Case Studies/Quinn Dombrowski

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Quinn Dombrowski has over 28,000 CC BY-SA licensed photos on Flickr, which have been used on-line and in print around the world.

I see beauty everywhere, and I want others to see it too. — Quinn Dombrowski


Quinn Dombrowski began sporadically posting photographs to Flickr in 2006, and has added to her photostream almost daily since August 2007. Both her start in photography and its resurgence in 2007 were in response to a friend who had been diagnosed with leukemia, and his doubts about whether life was worth living. Quinn wanted to share with him the random beauty she finds, and her discovery of Flickr allowed her to share that beauty more widely.

Quinn is not a professional photographer; by day she works in IT at the University of Chicago. She has committed herself to take at least one photograph every day, but some days that number balloons to hundreds. She posts almost all of them to Flickr with a CC BY-SA license, and her public "one-woman stock photo collection" consists of nearly 28,500 photos and counting.

License Usage

Ever since she joined Flickr, Quinn has used some kind of Creative Commons license, though the specific license has changed over time. She has enjoyed watching the various ways people have been able to use her photos thanks to Creative Commons licensing.

Since February 2008, Quinn has kept track of many of the places that have used her photos, mostly using the referrer stats that Flickr provides. Beginning in August 2008, Quinn started taking screenshots of blog posts that use her photos, and posting those screenshots back to Flickr. A few people contact her personally to let her know they're using her photos; most people don't.

Her photos have been used on blogs such as the BBC, the Wall Street Journal, and Boing Boing; off the Web, they have appeared on the cover of Julkaisija, a Finnish design magazine, the TV program "History Detectives", produced by Oregon Public Broadcasting, and an exhibit at the new Bureau of Land Management visitor center in Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area in Nevada.

Quinn is also a user of Creative Commons licensed photos, which she relies on to recreate photographs she took in her dreams and regrettably lost when she woke up.


Quinn first noticed the Creative Commons logo on a blog in 2004, and has licensed almost all of her photos using Creative Commons since she joined Flickr in 2006. From 2006 until late 2008, all her photographs were licensed CC BY-NC-SA, because she was uncomfortable with the idea of other people profiting by selling her work.

Quinn re-evaluated her use of the Non-Commercial aspect of the license in the aftermath of the 2008 election. Living down the street from Barack Obama, and voting at his polling place, Quinn had access to places and events that most people didn't, and as such she wanted to license those photos as freely as possible. When she saw how many blogs were using those CC BY photos, she realized that the NC clause of her photos' license was preventing their use in for-profit blogs. She felt the benefits of removing the NC clause outweighed the potential risks, and now almost all of her photos use a CC BY-SA license. She is committed to retaining the Share-Alike condition of the license, with the goal of encouraging more people to adopt Creative Commons licenses-- and to prevent her photography from being locked down by copyright in derivative works.

Quinn enjoys the occasional supplementary income from photography gigs, and has sold products with some of her images on CafePress, but the money is negligible. The joy of sharing the world's random beauty with as many people as possible, and seeing the interesting and unusual places it ends up, is her reason for taking, uploading, and tagging so many photographs.