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In 2006 I became a huge fan of open source projects. It’s online karma. The more you give away to the world – the more the world brings back to you. WordPress is probably my favorite example. There are a lot of plugins and themes available for the platform, most of which have been “donated” to the community at large by people who have created them.

A little while ago I changed the licenses of a large part of the photos in my Flickr collection to Creative Commons Attribution license. This means anybody can use the photos in anything they want to create, provided they cite the original source of content (preferrably with a link back ;). My personal rule was to exclude photos of people and photos that I am particularly fond of.

To be honest it’s a little daunting to give up this control. You don’t know what will happen to your work if you set it free. Who will use it? How? After a while though, it’s pretty liberating.

Why did I do this? Mostly because I hope others would do the same. I have found other people’s photos by running a creative commons search that I have been able to use for presentations, websites, etc. I am really just reciprocating, as I hope others will too.

If you were a fledgling photographer and you licensed your work under creative commons, your work would get distributed much wider than you could ever do yourself. It’s essentially the butterfly effect at work. If you want further proof that this works, read Mark Glaser’s post about the Creative Commons Effect.

To me, it’s just a digital version of karma. When more people are willing to share their work, everyone wins.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

Nathanael February 21, 2007 at 5:19 pm

And then some people take your photos anyway – don’t particularly mind as my flickr photos are free to good homes, but it’d be nice if people didn’t leech off my server …

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Markus February 21, 2007 at 6:53 pm

Hey Nathanael, you can always prevent it or be a little more sneaky and take advantage of it ;)

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Augustine Fou June 9, 2007 at 10:20 pm

Hi Markus

great post… and glad you “freed” your photos… I made a little web app called PictureSandbox to make it easier for most people to search for CC-licensed photos (primarily from Flickr) — and to license and pay for it for use as stock photos.

I have also made an interface to create “phreetings” (photo + greeting) by simple drag-n-drop. (see: http://picturesandbox.com/card )

here’s a “phreeting” with my shot of Gotham Hall yesterday
http://picturesandbox.com/card/x7pqewax

and an older picture of Chihuly glass at the NY Botanical Garden
http://picturesandbox.com/card/69rs8ubv

Hope to speak with you …

Augustine Fou
CEO, PictureSandbox

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Markus June 10, 2007 at 7:47 pm

Hey Augustine, thanks for stopping by. That’s a nice little app – I’ll have to try it out next time I have to send an online greeting.

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Augustine Fou July 2, 2007 at 5:37 am

hey Markus

as a fellow proponent of Creative Commons, i wanted to bring this huge controversy about PictureSandbox on Flickr forums to your attention

http://flickr.com/help/forum/44325

There were a bunch of issues surrounding Creative Commons — like whether displaying search results constitute “use” under CC, and because we are a for profit entity, does that constitute “commercial use.” etc. Lots of interesting topics and tough questions.

warning it is at 734 posts as of this morning NY time :-)

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Toronto wedding photographers October 14, 2007 at 6:09 pm

There was quite a lot of stress on recent flickr’s use of photos without proper permission. One thing people forget-Someone else may have use your photo in their own way and signed it away under creative Commons.
This is why companies should check each photo(contacting the owner) before using that photo for their commercial services. I do wedding photography and a few months ago I found my photo signed away to wikipedia. a link(was found,leading to some 3d party site in India.What gives??? It’s extremely hard to control.

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Netty December 9, 2009 at 8:22 pm

Thanks for the post I wasn’t aware of creative commons until now and I already have a bunch of photos in mind that I’d like to share!

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