Between February and April 2022, a professional photographer from Cologne, Germany, filed nine copyright infringement lawsuits in U.S. federal courts. What makes the cases unique is that in each one, the defendant had a Creative Commons license to use the image for commercial purposes free of charge. Knowing the potential traps associated with these licenses and how they can arise may help your company avoid being the next defendant.
Anyone who has spent time scouring the internet for free-to-use content has likely come across pictures, written materials and music permissively licensed under one or more of the Creative Commons licenses. These licenses tend to offer the public a broad range of options when using copyrighted material that is released under the Creative Commons scheme. However, like all licenses, the Creative Commons licenses can contain conditions and requirements that the licensee must adhere to in order to avoid liability. Two recent appellate court decisions shed light on one important condition in the Creative Commons NonCommercial ShareAlike license.