Misunderstanding Creative Commons

I’m a fan of Creative Commons, the fantastic project that provides ready-made licences, with increasing degrees of freedom, that you can bestow on any content you create.
One thing I find amusing and irritating in turn is the inappropriate use of these licences. Over on Flickr, I see countless examples of people giving their snap shots an ‘All Rights Reserved’ licence, as if they are part of the Getty or Magnum elite.
There are thousands of examples of this, so I hate to pick on anyone.  But the latest example I have come across just happens to be the Flickr group for The Last Tuesday Society, a bizarre yet highly successful events company based in London.  Now, I’ve been to a couple of events that they have put on, and they are great fun.  Sexy, risqué, warped, funny.  They upload literally hundreds of snap-shots for each event they run, but Mr Victor Wynd uses a simple domestic camera with a built in flash, so, to be frank, they’re not all that impressive.  And yet bizarrely, there’s no way I can reproduce this photo, or that photo, or even this photo, because they are All Rights Reserved.
And that’s just silly.  The people taking and uploading the photos is in the business of promoting events, and so it would be in their interests for their images to be seen by as many people as possible.  Especially photos like this, which would, I’ll wager, sell a fair few dozen tickets if they appeared on a large news website or even in the Metro, or londonpaper, or London Lite.
And its not just companies that are guilty of this particular misunderstanding.  At the risk of alienating certain friends of mine, I do wonder why the images for mkultra, strangerpixel and rossfadam are not given a more liberal licence.  Doing so would surely bring their work to a wider audience, and may even increase the rate at which their images are used for editorial or illustrative purposes.  As we saw with the case of MC Yogi last year, providing some work for free (however high the quality) can lead to greater exposure, and paid for contracts, a short way down the line.
Amusingly, a more liberal approach has worked for me.  I recently found that one of my photographs has been included on the popular Schmapp website.  It is actually a rather average image, poorly lit and unimaginatively framed.  And its inclusion is also unlikely to make me any money.  However, it does mean an increased exposure for my Flickr stream, and also fulfils a particular purpose for the community.  A net gain all round?

The Botanical Gardens in Sheffield, September 2008
The Botanical Gardens in Sheffield, September 2008

Photos in the Crowd

The buoyancy of the President’s daughters, Malia and Sasha, at the inauguration yesterday, was refreshing and delightful. Its fashionable to lament the fact that children “grow up too quickly these days.” Its becoming equally fashionable to note the innocence of the Obama girls in the midst of the overwhelming pomp of campaign, transition, and inauguration.

Malia gets her own snaps for the family album (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)
Malia gets her own snaps for the family album (Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images)

Especially noteworthy, bizarre yet endearing, was Malia’s insistence on taking digital photos of the event with her consumer camera (appallingly, though not unsurprisingly, E! Magazine has wondered aloud about how much those pictures would be worth). Most hilarious was the moment, right after her father’s speech, when she leant forward and asked the old man sitting in front to take a photo of the crowd, because he clearly had a better view. It was Joe Biden, the new Vice-President.
Meanwhile, a defining image of the inauguration for me was the sight of thousands of other citizens all stretching to capture the moment on their own cameras, phones and camcorders, something like this:
The clamour for the photo (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)
The clamour for the photo (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana)

This sort of image will become, has become, commonplace.  I think this obsession with recording significant moments for ourselves is fascinating.  Malia and The Crowd had two utterly different viewpoints on the proceedings, yet both exhibited the same urge.  In both cases, there is an irrationality to their actions.  The inauguration was long known to be one of the most reported events in the history of news media.  On one level, its absurd that the First Daughter would need to actually press the shutter herself – the image of her father raising his hand will persist without her (I noted athletes doing a similar thing during the Olympics).  Likewise, its absurd that the grainy figure of Obama raising his hand in a wave, as he strolled down Pennsylvania Avenue, will not be similarly recorded in high-resolution, extreme close-up, by hundreds of professionals.
And yet, I’m as guilty of this as the next man.  For example, was my recently posted photo of Gordon Brown at all necessary?  To no-one but me, I would suggest.

And that, I suppose, is the answer.  Contrary to what the reporters at E! Magazine might hope, Malia’s photos are not for public consumption.  They are a personal aide memoir (much like this blog).  The camera-phone photos, poor quality, though they may be, server as a document to one’s presence of the event, a self-generated certificate of attendance.  The grainier the better, to the extent that poor picture quality actually becomes a mark of authenticity.


ChicagoSuz, a commenter at Huffington post:

Weegee (my favorite photographer) would go to a fire and while all the other photogs were taking pictures of the flames, he would take pictures of the fire’s victims watching their homes burn. That seems to be what Malia is doing. While the media focuses on her Dad, she seems to be focusing on the people who came to see him. It’s a whole different perspective.

Update II

Here’s the sort of image I mean.  The glow from the digital camera screens looks like fireflies:

President and First Lady at the Washington Hilton. Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com
President and First Lady at the Washington Hilton. Photo by Kevin Mazur/WireImage.com