The “Danger” of Creative Commons

Creative Commons logoBeing that I’m a planning and transit buff, I take a lot of pictures of urban spaces and infrastructure for use in my planning work. I post many of the pictures to Flickr, as the site’s a great service and it supports geotagged photos taken with my GPS camera. With the exception of pictures of family and friends, all of my pictures are public and licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution, Noncommercial, Share Alike license. This allows anyone to use my photographs for most uses, explicitly non-commercial use, provided they note that I am the source of the image. Well, what happens when someone you disagree with uses that image to promote his or her agenda? What if that person is Senator John McCain?

Senators Coburn and McCain released “Summertime Blues,” a report on¬†projects that have received funding from the Federal Government as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that “are being mismanaged or were poorly planned.” Number 5 on the list of projects is the renovation of the Glassboro Train Depot. The old train depot received $1 million to be rehabbed into a train museum. It’s just south of Rowan University’s campus and it’s transit related, so naturally, I took a picture of it. I took pictures of it and much of the rail ROW as it passes through my part of the County. All of it online for people to use.

I support the renovation of the train station and I support the movement to restore public interest in railroads as a viable option for personal transportation. I co-authored a report from the Office of Smart Growth that found that for alternatives proposed for extending mass transit into South Jersey, restoration of the existing rail infrastructure was most in-line with the goals of the New Jersey State Plan.

Am I upset that an anti-rail group used my picture for their own use? Not really. The Internet is founded on sharing information. I would be a hypocrite if I was bothered by it. I’m not entirely happy with the wording of the caption, as “photo courtesy of” implies that I had some part in their selection of the photograph. They sourced the photo properly and it’s a non-commercial use, so go for it. They should have used it on the cover. I think placing the Train Depot at #5 is too high on the list (possibly getting so high because it’s a project in a Democrat town in a Democrat county) given how large and mismanaged this country is. When it comes to infrastructure costs, $1 million is pocket change. Have we forgotten the $400 million Bridge to Nowhere already?

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One Response to The “Danger” of Creative Commons

  1. SZP says:

    I worry about this all the time. I would love to be able to take photos that people wanted, but just letting anybody take them? I don’t know. Then again, you’re famous! Congrats! :)