The Schmap map/guide folk have done something incredibly clever. They searched Flickr for Creative Commons licensed photos, then emailed the photographers asking for permission to use the photos in their Schmap guides. At first I thought, cool, I'm honored to have my Las Vegas photo in there. The next thing I thought was cool, they're using Creative Commons for business purposes. Today I realized that there's something much bigger than saving money: they're getting free marketing. Lots of bloggers use flickr. These bloggers are posting about being selected for Schmap: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17. It's a mix of people being flattered, confused, and offended.
There's some controversy over whether the ad-supported Schmap application is allowed to use Creative Commons “non-commercial” photos. I do think ad-supported makes it commercial. The Creative Commons non-commercial license lets you use the material for non-commercial purposes without asking permission But by asking permission, I think they can use them despite the non-commercial restriction. They're basically asking for a license to use the photos, and they're not using them under the Creative Commons license. There are also some folk unhappy about Schmap using Creative Commons material but then not licensing their own content under Creative Commons. I don't have a problem with that part. I don't see Creative Commons as being viral. Another issue is whether amateur photography will disrupt the market for professionals. I think it might, but maybe it should. It shouldn't be illegal or immoral for me to give my photos or my programs or my movies or my books or my source code or my music or my services away for free or at any cost I choose.
I think the main reason they asked permission is so that people would blog about Schmap. And it worked. If they had used their own photos, or used Creative Commons commercial licensed photos without asking (which would be legal), nobody would've heard of Schmap.