OPINION: Taymaz Valley - The Met Museum Makes 375,000 Images Free


Shutter Hub member and contributor Taymaz Valley recently got in touch about the news that the Metropolitan Museum of Arts in New York City has made 375,000 images of art and photography available online for free. We felt this was something our readers would find interesting and useful, so we've invited Taymaz to share the news, and his opinion on art sharing and ownership more generally, in his own words.



The Metropolitan Museum of Art (the Met) in New York City, United States, has made 375,000 images of art and photography (some included in this article) available online, for free, under Creative Commons Zero (CCo). This move by the Met, reported widely in the US, makes available the high-resolution public domain images that the museum holds in its collection online, to users free from any intellectual property rights, which in essence allows users to do whatever they like with the downloadable images. 

Thomas P. Campbell, CEO and the director of the Met, announced the news on February 7th 2017, and unsurprisingly, support, encouragement and congratulatory remarks followed from some of the top players in the art, museum and copyright world. Ryan Merkley, Creative Commons’ CEO said of the move that “sharing is fundamental to how we promote discovery, innovation, and collaboration in the digital age,” and Thomas P. Campbell in turn pointed out that “increasing access to the Museum’s collection and scholarship serves the interests and needs of our 21st-century audiences by offering new resources for creativity, knowledge, and ideas.” He then thanked “Creative Commons, an international leader in open access and copyright, for being a partner in this effort.”



Apart from being a huge win for the Creative Commons industry, artists and photographers who use these images in their work; this move by the Met has implications for how we observe the most fundamental part of our institutionalized economic structure and political milieu today. The world is fast moving away from a market driven, profit based economy, to a more sustainable sharing economy, and the Met is one of the first museums that has accepted and supported this positive new world order. 

What is fundamentally different, in the new sharing economy, is the way more humane and empathetic take on consumption has led the way to better people’s lives, and bring together communities. The social nature of human beings is being cemented, and we are experiencing closer relationships with our fellow neighbours, community members and citizens. Is it too wishful to see this expanding to all of humanity, on a global scale? I hope not.

If I create or capture an image, which many online share, and use in different creative ways, is there a depreciation, or a devaluation of my work? No. On the contrary. Sharing my images online under Creative Commons allows for more exposure and more usage of my image. Why should I opt out of allowing many to enjoy my work, for the sake of a wealthy individual mindlessly hanging it on his or her bedroom wall, because it might match the colour of their drapes? Or worse, in a vault until the image appreciates in market value, probably because I have, naturally and thankfully, died.

The notion that an artist has to be in bed with wealthy patrons, in order to make ends meet, is an old, and dare I say, obsolete proposition. Today you are able to make a living from your Instagram page, so why can’t we envisage a time, not in a distant future, where all art and photography are available for the public consumption, for free, while making sure that the artist and photographer is living well and thriving?

I think we have been sold a lie. We have been told to graft and pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, because only tough grind can result in success. The problem with that scenario is that those on the top are not playing by the same rules. The top 1% are lying and cheating their way out of paying their fair share, and so accumulating wealth without it trickling down to the bottom layers. So the system they are recommending to us is essentially flawed, and in need of decisive modifications. The current market driven, capitalist model needs rethinking, and your poverty-stricken correspondent believes a sharing economy is more suitable for our times. That is why I have made available all of my artwork and photographs free to download and use under Creative Commons, in hopes of contributing, ever so slightly, to the reestablishment of the social aspects of our humanity. If the Met can lead the art world in sharing free images, then surely we all can do our best in contributing to the betterment of our global community by being responsible global citizens.   



Images (top to bottom) by John Warwick Brooke, Alfred Steiglitz, Lewis Hine and Laěszloě Moholy-Nagy – all freely available from the Met's online collection.


While the views Taymaz shares in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Shutter Hub, we believe it's important to provide a space to voice opinions.

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