Bacon, Coffee, & Content: Using Creative Commons

Nov 21, 2013

We are spoiled.

It used to be really hard to create good content. Twenty-five years ago if you wanted photos of your product it was a chore. As a kid I remember watching the process in my dad's advertising agency in Knoxville, TN. First you needed several thousands of dollars of professional camera equipment and lighting. Then you would gather all the products and shoot endless rolls of film, which you would then ship off to be developed and wait weeks for the actual shots. It was tedious at best and even then you would wind up editing things in a dark room. It would take me hours to resize clip art with a photostat machine that now takes seconds and requires a click and drag with my pointer.

In 2013 if you are a major brand and you want a killer photo of your product, it takes one step: Search.

Some of the best content created today is being uploaded to the internet every second by people you have never met around the globe. The ubiquity of smartphones and our social sharing culture feeds more images, video, and text online than any company could ever create. And everyone is jumping on the user generated content bandwagon. I got this email in my Flickr inbox a few days ago from a user called BrandContent.


We came across your photo on flickr and wanted to reach out to you. We do some work for BAILEYS® Coffee Creamers and occasionally reach out to people if they have an image that we think reflects our brand.

We would need to contact our client so there is no guarantee it will be approved, but we would love the opportunity to potentially share this photo on some of our social networks.

Please get back to us whenever you can, feel free to contact me at



Apparently my swirly creamy coffee photo taken with my iPhone 10 months ago is a good fit for the BAILEYS® Coffee Creamer brand. Lucky for them all of my photos have a Creative Commons License so they can be used as long as they link back to me.

And this is not an isolated story. A few weeks ago I posted a photo of a bacon maple doughnut on Instagram and joked about how a few drops of @TexasPete would probably cause world peace. Texas Pete Hot Sauce reached out to me on Twitter and asked if they could share the image on their Instagram account. They have since shared the image with attribution to my @thinkjose Twitter account on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, twice!

These stories of companies embracing user generated content are, in theory, a great thing. They speed up and simplify the process of content creation for businesses and generate exposure for the individuals who would rarely break five likes on their Instagram images of breakfast. But there are problems that arise from this new system of content creation. Who owns the content? How do you handle remixes and shares? What if someone starts making money off an item that you have created? The answers to these and a slew of other questions have been answered by Creative Commons. Most of you have probably heard of or seen the little CC Licensed images and links at the bottom of images, videos, and online content, but most companies and individuals still don't use it to the full potential.

Founded in 2001 Creative Commons is a non-profit that allows for simple licensing of content. This free licensing structure allows you to protect, share, make available for remixing, and handle ownership issues for images, music, video, text, and more. They have recently announced that you can now license software APIs using a CC license. Visit, answer a few questions about your content, and it will generate a snippet of code you can paste into your website. Sites like Google, YouTube, Flickr, and SoundCloud, let you instantly share your content with Creative Commons license options, just check a box and go. Licenses allow for All Rights Reserved, No Rights Reserved (basically public domain), Attribution (a link to the creator), Non-Commercial (no money can be made), and multiple other options for remixing and sharing.

So whether you are a company looking for content (use the handy search tool here to find content you can legally use) or an individual looking to protect and legally share your content (use the simple license chooser here) Creative Commons has you covered. So grab a cup of coffee, a bacon maple doughnut, and start searching and creating content. Mmmmmmm... bacon and content are a tasty combination.