Got an email earlier in the week asking me for permission to use some of my Ancient Egypt-related pics that I have posted to Wikimedia Commons for use in a book. Turns out that it is for an illustrated version of the bible from a small press somewhere in the States.
I answered and told them that yes, they could have my permission, though I have to admit that I felt a bit conflicted, since as an atheist I feel like I am “aiding and abetting” to some extent. That qualm is a small one though, since when I uploaded the pics to Wikimedia Commons I relinquished any claim as to retaining ownership of those images, all ostensibly for the “greater good” of Wikimedia in general. Turns out though that that provision doesn’t extend necessarily to print, hence the query to me about the pics was not just a courtesy.
Apparently they will use the pics (ranging from a wooden model of people working in a bakery to a stela of a late period pharaoh) and give full attribution to myself as the photographer, to Wikimedia Commons, and to the institution where the artifact in question is located. On the whole it seems like everyone is to be treated fairly, and I am disinclined to say “no” to a seeming equitable proposal.
The only real potential downside is that the home institution where the artifact resides might otherwise loose out on some money for licensing the photo directly, but in my experience they don’t always have pictures of the more minor items available, and whatever is posted to Wikimedia will not be professionally shot — the resolution for print will be low in comparison to whatever the home museum could provide, and in most cases there is glare or awkward lighting that inevitably degrades the quality of most of the images, even after a bit of PhotoShopping.
On the whole, I think the idea behind Wikimedia Commons is a good thing, and am happy to lend my support to people who want to include any of the pictures I have shot anywhere else.
Getting a photography credit in print is nice too.