When your photo of Giant becomes popular, and you don’t quite understand why…

February 6, 2024, 9:54 AM

Recently, when skimming around the Internet, I found a large number of YouTube videos using this image:

Giant Food in Burtonsville, Maryland

This is the frozen food aisle at the Giant Food store in Burtonsville, Maryland.  Apparently, its use has something to do with a game called The Backrooms, which apparently originated as a creepypasta on 4chan and later became a horror-themed game.  I’m not quite sure how it all goes together, but in all of the videos that used my image of Giant, they were in reference to level 55 of the game, where viewers apparently move around in a supermarket space filled with frozen food aisles.  I’m not sure how my image of Giant fits into that, but the wiki page that I linked to earlier contains it.  One recurring thing that I saw was that the back wall was modified slightly from the original photo:

The modified photo.  Note that a fourth cooler door has been added, a clip strip has been removed, and the second door is now tinted red.
The modified photo.  Note that a fourth cooler door has been added, a clip strip has been removed, and the second door is now tinted red.

I do not know how this fits in with the game, so I’m inclined to just sort of roll with it.  The game is on Steam, which I’ve never used, but Elyse has.  We looked into it on her machine, and the game is apparently called The Backrooms: You’ve Been Here Before.  The game is apparently in beta, and as such, is only available as an early release.  Neither Elyse nor I could figure out how to access the early release version of the game, so my research ended there.

In any case, the image was published while I was still doing Creative Commons licenses, and thus it was made available under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 license, which was my practice at the time.  And I had just found 24 different videos where my image was being used against the terms of that license.  Since not a single one of those videos contained the proper attribution (not even one!), I submitted a takedown notice for all of them.  I don’t know if my image appears in the original game, but considering how often my image is used in these fan videos as well as in the wiki, it seems likely, but unfortunately, I am not able to fully investigate this.

All the same, I’m not surprised that people would pinch a photo like this.  People see “Creative Commons” and think, oh, I can do anything that I want with this, or just assume that it means that’s it’s in the public domain.  Creative Commons doesn’t do much to help in drawing a distinction between Creative Commons and public domain, because they also have a CC0 license, which is used to waive all rights to a work and explicitly place it in the public domain.  I have never used this license, and have no plans to use this license in the future.  I don’t like that they have attached Creative Commons branding to public domain dedications, because it dilutes the meaning of the CC emblem to mean free-with-rules vs. wide open to do whatever you want.  With an Attribution-ShareAlike license, it is true that anyone can use material so licensed for any purpose, but it comes with a few strings attached.  Specifically, one must provide attribution to the original creator, and in the case of ShareAlike licenses, one must also pay it forward when publishing any derivative works, i.e. my choice of license is law, and you must use the license that I provide, unless you wish to negotiate something different with me.  Failing both of those, I nail them for copyright infringement.  Public domain works a little bit differently.  For works in the public domain, the material belongs to all of us, and it also belongs to none of us.  Therefore, works in the public domain can be used by anyone for any purpose, with no strings attached.  I suspect that whoever designed the level saw “free to use” and stopped reading, and just went to town on it without providing the proper attributions.

Meanwhile, if anyone knows how I can get access to this game, please do let me know.  I am curious to see how the Giant Food store in Burtonsville plays into all of this.