Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Smithsonian Images on Flickr

Originally uploaded by chinese_fashion.
A non-profit group has posted 6,288 images from the Smithsonian's archives to Flickr in an act of protest. According to Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org, the Smithsonian has been taking money and applying copyright for images that are fair-use and open to the public.

From an AP story:

"I don't care if they sell the photos, but then once they sell it, they can't say you can't reuse this photo," said Carl Malamud, co-founder of the group Public.Resource.Org, advocates for posting more government information online.

"You're not allowed to chill debate by telling people they can't use something because it's under copyright when that's not true."

Most images the Smithsonian is selling, including photos of artifacts and historic figures, are not protected by copyright, Malamud said. But the Smithsonian site carries copyright notices and other warnings that would discourage most people from using historic images that should be publicly available, he said.

Malamud testified last year in Congress against the Smithsonian's long-term television deal with Showtime Networks because he said it could restrict public access to the national museums' archives. He is also critical of other Smithsonian business deals, calling them "privatizing of the archives."

In an open letter to the entire Internet, linked off of Public.Resource.Org's photostream, the group explains:

To understand why the Smithsonian is over-reaching when it comes to photographs, one must remember that works of the U.S. government have no copyright protection whatsoever. Works of the United States Government are in the public domain. 17 U.S.C. § 105 While there are subtle exceptions, such as work prepared by private contractors exempted under special exemptions established in the Federal Acquisition Regulations ( FAR 52.227-14), the general principle is quite clear and applies just as much to the Smithsonian Institution as to any other part of our federal government. As Rachell V. Browne, Assistant General Counsel of the Smithsonian Institution said in a statement submitted to the U.S. Copyright Office:

“The Smithsonian cannot own copyright in works prepared by Smithsonian employees paid from federal funds.”

This link will take you to the Smithsonian collection on Flickr.

The upshot is this: this is an AMAZING batch of photos on Flickr right now that you should definitely see and use while you still can -- there' photos of coal mines, aircraft, dinosaurs, all this incredible, beautiful historic stuff -- see it while you can, because I doubt this will be up for long.


At 12:23 PM, Anonymous Ceilisundancer said...

A friend of mine is a photographer. One of his many clients is the Smithsonian. I don't know if copyrights would be applicable for his work, or not. I do know that photographs taken by Federal Government employees on the job with Government equipment and all that, are not owned by the individual, but the agency and the general public. Not for private gain. I suppose a proper credit given is never out of order, however. I had read of this in The Washington Post. Ahh, cool photos, though! :)

At 10:05 PM, Blogger Omar Cruz said...

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