Yesterday, on my commute home from work, I noticed a dark, bilious plume of smoke on the horizon some three miles south of Glens Falls, NY while driving north from Saratoga Springs on Interstate 87, the Northway. This is the main artery between New York City and Montréal, Québec, Canada. As I approached my apartment, I observed a huge structure fire burning wildly out of control a few blocks away on Sherman Avenue. Thankfully, no one perished in the fire which burned until 5 AM the next morning. There was a miraculous rescue and there were injuries though nothing life threatening… I’d never been so moved in a painfully public moment that was about to get many people’s attention in Glens Falls and beyond. In a crisis moment, courageous responders risk their lives to extinguish a fire while bystanders look on, some very upset, others angry, children and adults holding hands and crying… It’s a moment of chaos like I’d never experienced before. And here I was with an iPhone taking a few pictures and hoping for the best. Twenty-five people lost everything last night in Glens Falls, mostly folks on the lower end of the socio economic scale. I currently do not have renter’s insurance so I’m going to set that up next week.
I took a few images with my iPhone 5s and uploaded them to my Flickr account (update: since Yahoo was hacked and not as transparent as it should be, I’ve temporarily diasbled all but one image, until a migration to another site) and shared on various social media platforms. What ensued after I shared the pics was something very real. One of my images found its way onto a few local and regional news websites. Within fifteen minutes, I was contacted by numerous media sources in the Albany area like CBS, ABC etc (10/19/16 update: CBS link decay.. page is now gone. ABC page still active as of today, see screenshot below in case it goes away) who issued BREAKING NEWS alerts on Twitter and on their websites, all asking for permission to use my images – which I happily granted as a courtesy, at no cost to the publisher, as long as I was given credit. What this really means is: thank you for asking my permission first and above all for sharing my work with others both correctly and within the parameters of Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike
Someone from the Associated Press, a photo editor in New York City, asked me to call him which I did. He sent me a disclaimer form via personal email stating that I granted AP full rights to use my work for syndication for their subscribers. You can see one of my images, retweeted many times over, and that is now archived in the AP repository. (update 10/19/16 AP page is gone, see screenshot below) But interestingly enough, if someone would like to purchase my image, they have to contact me first per AP. To be honest, it’s not for sale, it’s a gift to the WWW. I believe in creative commons licensing on my personal work though I’m not a huge stickler about it until now perhaps. Alan Levine, Alec Couros, Bryan Alexander, Jim Groom, Audrey Watters, Larry Lessig and countless others have made CC rise to the top my absolute need-to-understand-and-share-with-others awareness list.
As you can see here, North Country Public Radio in Canton, NY has used my image in a story, now syndicated by the Associated Press, without needing to ask me for permission. All I ask for regarding my personal work and creativity, is that in a sharing economy where we approach the creation and distribution of materials online, I receive credit and attribution for my work. NCPR left a comment on my Flickr page: “Thanks for making this Creative Commons. I have used it to illustrate an AP story about the fire.” They did not even need to ask me first. That’s the power and simplicity of sharing this way from anywhere, but especially from a mobile device.
The wrong way to do it: News 10 Albany appropriation of my intellectual property without attribution. If their page is no longer available, see pic above.
The right way to do it: Screenshot of my waived copyright with correct attribution by the AP as per my CC license and as signed in agreement with them emailed to me while still on site at the fire. Basically, the agreement states I will not sue them and I’m giving my IP away at no cost in exchange for mandatory credit (AP webpage pic above no longer live).