Why we moved from the Creative Commons-Zero License to the Unsplash License

Mikael Cho
Jan 25, 2018 · 2 min read

We love Creative Commons and believe in it.

The spirit of the Unsplash License has not changed. Our aim has always been and still is that creativity should be open and those who contribute should be celebrated and respected. However, with the previous version of the Unsplash License, we ran into situations that were hurting our ability to fulfill this mission.

In the new version of the license, we added that we don’t support the mass duplication of Unsplash photos by means of practices like mass image scraping and crawling with the purpose of replicating a similar or competing service because it has been leading to confusion which harms the spirit of open creative use and our ability to celebrate photographers.

While the Unsplash License itself cannot be revoked for photos that have already been downloaded from Unsplash, we allow Unsplash contributors to stop further distribution of their photo, and that’s not possible if the photo is redistributed without user permission on other sites. Similarly, sites that redistribute the photos through crawling, scraping, and mass compiling techniques either redistribute them without credit or they create fake accounts for contributors with their name and personal information without permission. Some download the entire library and redistribute it for profit, which until now, is something we’ve had little power to approach.

Mass compiling of Unsplash photos to create a similar service has also created legal issues which confuses creative use. If an Unsplash photo is copied to another site but is later removed from Unsplash (for instance, if there is a copyright complaint), the photo will continue to be distributed on other platforms, potentially causing legal problems for the photographers and creators.

Sites that mass duplicate and compile Unsplash photos point support and legal issues back to Unsplash, while continuing to redistribute photos that may be removed on Unsplash. This hurts community trust in Unsplash, creating support and legal cases we can’t control, and increases our support and legal costs in an unsustainable way.

We revised the Unsplash License as an improvement toward what we’re trying to accomplish for the creative community.

Unsplash Blog

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