In early December 2013 the British Library released over 1 million public domain images onto Flickr.com. These images are free to download and are in the public domain which means that you can do anything you want with them, they are royalty free and copyright free. There are a lot of people that are extremely excited about this announcement, and I was too at first, until I started downloading the images. So far, I have downloaded over 12,000 of the public domain images and only 28 of them are larger than 1MB in size.
Apparently, in 2008, the British Library, partnered with Microsoft, to digitize 68,000 out-of-copyright books from the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries. Now they asking for help. Even though they know which book each image is taken from, the majority of the million picture collection is uncatalogued, and its subject matter unknown. Next year, they plan to launch a crowdsourced application to allow people to tag the images. The information gathered will then be used to train an automated classifier that will then be run against the entire collection of images that were scanned. Also, the British Library is soliciting ideas for how to present the collection to aid the tagging and metadata generation, and also make the pictures easier to navigate.
Some of the Public Domain Images
To download 10,000 of the public domain images with one click, Click Here.
Most of the folks that will be the most excited about 1 Million public domain images, are folks like you and me who like using the public domain images in our design and artwork. Unfortunately it looks like the person at Microsoft in charge of scanning the images was drunk half the time and asleep the rest of the time. The images are cropped at weird angles chopping off important words and details that would help better catalog the images. To get me on board with helping to tag these images I’m going to need a pretty big incentive. Pay me money, which isn’t going to happen, or give me something of great value. The great value could have been there, if they would have provided higher resolution better scans.
They are trying to solicit the public to help in this endeavor and as one post stated “This is a remarkable, public spirited, archival project, and the British Library is to be loudly applauded for it!” For me my excitement began wavering when I realized the limitations with this collection of public domain images. Sure, the images will be great to look at on a computer screen, but if any artists or designers want to be able to use them on a larger scale, it’s just not going to happen, the image quality is just not there. So, thanks for nothing British Library! You built me up just to let me down.
I was totally let down by the British on this one. How about you? How do you feel about this? Are they asking for too much and giving to little in return? Drop your thoughts in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear how you feel about this.