The Smithsonian Institution, the largest museum in the world, is releasing 2.8 million high-quality images through an open-access online platform, where anyone can download the images for free.
The platform comprises 2D and 3D image collections sourced from its 19 museums, nine research centers, archives, libraries, and the National Zoo.
As Smithsonian Magazine reports, all the 2.8 million images are listed under the Creative Commons Zero license. Hence, people can do whatever they want with the images, whatever!
Previously, other prominent museums such as New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and the Art Institute of Chicago have also taken similar steps; however, the scale is “unprecedented,” an expert in digital cultural heritage told the magazine.
The Smithsonian Institution will add 200,000 images to the Creative Commons collection in the coming months. Moreover, it will continue to digitize its 155 million items.
Up until now, Smithsonian followed the same protocol as most other museums. The images were released upon request and couldn’t be commercialized without permission.
These restrictions are often put in place to tackle challenges in offering images to the public. One big concern that remains relevant is abusing the image, which sullies its reputation.
Another challenge, often the primary argument in the copyright issues, is the lost opportunities for profit from rights and reproduction.
Despite the concerns, many experts believe that the step from Smithsonian is in the right direction.
“Bad actors will still do bad, and we’re empowering good actors to do good,” Effie Kapsalis, who is heading the Smithsonian’s senior digital program, told Smithsonian Magazine.