Real Life Creative Commons Success Story

If you didn’t know, I have a Flickr Photostream to which I post most of the interesting photos I take. I have also posted a lot of my old photos to the photostream, as a method of archiving and dissemination, although I lost many of my old photos when my hard drive died. I just hadn’t gotten around to uploading them yet, and Old Samus had already been wiped.

Anyway, those photos are all licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License. In addition to providing both simple human-readable and inscrutable lawyer-ese versions of the license, they also provide a machine readable version using RDF. This makes it extremely easy for other entities to determine precisely how a given copyrighted work may be used, as well as helping them locate me for possible negotiation for further rights.

This brings us to this company called Schmap. They are producing dynamic, annotated guides to various locales. For example, if you are visiting Cawker City, Kansas, and you were going to hit the World’s Largest Ball of Twine, you could click on the Schmap Map and see a picture of it prior to your arrival. It gives you an idea what to expect, and maybe even help you navigate around a strange city. Bonnie idea!

Unfortunately, how do you get pictures of a myriad of different places and things from around the world? And how do you procure rights for them? Flickr and Creative Commons to the rescue! I received an email from Schmap a few weeks back noting four photos (1, 2, 3, 4) of Milan that they wanted to include in their guide to that city. Since my license disallows commercial use of my photos, they were asking me - through a totally automated system it seems - for my permission to use those photos in their commercial application.

I agreed, and they’re using my photos. No mess, no fuss, and Lawrence Lessig is a freakin’ genius. This is how copyright should work. The only question is when the bozos in the media industry and the copyright office will get it.

And I was only kidding about that Schmap guide to Cawker Kity.