It probably isn't fair. But then again without actually contacting the copyright holder the CC licenses are nothing more than a indicator that reuse may be OK. Then when you get into chains of derivatives you are in a world of pain. Websites are particularly prone to fouling up the licenses. Flickr does not allow people to upload CC licensed images from other people because the attributions will be wrong. Suppose Jane Doe uploads an CC image from Joe Blow, everywhere the site displays the image it will end up being credited to Jane Doe not Joe Blow. Accreditation becomes very hard if Joe Blow's image is actually a derivative that contains parts of images from multiple other people.

When those on Commons start cloning out watermarks on images they create a liability for down stream reusers.

On 07/03/2017 03:13, Andreas Kolbe wrote:
People usually encounter images in Wikipedia, and Wikipedia does not comply
with the CC licence requirements either, the way downstream re-users are
expected to comply with them. That's a problem.

For example, the CC BY 3.0 licence requires re-users to name the image's
author, and much else besides. But when a CC BY 3.0 image is used in
Wikipedia, or indeed on a content page in Commons, none of that information
is present. All Wikipedia does provide is a link to the image's Commons

Wikipedia is advertised as the free encyclopedia. This includes people
being free to re-use any part of it, even for commercial purposes. So why
shouldn't people think that they are allowed to use an image in exactly the
same way Wikipedia is using it?

If a user sees an image in Wikipedia, it is quite natural for them, given
what they have been told, to right-click on it and select copy, without
even going to the Commons page with the detailed licence info. But if they
do what Wikipedia does, i.e. only providing a link to the source, they can
get slapped with a bill for several thousand dollars or euros.

One recent press article[2] gave the example of a single mum on benefits
who received a demand for 7,500 euro (nearly 8,000 dollars) from a
Wikipedian because of two images she had used without giving the required

It doesn't seem fair.

[1] Example:

On Mon, Mar 6, 2017 at 6:37 AM, Gergő Tisza <> wrote:

I can read some German and looked into a similar case the last time this
came up (the thread was called "harald bischoff advertising to make images
"for the wikimedia foundation" and then suing users"). It involved (amongst
others) an amateur news blog which took an image from the Wikipedia article
of some politician and credited it to "Wikipedia" (with link to the image
description page; but no author or license), and was slapped with a ~$1000
fee. These kind of predatory tactics hurt the reputation and moral standing
of the movement IMO.

I think asking for damages might be acceptable if
- the reuser is a big organization which has its own copyright lawyers
(e.g. a commercial news publisher) and really should have known better
- the reuser refuses to fix the attribution when asked
- the reuser does not even attempt to indicate that the image is from
but when none of those is the case, threatening to sue violates the spirit
of free content, even if it is in accordance with the fine print of the
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