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How I learned to stop worrying and love Creative Commons


Photojournalist Andrew Heavens on How I learned to stop worrying and love the Creative Commons:

Time and distance have allowed me to reflect on the many benefits of learning to stop worrying and start loving the liberating effect of Creative Commons.

On the personal side, lots of good things have come out of the fact that my cast-off photos are swimming around the internet with a CC license attached. People have written in checking to see if they can use them in textbooks, calendars, Ethiopian restaurant menus, novelty Amharic greeting cards. (How often do you get the chance to illustrate a line of novelty Amharic greeting cards?) Some of these contacts have resulted in further paid work. Some have resulted in the offer of free food if I am ever passing through New York and want to pop in to a certain Ethiopian restaurant. Others have resulted in nothing financial at all.

Lots of good things have also happened beyond the personal side. As I said earlier, one of the most frustrating things about press photography is the short lifespan of your photographs. You put yourself in a risky situation to record what you consider to be an important, newsworthy event. The resulting pictures flash up on newspaper pages, TV screens and Yahoo! News for a day or so. And then they disappear.

The greatest thing that Creative Commons does is give your work an extra lease of life. After the news event has passed on, the photographs are still out there, waiting for someone else to pick up on them, give them a new meaning and use them in a different setting.

Check out Andrew’s photos on Flickr.

Via Ethan Zuckerman, who has similar words of wisdom:

If you make media, it’s to your great advantage to have your creation live as long as possible. If you make money off of media, you’ve got this incentive as well – once we understand that the scarce commodity is a viewer’s attention, not access to the airwaves, it doesn’t matter if someone is paying attention to your work early or late in the work’s lifespan. What matters is the number of different contexts in which someone can find your work. Breaking news? Fodder for political activists? A long lifespan digital work can be both and more. Won’t it be great when documentaries can be, too?

Posted 27 November 2006