You never know where your Creative Commons-licensed photos might end up

I’ve been a Flickr member since January 2005 and I have more than 19,000 photos hosted there. Nearly all of them are Creative Commons licensed, a decision I made a long time ago. I don’t post my photos to make money, I post them to share with others. Keeping them protected doesn’t benefit anyone, but by choosing a more permissive license, others can use my photos in their own work.

If you want to give people the right to share, use, and even build upon a work you’ve created, you should consider publishing it under a Creative Commons license. CC gives you flexibility (for example, you can choose to allow only non-commercial uses) and protects the people who use your work, so they don’t have to worry about copyright infringement, as long as they abide by the conditions you have specified.

My photos are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike license (CC-BY-SA). That means that anyone can copy, redistribute, remix, transform, and build upon any of my photos, even for commercial purposes. All that is required is that I receive appropriate credit for the photo and that any new work that incorporates the photo is also licensed under the CC-BY-SA license.

Over the years, I have been so happy to see my photos in use by others. As you might expect, most of my photos are Edmonton-related, and they’ve appeared in annual reports for local companies, in many publications by the City of Edmonton, in local media, and even in local products and services. They’ve been used by many travel companies all over the world to help illustrate Edmonton and other places I have travelled to. It makes me feel good to see others use one of my photos to help make their thing better, whatever it is. Often people ask me for permission anyway, but they don’t need to.

In some cases though, my photos have been used in unexpected places. One such place was Gawker, which used this photo in a story titled ‘Whites Win Control of Nation’s Capital‘:

Mack at Ben's Chili Bowl

The photo was taken in May 2009 when I was on vacation in Washington, D.C. with Sharon. The photo is at Ben’s Chili Bowl, and I took the photo because that’s where newly-elected President Obama sat when he visited. You can read Sharon’s review of our experience here. Here’s the relevant section:

Near the end of our meal, a fellow patron approached our table, and pointed out to Mack that President Obama had sat in his chair not too long ago, just across from Mayor Adrian Fenty. Though we had noticed that the Seal of the President had been placed on the wall just above the chair, it hadn’t occurred to us that the reason for it was to act as a marker. Just above the seal was a blown-up photo of Obama and Fenty, as well as a smaller picture of the President posing with diner staff.

The man then asked Mack if his choice of seat thus pointed out his destiny to become the next President. Mack replied, “I can’t – I’m Canadian.”

For whatever reason, the Gawker story was circulating on Twitter in Edmonton today. No I’m not pleased that my face appears in Gawker’s race-baiting post, but whatever, the photo is free for use. I could request that they take it down I suppose, but the post was from 2011. Only in Edmonton does anyone still care!

I wasn’t going to write anything, but then I thought it would be interesting to highlight some of the other strange places my photos have been used. Enjoy!

Let’s start with another one from D.C., of Watergate. I have a few of the complex, and they have been used often to illustrate articles related to the famous scandal, like this one.

Watergate

This photo of a Petro-Canada refinery was taken back in 2008 on the east end of Edmonton. It was used in an article in The Times of Israel titled ‘Turkey busts Iranian oil smugglers‘:

Petro-Canada Refinery

While visiting San Francisco in September 2010, we of course made a stop at Trader Joe’s, where I took this photo that was used last year when they increased the price of Two Buck Chuck to $2.49:

Tow Buck Chuck

This delicious-looking grilled cheese sandwich was used in an article titled ‘“Pregnancy brain” – what did you forget?‘:

Grilled Cheese Olympics

Don’t ask me why, but in 2007 I took a picture of some clean dishes in the dishwasher. It was used by the Natural Resources Defense Council in ‘The Great Dishwasher Debate‘.

Clean Dishes

Who doesn’t love the Edmonton Corn Maze! I took this photo in September 2010. It was used a little over a year later in an article titled ‘Family lost in a corn maze calls 911‘.

Edmonton Corn Maze

This photo, taken in Seattle in 2005, actually looks a lot better in the article where it was touched up, titled ‘Inuit demands spark angler concerns over Scottish salmon stocks‘:

Salmon

While visiting Calgary in July 2010, I took this photo in the Marda Loop neighbourhood. It was later used in a satirical article titled ‘Marda Loop residents seek to ban ugly people from moving into the neighbourhood‘:

Marda Loop

Back in 2008, Doctors Without Borders had an exhibit called Refugee Camp in the Heart of the City, which is where I took this photo of plumpy nut. It has been used in a number of articles about malnutrition, like this one.

plumpy nut

I took this photo of Little Caesars Hot-n-Ready pizza in 2008. It was used in this article about a 12-year-old boy who stole money, went joyriding, and ate pizza.

Hot-n-Ready from Little Caesars

This photo was used in an article about having a date at a driving range, highly appropriate as that’s when it was taken! Yes, that is Sharon.

Sharon at the driving range

Let’s finish with another popular food photo, taken in September 2010 in San Francisco. Sharon wrote about our meal at Sam Wo here. Unfortunately, the restaurant closed down in 2012 though their website was updated in July 2013 to say they are in search of a new location.

Sam Wo

There are lots of other somewhat-less-interesting examples too, with photos of technology, the Stanley Cup, Starbucks Iced Coffee, and much more being used in articles all over the world. It’s neat to see all of the places my photos have ended up!

You can check out all of my photos at Flickr.

  • Jeff Samsonow

    Nice detective work, Mack! I love when one of my photos gets picked up on a blog or some other corner of the web (to highlight transit or ramen noodles). This is a great reminder to update my photos too, since I’m well behind on Flickr and you prove that everyone’s looking for a relevant picture.

    • I would say the vast majority of uses/requests are for travel publications, but yes, there are lots of folks looking for CC-licensed photos!

  • Well done! Additionally, it looks like 52 photos from your flickr account have been copied to Wikimedia Commons. Many of them are probably illustrating Wikipedia articles in multiple languages.

    I also get mild enjoyment from seeing where my photos are used, and I keep track in a set. I mostly find out by looking at my flickr stats, which shows referring sites.

  • Ley

    Flicker is always my first stop for photography when I’m writing for clients. I’d much rather utilize the talents of a local photographer than purchase stock photos from who knows where. Maybe yours will pop up in one of my posts soon! 🙂