When it comes to my DJ mixes, I’ve always maintained a Creative Commons license. It’s made sense to me, as my only objective is to spread the beautiful music I find as much as possible. The music heals me and so I hope it does the same for others who listen. I make no money from the mixes, as they are for promotional purposes only, and the artists whose music I play seem to be happy with the extra promotion they receive. A win-win situation, in my book.
When it comes to my photography, for the longest time I adopted a different attitude. A walled garden. Exclusivity. All Rights Reserved. I’ve had an epiphany about this, and have changed my copyright accordingly. From now on, all my photos will be shared publicly with a Creative Commons license, whether it’s on Flickr, Zenfolio, Facebook, Google+ or wherever. It’s incredibly liberating to have made this change, but I want to explain myself further.
In the years I’ve been online (first time was 1990, in the CompuServe days), community has always excited me. I can remember in the aftermath of the 1994 Northridge earthquake, when all long distance phone service was knocked out for days, I was most interested in getting word to my out-of-town family and friends that I was OK, that I had survived.
View of my office and into kitchen showing the 1994 post-quake chaos
Since only local calls were allowed, I dialed into CompuServe and into a message board where I had found a sense of community, and asked if anyone would be willing to call my people local to their area to pass along a message. Instantly I had volunteers from Central California, the UK and New York who managed to call everyone on my list and put my loved ones’ fears to rest about my status. I was so grateful and cultivated a deep appreciation for how integrated an online community can be to one’s personal life. I’ve never stopped participating in online communities, and over the years have even become an administrator or moderator for several of them, and now offer services to my tech clients to help them manage their presence on many of the most popular social networks.
Fast-forward to the present. I’ve managed to find my music community online, in places like SoundCloud, Facebook and Last.fm, but had barely established a presence on Flickr, faithfully uploading images on a regular basis but not really reaching out beyond it. Along came Google+ which has a healthy presence of photographers, pro and amateur alike. I rediscovered one of my favorite travel photographers, Trey Ratcliff, whose work has graced my desktop many a time. I’ve already made myself familiar with his various tutorials on his blog, and happily shared many of his shots through Facebook with friends who are now also instant fans; but it was an article he wrote about watermarks (and his refusal to use them) along with a talk he gave at Google about Artists on the Internet that really inspired and motivated me to make the change away from All Rights Reserved. I resonate deeply with this philosophy.
Why do I take photos and decide to share them online? When I really examined this (prompted by the interview I had with Allison Outschoorn of The Writing Grove, who skillfully crafted my photographer’s bio), I found that my primary intention is to remind people of the beauty that exists in our world. So often we’re bombarded by images of what’s wrong, what’s horrifying, what’s evil. It makes for sensational headlines in traditional media outlets (which I’m happy to say are rarely ever in my sphere of reading or watching), but it can leave one with a sense that we’re going down the drain without much redeeming qualities left. My opinion is that it’s simply not true. While it is important, of course, to be aware of important geopolitical shifts and events taking place on the planet (uprisings, natural disasters, crimes against humanity), it is equally important to savor all that is good in our world, whether it be majestic natural beauty, or stories of how people help people in times of need, or particular human achievements. It’s essential to my personal well-being to maintain the balance, and so I often choose to take photos that somehow illustrate this, from the sublime to the silly.
This is also a guiding philosophy for me in why I choose to play the music that I do as a DJ. Music can be such a healing force in one’s life, and in some cases can even act as a catalyst for change, whether it’s on a personal or global level.
As such, feedback from my communities and the world at large is a vital adjunct to my decision to be “out there” on the Internet with my pursuits. With this in mind, it makes far more sense to me to open up the sharing possibilities that come with a Creative Commons license, while still protecting myself from attempts to profit from my work without appropriate compensation. My work is still available in print in limited edition series, for those who wish for exclusivity; however if someone simply wants to use my work as wallpaper, or in a relevant blog post for personal use, or what have you, that someone is free to do so now without additional consideration.
It feels fantastic to be free!