Public Domain Art on Flickr

I had a good three and a half hour drive that turned into a four and a half hour drive with all of my stops for photos today. It was a nice drive back from Yosemite and as is usually the case on long drives it gave me time to think of some new ideas. One idea that I can up with is a new user at Flickr called Public Domain.

Now that Flickr has the deep pockets of Yahoo! behind them it is time to start thinking bigger picture. As Flickr is quickly becoming the single best source on the internet for free quality images, it would seem to make sense that they be the company to begin accumulating the greatest collection of public domain art in the world.

Bill Gates recognized quite a while back that there was great value in digital images — especially artwork. Gates acquired quite a few licenses for great works of art and also was the brains and financial backing behind Corbis, the world’s second largest stock photography company at present.

It is difficult to find today high quality digital art. Sure you can Google Image Search (ok, ok, or Yahoo! Image Search) for artists by name and you get a hodgepodge of results back, but as giant displays become the norm in our homes, having digital artwork to hang on them is going to become more important. Perhaps the biggest WOW factor I get with my Media Center PC is when people come over and see slide shows of artwork that I’ve scrapped from internet image searches as my music plays in the background. A while back I did a review on a Media Center service called Gallery Player. Gallery Player is trying to capitalize on the upcoming boom for digital art but they are going about it the wrong way. Too few images and too expensive.

So this is where Flickr comes in. Flickr needs to hire some low cost manual labor scanners. Next they will begin buying complete collection art books of public domain art. For instance. Flickr could buy a book of the complete collection of Rembrandt’s paintings. They don’t even need to get all of them but the completist in me would like to see them get as many as they can. Next they would hire low cost labor to actually scan the photos from the books. This could even be done overseas, in India for instance. The photos would get uploaded to the Public Domain user account and tagged with the artist name and the work title and any other tags of significance that could be used for other searches. Each artist would have their own set. It would be important that the quality remain high on the scans and the size of the scans to build the reputation of Flickr as a superior place for public domain art.

Because all of the artwork would be public domain, Flickr would not run afoul of copyright laws. It would be the goal to have the largest public domain library of digital art in the world. As monitors in our homes increasingly become image display machines Flickr would have a compelling add on to offer people in addition to the finest collection of photography anywhere on the internet that they currently posses today.