A few years ago I found myself in need of images for an earlier edition of my book that I did not have on hand, or have any way of shooting. I needed a winter scene but was 250 miles and 2 months away from one. I needed strongly lit footage to demonstrate color matching with extreme lighting; this I could have shot, but more than just images, I needed inspiration.
We've come a long way in the past decade with image sharing. Thanks to increased bandwidth the growth of the web, and fantastic photo sharing sites like flickr, you no longer have to find, stage and shoot everything yourself.
Or do you? It's illegal, and uncool, to use imagery against the wishes of the user. Standard copyright law plans for this by assuming that the creator wants to retain all rights, and requires big bucks for usage. This law may be in place whether or not a work specifically states it is under copyright. Is there a better way? Absolutely.
Perhaps no one disagrees with more commitment to evolving copyright law than Lawrence Lessig, founder of Creative Commons, whose motto is "Share, Remix, Reuse- Legally."
The philosophy is that culture is built upon one artist extending the work of another. The result is the Creative Commons license, which allows a copyright holder to specify where and how creative work is re-used.
And Flickr turned out to have the solution to my dilemma, via the
Flickr's Creative Commons has recently received its 100 millionth photo. If you know of other valuable sites making use of Creative Commons licenses, by all means share them.