Why Sharing is Great

Red Like Your Mother's Eyes

So many people out there are so proprietary with their art and their photography. All of my photos on Flickr are Creative Commons licensed — non commercial. They can all be used by people for personal use and by non-profits.

Frequently I get people asking me for permission to use my photography. Usually, even when it’s commercial use I say yes. If it’s a well funded commercial entity sometimes I’ll ask for money for use. Of course with my CC license people don’t even have to ask me to use my stuff for personal use but so many do anyways.

The photo sharing moments that I find most fulfilling are not the ones when a big magazine or web site wants to use my work. The photo sharing moments that I find most fulfilling are the ones when every day people use my work in even more important ways.

I got an email yesterday from Laura Lea on Flickr asking if she could use one of my ladybug photos for a classroom art assignment. She didn’t need to ask me permission of course as this use would fall under the CC license. Even if my work was all rights reserved she still wouldn’t have needed to ask me because this sort of use would certainly fall under fair use. I told her yes of course and to keep up the good work and she sent me back this note this morning:

“Your photo looks so sharp and wonderful in my powerpoint! I’m very glad that you so generously let me use it! I have you footnoted below the slide! May your generosity be given back doubly! I’m now out of a big deadline dilemma. I’m hoping for two more generous people to help me and I’ll have something that my students can use for drawing from and writing in their ladybug research books. I can see my artists now, little six and seven year olds huddled and trying to draw the ladybugs hibernating! I have a few really great artists.”

And what a touching note that is. Especially to someone who has a 7 year old in first grade right now myself.

All the time people send me emails about things like watermarking and protecting their images. They ask for advice on how to keep people from “stealing” their photography. They get bent out of shape when someone uses a photo here or there on the internet.

I don’t worry about these things so much. I find focusing on the positive with my photography more rewarding for me personally than focusing on the negative. And this week I get to think about a bunch of six and seven year olds looking up at a photo of my ladybugs and trying to draw the photo for their ladybug research books. That’s pretty awesome!

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  1. ojbyrne2 says:

    I win. All my pictures are CC for commercial use too, because as a programmer I dislike intensely APIs that are for non-commercial use only, so I’m trying to “live the principle.”

    But then I’ve yet to make any money off my photos either :-(

  2. devil duck says:

    You’re the shit

  3. tinou says:

    I agree with your general sentiment, but why “If it’s a well funded commercial entity sometimes I’ll ask for money for use.” Seems like you’re drawing a very arbitrary line of deciding when to ask for money. What about a scenario where a company is willing to pay you big money for exclusive use of a photo? If you accept the offer then you are in effect not sharing with others.

    My point is that while sharing is great, you do need to recognize that it’s an individual decision. Sometimes your fervent for sharing can be seen as putting down those who don’t share, and that is wrong. People share until it starts affecting their pocketbooks or some other aspect of their lives. Everyone is different, so just because someone doesn’t want to share doesn’t mean that they are a grinch.

    FWIW, I license CC even for commercial. And I may change my mind to not share if circumstances change.

  4. Thomas Hawk says:

    but why “If it’s a well funded commercial entity sometimes I’ll ask for money for use.”

    tinou, because I don’t mind money and certainly well funded companies can afford to pay. I also try to get well funded company’s to think of paying Flickr people as the better way to go than in trying to get them to give them stuff for free.

    On the other hand I’ve had plenty of startups, entrepreneurs, students, and small businesses ask me to use my work and I like to help them out.

    What about a scenario where a company is willing to pay you big money for exclusive use of a photo?

    I wouldn’t sell exclusive use of a photo ever.

    Sometimes your fervent for sharing can be seen as putting down those who don’t share, and that is wrong.

    To each their own. I’m only speaking for myself here.

  5. craniac says:

    I have very much the same opinion and have posted a link to this post in the forums of OutdoorPhoto a South African photo community I belong to. Many members there take the proprietary route about their images so I suspect this will stir up some debate there.

  6. barrettmanor says:

    Looking at this from a slightly different angle: This teacher has set a wonderful example for her students by asking your permission and providing full attribution for your photograph. Fair Use isn’t “stealing,” but it is proper to give credit where credit is due, and it’s never too early to teach that sort of lesson.

  7. Thomas says:

    Amen to this post. I license all my photos CC as well. I am very, very, tired of people on Flickr worrying over how to “protect” their photos. I greatly appreciate that you license yours CC and allow access to the large size photos.

  8. Thomas B says:

    When you allow someone to use your photos do you allow them to link it straight from your site, or do you want them to copy the image from you and use it on their server? I ask because recently I found a photo of mine that was constantly being uploaded to a Myspace page from my server. I checked the Myspace page and it was private so I couldn’t see what it was being used for and I have don’t have a Myspace account. I was flattered he was using my picture but annoyed was constantly be ing served from my end. Things got sorted out but I wonder what is the norm in these situations.

    Tom

  9. Tom Burgess says:

    When you allow someone to use your photos do you allow them to link it straight from your site, or do you want them to copy the image from you and use it on their server? I ask because recently I found a photo of mine that was constantly being uploaded to a Myspace page from my server. I checked the Myspace page and it was private so I couldn’t see what it was being used for and I have don’t have a Myspace account. I was flattered he was using my picture but annoyed was constantly be ing served from my end. Things got sorted out but I wonder what is the norm in these situations.

    Tom

  10. sebastian says:

    i do the mix. i sell some of my pictures as stock and also have some as cc. i also upload into wikipedia and i think thats ok. i know photos in the wikipedia have to be cc that can also be used in commericial ways. this is why one of my shots was in the vanityfair.

    usually i say yes if someone askes about a picture of mine if its not commercial. i don’t care if people downloading my photos for personal use but i don’t like if i see my (nonstock/noncc) pictures on commercial use.