

White House Photos Update: Flickr Removes License from Gov't Photos

The photos by official White House photographer Pete Souza are now available to the public on the White House Flickr stream under a new arrangement: in place of the Creative Commons Attribution license used previously, the photos are now identified as "United States Government Works," along with a link to the U.S. Copyright Office page quoting Title 17 of the United States Code:

§ 105. Subject matter of copyright: United States Government works

Copyright protection under this title is not available for any work of the United States Government, but the United States Government is not precluded from receiving and holding copyrights transferred to it by assignment, bequest, or otherwise.

EFF and others had earlier pointed out that the Attribution license — while useful for remixers and fair users — was still a license and not necessary or appropriate for federal government works. Federal government works are not copyrightable, and as such should be treated as works in the public domain: free to use without restriction.

It's great to see that Flickr, which has introduced thousands of people to Creative Commons and the usefulness of alternative licensing options, is once again leading the pack. By removing licensing restrictions for the White House photos they are allowing the public free access to the works they pay for with their tax dollars — an important principal that Flickr deserves credit for upholding.


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