Orphan Works, revisited

July 23, 2008

My thoughts on Copyright Law in the US are muddied, as should be expected – this issue is a gnarly motherfucker, to put it bluntly. So many layers of interpretation, obfuscation, when what it really comes down to is this: today, as it stands, your work is only protected as far as you can afford to defend it in court. I don’t see how this will change with the Orphan Works bill. Lawrence Lessig might be considered one of the intellectual forebears of the whole orphan works concept, but talking with him briefly about the issue a couple months back, I found that even he doesn’t support the current bill that’s actually made it to Congressional committee.

I am re-launching in August to celebrate 10 years of experimenting on the Web at this domain name (my first personal site launched in late 1996). As part of this project, over the last year I’ve been adding to my archives and moving things from my hard drive of collected digital ruminations to the WordPress backend that currently powers this site. I have over 10,000 photographs of my travels through Europe and the United States that I have been adding to my archive.

I decided when the Orphan Works issue was first raised at the Illustration Friday blog that we need more artists who are actually living the models of radical copyright freedom and open source art distribution – to really live the model to see if it could work, to make a living as an artist while openly sharing creative works. To that end, I am going to release all of my artworks that are seven years old or older into the public domain, and license the rest under a Creative Commons or BSD license (I haven’t decided yet – the BSD license actually says what I want it to, but the Creative Commons folks are working for a larger agenda that I really support) with the intent of all my works at being free to use for personal AND commercial purposes.

My biggest fear when this idea first occurred to me (oh, in 2000 or so – I’ve had time to work this one through) was that my pieces would be used to further hateful or violent agendas. Overtime, that one fear didn’t seem like a big enough obstacle for me to desist from doing as I feel is right – opening my art to the global creative community. Anybody who spends five minutes talking to me knows that I am 100% for the art of the mashup. Take what I have made, and make something else from it. Please. And then send me a link, not because you have to, but because I will be so pleased to share what you’ve created.

I’m still working out the kinks and legal details, but I’ve modified the licensing on my Flickr images to a Creative Commons license that should be free for personal and commercial use, possibly with attribution (Flickr doesn’t offer the full range of CC licenses). This does not mean you can use pictures of my friends and family in your advertisements: I don’t have model releases for those photos, and I’m slowly setting all of my Flickr photos with people in them to a different license to make sure they’re protected. Everything else is freely available – I’ve recently added a selection of pics from Rome and Venice to Flickr to test it out. These pics aren’t the best – they need work. So I uploaded them at a high resolution and you are free to clone out the little blurry spot in the sky from my time in Rome when I wasn’t able to clean my sensor.

I will be saying a lot more on this as we get closer to the 10 year anniversary of this site.

Lastly, this should go without saying, but my opinions on copyright law are my own and are not a component of how things are done at

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