On the Telegraph (UK) site there is an article by a photography professor where he extolls the virtues of the CC license and giving away work for free. These articles invariably tick me off because they get shared in the photo community and people hold them up as examples of how Free can help their businesses.
Here is the big problem with that: the Free model only works (when it does at all) for fine art photographers. It simply will not and does not work for commercial ones.
Why? Simple: fine art photographers make their money by selling objects (mostly)–prints of their works. They don’t license use (at least not at first, maybe later if they make it), but rather sell the object with their image on it, an object that someone hangs in her/his office or living room.
If you have something else to sell as the basis for your business, you can give away lots of licenses for free and it won’t negatively affect you. You want word-of-mouth so that others will want to buy your things, your objects. Generating interest by giving away your work to be used for free on blogs, etc., is potentially a very good form of advertising for you. Yes, Free in this world, the fine art world, can work.
BUT, if your business is all about the image itself and NOT the object, then you are screwed if you give it away. You have nothing left if you give away your licenses. That includes using CC licenses (which strip you of the ability to EVER license a work with any kind of exclusivity–yes, even if you use CC non-commercial of some flavor).
You have nothing left to sell.
So, next time you hear about someone extolling the virtues of Free, look at what s/he is really selling. If that person is successful, you can bet they aren’t giving away whatever it is that is making her/him successful.