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Mahalo Is Breaking Creative Commons And Their Own Rules

Filed Under News on 2010-01-22, 14:32

You would think that a site as “large” as Mahalo would be respectful of Creative Commons, as well as the quality of the information they are providing. Mahalo bills itself as “a human-powered search engine and a knowledge sharing service…” but it turns out they’re using algorithms to provide some of this knowledge. Algorithms that get it embarrassingly wrong sometimes.

There was a math teacher by the name of Heather Kennedy that was found guilty of sleeping with one of her 16 year old students. Mahalo has a page on her. On that page Mahalo is crawling Flickr and Google for related images. Great, automating information retrieval is useful in some case. However, presenting it on a page where it’s intended to be informational without specifying that this is simply a search for images based on keywords is bad form. Especially when Mahalo bills itself as “human-powered” and hand picked information. Either Heather Kennedy has had facial reconstructive surgery multiple times or Mahalo is automatically searching for images using the keywords “Heather Kennedy” and Creative Commons.

Only Mahalo apparently doesn’t understand Creative Commons, even thought their own content is licensed as Creative Commons Attribution 3.0. Most people classify their images as Creative Commons with Attribution, which requires anyone using the photos to “attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor”. In addition, many people specify that their images can’t be used for commercial purposes. Mahalo links to the image, but doesn’t give proper attribution, and it could very easily argued that Mahalo is for commercial purposes with the half a dozen ads on the page.

But what really gets me personally is the fact that Mahalo was using an image my friend, Rubin Starset, posted on Flickr that contains several friends (one with the last name “Kennedy”) and my fiance, Heather. It was the headline image with no links to the source or attribution. It’s obvious why this would come up in a search for “Heather Kennedy”, but it’s absolutely not related and was not attributed.

After contacting Mahalo, it appears they’ve pulled it as well as all images on the Heather Kennedy page, but if you look at any other pages you’ll see the very same method of retrieving images in use.

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