Tuesday, 29 March 2011


Congratulations to LACMA, who have started releasing great big hi-res images of public domain works in their collection for unrestricted use.*

They join all the institutions who are releasing photos through The Commons on Flickr and the V&A and British Museum who offer free self-service downloadable images to qualifying users and publishers.

I've heard whispers lately that picture libraries in cultural organisations don't generate much revenue. I'm *not* saying they don't do a good and useful job, getting people to the images they want, getting people copies of those images and - some - helping with the copyright process. But the cost models - where you pay the same amount for an image that's already been digitised and to get an analogue item digitised, where you pay the same amount for delivery on a CD and delivery by FTP, where you're paying for someone to process your form when really a database can handle the job (or you could just face up to the right-click facts of life) - are broken.**

So how can we refactor picture libraries to focus on the good stuff - getting people to things and helping them use them - and take the focus off the dull stuff (forms and CDs)? I'd love to see some NZ institutions makes it as easy as LACMA, the V&A and the British Museum.

*with the caveat that you use them at your own risk and request that you acknowledge LACMA and trust me - I've written these pages, and that's as close as you're going to get to an institution singing a rousing chorus of born free, as free as the wind blows, as free as the grass grows ...

** user testing on a project I'm currently working on recently showed that some people assume if you can right-click and save a copy of an item, that means it's copyright-cleared. Now, that's interesting.

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