In the true spirit of sharing, Instagram photos can now become a part of the expansive digital commons. I Am CC, a third-party app created by developer Philip Neustrom, appends a selected Creative Commons (CC) license to Instagram photos, enabling users to release their work to be freely shared while still retaining their rights.

I am CC screenshot

Screenshot of Instagram photos on I Am CC marked with various licenses

In a manifesto posted on the I Am CC website, Neustrom says the app was inspired by Flickr, the image and video hosting service and online community by Yahoo. Flickr has comprehensive features for CC-licensing photos and videos, and for searching for such content. Flickr upload bots such as the Bryan’s bot that use the Flickr API, harvest CC-licensed content for use in Wikipedia and its multimedia repository, the Wikimedia commons, which are among the largest CC-licensed projects in the world. A possible use of applications such as I Am CC is to gather photos in a similar way for Wikipedia and its sister projects. The free-of-cost, mobile-only photo sharing program and social network Instagram, supported by iOS and Android, has over 80 million users, and over 1 billion photos uploaded in its feed. Even if a fraction of these photos is made available under CC license to the public, it could lead to the making of a voluminous repository of free images that could be built upon, modified, remixed, or used as they are. As Neustrom suggests, such a repository could make a huge impact on the free culture movement. The Instagram photos released under CC license appear on

The license chosen by the users of I Am CC stays for 3 months and applies to both existing and new photos. At the end of the three months, users are asked to sign up again. Neustrom included the timeframe at the end of which permissions are refreshed, so that users do not become oblivious to the fact that they are sharing their photos. I Am CC currently allows the selection of only one license out of the many offered by the Creative Commons.

According to Instagram’s terms of use, the copyright of every Instagram photo belongs to its owner but Instagram can choose to use it. Another use of I Am CC is that Instagramographers can, in one go, establish their rights across the different platforms on which their Instagram images are shared. 

The crux of most photo-sharing mobile apps is fun. Take a photo, tack an effect onto it, play with it, admire it and share it. What makes an app such as Instagram special to its users is its ability to make their latest photographic creations extend their tendrils to social networks. We hope that I Am CC, like Flickr, enables users with applying licenses selectively to their photos. It would only befit the essence of social media — create, share, remix, share.

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