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Hey DN, I'm Luke one of the cofounders of Unsplash. We've been building Unsplash for 5 years with the vision that beautiful photos be free to share and use. Nothing about that has changed. It's what makes Unsplash special.
A week ago we released a revised version of our license and terms that moved photos that are released in the future to not use CC0. The revised license is exactly like CC0 minus one change: you cannot mass download the library for redistribution as a competing service. You can still download all photos for free, use them without credit (though we entourage credit), and use them in commercial or personal works. Nothing about that has changed.
We did not make the license change lightly: we worked with our community of contributors for the last two years and this change addresses many of their complaints and the legal issues that have arisen from redistribution.
The CC article linked here unfortunately gets many points wrong. As commenters have pointed out, CC has a vested interest in Unsplash staying under a CC license, since they receive funding from donors based on the communities they support. We've written up a response to the CC article that addresses many of the points that they get wrong: https://community.unsplash.com/articles/inresponsetocc
We've also written up a bunch of FAQs that answer common questions about the license: https://community.unsplash.com/help-section/what-is-the-unsplash-license-and-where-can-i-find-it
We're answering any and all questions regarding the license, here, on twitter (@unsplash) or via email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Here's the difference:
CC0 = I waive every right of this photo, it is now in public domain. Everyone can use it whatever they want.
the Unsplash License = I give this photo to Unsplash. It is now belong to Unsplash. It is not in public domain. People can use it mostly what they want, with one vaguely exception is you can't distribute it as a similar service.
You're absolutely right that public domain != the Unsplash License.
But Unsplash was never made explicitly to be the public domain. What we wanted to do when we created Unsplash was create a resource for the real needs that the community has: finding beautiful, free high resolution photos that they can use. That doesn't require the photos to be in the public domain to accomplish. We chose CC0 at the time as the easiest way to accomplish our goal.
CC0 and public domain have a lot of real-world flaws that our community has experienced over the past 5 years. These are real issues brought up by our contributors that under CC0 we've had no way to address until now.
There are literally tens of thousands of sites reselling the photos contributed by Unsplash photographers. We've had thousands of amazing contributors stop sharing specifically because of this reason.
Similarly, there are hundreds of sites recreating accounts or redistributing the photos on behalf of photographers. For the photographers they now have accounts that they can't access across hundreds of sites, many which display donation buttons, creating donations that the photographers never see. Imagine if when you wrote on Medium, hundreds of sites popped up and created accounts under your name and you had no way to stop or claim the accounts.
That's a sad result because some of the most amazing photos have been lost because of this. Contributors who believed in the mission of sharing beautiful free photos for the reasons that we all love and use Unsplash have stopped contributing because of a side-effect of CC0 that has no benefit towards the mission of creating a community of beautiful free photos.
What you need to understand at the end of the day is that Unsplash was never created to be a place for public domain photos. Flickr has existed long before Unsplash and makes that very easy. What Unsplash was created to do was make amazing high resolution photos available and easy to use for the real use cases that the creative community has. The Unsplash License changes nothing about that and our community has had an overwhelmingly positive response to the change.
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