It does make a decent news story to announce the offering of a free, as in no cost to taxpayers, database of local photos for a city.

“Freely Available” is… well ok.

As told in the story from Albuquerque TV station KOB4:

Stunning images of Albuquerque and surrounding areas aren’t hard to come by, but finding them online free of charge is.

Really? I just found more than 100,000 Creative Commons licensed flickr images of Albuquerque, many stunning. Or I can use Mediachain to locate more than 1000 fantastic open-licensed photos from flickr, 500px, pexels, and dpla.

Wow, that was hard to come by. Snicker.

The “new internet database” has 400 high quality photos, produced by a local studio, at a cost of $300,000 paid by the city and private investors.

That’s $750 per image.

They do have some interesting videos and timelapse, so my math is unevenly distributed.

But of course, there is this possibility “the site has the potential to be a viral marketing tool”.

Let’s go look at some free photos.



Okay, it is “free” to register. No big deal.

Is it necessary?

Registering allows us to better track metrics on downloads. We believe this is especially important since this project is partially funded with public dollars. We will never sell, give away, or otherwise distribute your information.

As far as I can tell there are no open licenses attached to the collection. You can find on the registration page the long set of license agreements, with boilerplate lawyer fee language (for fun if you view source on the license you can see it was written in MS Word) that is much more clear if a Creative Commons license was used instead; it’s more or less the same result:

Your exercise of the Licensed Rights is
expressly made subject to the following conditions.

  1. Attribution.
  1. If You Share the Licensed Material (including in modified form),
    You must:
  1. retain the following if it is supplied by the LICENSOR with the
    Licensed Material:
  1. identification of as the creator(s) of the
    Licensed Material;
  2. a copyright notice;
  3. a notice that refers to this License by the City of Albuquerque;
  4. a notice that refers to the disclaimer of warranties;
  5. a URI or hyperlink to the Licensed Material to the extent
    reasonably practicable;
  • indicate if You modified the Licensed Material and retain an
    indication of any previous modifications; and
  • indicate the Licensed Material is licensed under this License, and
    include the text of, or the URI or hyperlink to, this License.
  • You may satisfy the conditions in Section III(a)(1) in
    any reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which
    You Share the Licensed Material. For example, it may be reasonable to
    satisfy the conditions by providing a URI or hyperlink to a resource that
    includes the required information.
  • If requested by the LICENSOR, You must remove any of the
    information required by Section III(a)(1)(A) to
    the extent reasonably practicable.
  • Share Alike.
  • In addition to the conditions in
    Section III(a), if You Share Adapted Material You
    produce, the following conditions also apply.

    1. You must include the text of, or the URI or hyperlink to, the
      Adapter’s License You apply. You may satisfy this condition in any
      reasonable manner based on the medium, means, and context in which You
      Share Adapted Material.
    2. You may not offer or impose any additional or different terms or
      conditions on, or apply any Effective Technological Measures to, Adapted
      Material that restrict exercise of the rights granted under the Adapter’s
      License You apply.

    As far as I can tell there is no API so the collection can be integrated into other apps or other parts of the information ecosystem. The database is a small, unconnected island. It’s a pretty island. It bears no indication (from viewing source) that it is anything but a custom designed database.

    The photos are really really good, do not get me wrong:


    But the only metadata visible is an image file name and a list of tags. You get way more data in flickr- this is just a bit of what flickr provides for the image I used at the top of this post:

    Got metadata? Flickr does.
    Got metadata? Flickr does.

    Why would the city of Albuquerque not participate in a commons, say by adding their images to the Flickr Commons? Or working with their libraries, make the collection part of the Digital Public Library of America?

    I am not critical of the project. I am definitely not critical of the media produced. And if I was able to get a big money grant to produce media, I would love the opportunity.

    I am critical of harping over this idea of free being virtuous in terms of cost of access. By not participating in a larger ecosystem of media, by not using standard infrastructures for data management, by not deploying open licenses in use by billions of pieces of other media, it’s a huge opportunity loss.

    But hey, potentially it might go viral.

    Air release
    flickr photo shared by Rox’s Pix under a Creative Commons ( BY-NC-ND ) license

    Top / Featured Image: Found this photo by searching mediachain for Albuquerque (after misspelling it a few times)- the source of the image is in flickr, so I used my own preferred attribution tool to give credit got flickr photo by jghil shared under a Creative Commons (BY-NC-ND) license.

    Admittedly, not running my attribution through Mediachain means I am not adding to the chain, so here is their attribution code, just for the blocks.

    Albuquerque Balloon Festival by Jghil via Attribution Engine. Licensed under CC BY-NC-ND.

    The post "Free(ish) Images, Not Open. For 300,000 Bones" was originally dropped like a smoking hot potato at CogDogBlog ( on November 19, 2016.

    No comments yet.

    Leave a Comment

    All fields are required. Your email address will not be published.

    Creative Commons License
    Free(ish) Images, Not Open. For 300,000 Bones by CogDogBlog is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 License.