Copyright Clearance? A Mountain of Paper? Arggh, Just Take ’em

Back in 1997, 1998 I created a old collection of digital photos from places I’ve been to in the southwest, More Than Just Four Corners. Like Meteor Crater, Havasupai, Chaco Canyon… Every now and then someone emails me asking for permission to use one of them (Google to the rescue), and I always do, unless they have a sleazy return email address like “thor@thunder-porn.com”. Teachers want to use the Sonoran Desert photos, a band in Germany wanted a Death Valley shot for a CD cover…

I do not care- they mostly are not even of high quality, and the older ones are merely scanned from 35mm prints, and if I was that worried they would not be sitting on a web server where Google walks.

But to what lengths are people being cornered to create mounds of paper in terms of releases, for stuff I am willing to give away? Even with the Creative Commons attached?

Anyhow, two weeks ago I got an email with a request from a college in Canada wanting to use two of these images for online and print materials. I was hopeful a reply with a “yes” was okay, but nooooo- they asked me to print the e-mail, sign it, and mail it back to them. How efficient can this process be? There is staff time spent researching these resources, generating paperwork, filing it, storing it into endless rows of boxes on endless rows of shelves in some subterranean basement…. It boggles me.

Then the kicker was yesterday getting the letter returned because our mail room neglected to put correct postage to get to Canada. I hope their development was not hinging on getting back my signed paper.

Stone-aged processes grafted onto digital technology.

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Profile Picture for Alan Levine aka CogDog
An early 90s builder of the web and blogging Alan Levine barks at CogDogBlog.com on web storytelling (#ds106 #4life), photography, bending WordPress, and serendipity in the infinite internet river. He thinks it's weird to write about himself in the third person.


  1. I can’t believe you actually sent the letter. That’s more than I would have done. If an institution adopts irrational copyright policies, let them pay the price.

  2. I was feeling generous that day. Besides, it was not the person who sent me the request that could change the policy, so I was willing to help out a staff person and bark here.

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