LoC + Flickr – Commons steps in the right direction

I got into a funny conversation with a friend of mine at the MIT Puzzle hunt this weekend (my team came in third out of 37!) about finding images of things. There’s a lot of data collection in puzzling and a lot of times when you have to do is, say, look at a photo and figure out what it is or where it’s from. This is great of someone recognizes it, not so great if someone doesn’t. Every puzzler has their own personal sites they use for this. I tend to use Google images because it’s fast and I can move through it quickly. Others use Wikipedia. My friend was saying he uses the Commons site. At first I thought he meant the Creative Commons search which I don’t fiund super-useful and told him so. He actually meant the Wikimedia Commons which is a great place to find freely licensed images.

Now Flickr has launched their Commons site which does a few things.

  1. Makes LoC images available for anyone to see
  2. Allows people to tag and interact with these photos
  3. Creates a new way of licensing or explaining their IP idea called “no known copyright protections” which they go on to explain

These beautiful, historic pictures from the Library represent materials for which the Library is not the intellectual property owner. Flickr is working with the Library of Congress to provide an appropriate statement for these materials. It’s called “no known copyright restrictions.”

Hopefully, this pilot can be used as a model that other cultural institutions would pick up, to share and redistribute the myriad collections held by cultural heritage institutions all over the world.

So, they’re taking a risk, they’re sharing their data, they’re presuming good faith, and they’re going to try this out. Close readers may also note the small text on this page “Any Flickr member is able to add tags or comment on these collections. If you’re a dork about it, shame on you. This is for the good of humanity, dude!!” Which, loosely translated means they’re starting out trusting people and trying to maintain a light tone about it.

So, the original photos are still held by the Library of Congress and Flickr has no “ownership” of them as a result of this partnership. They’re available worldwide [well except Dubai and other places that block Flickr entirely] and they’re in a system that allows for user-generated content additions to the content. I’m pleased that the LoC, or someone at the LoC decided to step up and really demonstrate how trust and openness can help further the mission of culutral institutions. Now if I could only get LoC to friend me….

2 Responses to “LoC + Flickr – Commons steps in the right direction”

  1. Dara Says:

    What a fantastic thing. Knowledge should be free and easily available to everyone. Maybe Dubai will change their minds ;)

  2. Simon Chamberlain’s library weblog » Blog Archive » Late January roundup Says:

    [...] The Library of Congress is now making its images available via Flickr, enabling users to contribute additional information about the images (The Shifted Librarian; librarian.net). [...]