Why we need the Creative Commons

Burundi currency design based on photo found on InternetPhotog Sues After Picture Appears On Burundi Currency

[Kelly] Fajack says he’s not a litigious person and would give groups like NGOs permission to use his images for free. He says he probably would have granted Burundi officials permission to use his picture on their money if they had asked. “Like I said in my lawsuit, I’m not out to take money from a poor African nation,” he says. “In a way I’m honored that my image is on a little piece of African history.”

(found via Boing Boing)

Umm, perhaps someone should tell this guy about the Creative Commons Developing Nations License?

The Developing Nations license allows you to invite a wide range of royalty-free uses of your work in developing nations while retaining your full copyright in the developed world.

Update: There you go, I just sent the dude an email.

I must admit I find it disingenuous that while Fajack is pursuing legal action against Burundi (and those responsible for their currency design), he’s also prominently highlighting their “infringement” of his work in his online bio (since at least May 2):

Recently his photography was…depicted on the 10,000 franc note in the African country of Burundi.

I’m not sure you can simultaneously condemn and celebrate copyright infringement. Kind of takes the oomph out of suing for “unspecified damages.”


Although I use a CC license, I’ve always felt Creative Commons exists to assuage the sappy guilt of people who imagine that trying to control the stuff you own is, somehow, evil.

Kelly Fajack

So they steal my image and now I can’t use it for self promotion?

[off-topic letter removed]

Kelly, I appreciate you stopping by and leaving a comment.

However, given that it contained a verbatim letter you wrote to a Burundian critic (that you also sent me via email), and given that the letter did not address the essence of my suggestion (that you consider using a Creative Commons Developing Nations License, now or in the future), I’ve removed it.

If you would like to continue this discussion on copyright or the Creative Commons, either here or via email, I would be happy to do so.


Long story short, I go to Africa to do pro bono work for a NGO. I spend about $5000 getting there and paying my way. Then some people think I’m a bad guy when someone steals my image without asking. You can’t please everyone.

I am not one of those people “who think you’re a bad guy”.

I am only curious if after this experience you’ve given any thought to the benefits of licensing some your work under a Creative Commons Developing Nations license?


Meanwhile, the company that designs and makes the money for Burundi is in a highly developed nation and should know better than to steal intellectual, physical or any other kind of property.

Elaygee, what about this scenario:

An individual looking to celebrate primary education in Burundi uses a photograph she found online for inspiration in a lithograph which is later chosen as a design finalist for Burundi’s highest currency banknote.

I just made that up, but it’s a perfectly plausible story that makes it much harder to shake your finger at people saying, “you should know better.”

In fact I’d much rather live in that world—where people feel freer to collaborate without threat of punishment.

Which is why I suggested to Kelly that he look into the Creative Comons Developing Nations License, given his previous published admission that “would give groups like NGOs permission to use his images for free.”


Email (optional)

Blog (optional)