Why SpaceX’s photos (maybe) aren’t public domain
Jessamyn West

Why SpaceX’s photos are now public domain

It takes a village to change a license

So hey a funny thing happened. A few days after I wrote the article about SpaceX and it zipped around the web, Flickr made this announcement

followed a few hours later by this announcement by Creative Commons


Flickr announced the change in the Help Forums to an underwhelming response, driving home the point that it’s mostly nerds and crusaders, infoanarchists and copylefters, who care deeply about this stuff. I’ve already started bugging Flickr to make sure that public domain and CC0 content is searchable in their new and old search interfaces. Right now you can see where the content will go on Flickr’s Creative Commons page, but there’s nothing there yet. (update: a few days later there are almost 100K images newly available as public domain or CC0)


Impatient folks can search for other newly-free content via the proud tradition of URL munging, adding &license=9%2C10 (license types nine and ten) to their search queries’ web address like so

Even though this is a small change on a single website, it’s a great step towards making free content a practical and sensible choice for more people and organizations. When more risk-averse institutions such as museums and libraries see corporations that you’ve heard of deciding to take steps like this, it makes it easier for individuals to build a case for including this type of functionality and licensing when they create their own digital archives.

I’d personally like to see much more online content have less-restrictive licensing as a default option, not just a clunky retrofit. And someone has to take the first steps so others can follow.

There is something delightful about a set of public domain images that includes last month’s space photography alongside 100+ year old hand drawn maps of the moon.

Thanks to UCL Faculty of Mathematical and Physical Sciences

Huge thanks to Christopher Berry & Co. at Flickr, Elon Musk & the crew at SpaceX, Ryan Merkley & Co. at Creative Commons, Jason Koebler at Vice, and tweeters Pandoomic and Bilal Farooqui. Also to whoever tweets for Flickr, you really made my day.

This is me. And this photo has no known copyright restrictions.