Flickr Stops Selling Prints Of Photos Licensed For Free Use

Image courtesy of (John Hanley)

Creative Commons licenses let people without expansive legal teams license their creative work for use in other creative projects: a piece of Creative Commons-licensed music could appear in a podcast or a video, for example, or a photo could be used to illustrate a blog post. The idea is to let people share their work and build on others’ creative work. Users of photo-sharing site Flickr were upset about the company’s sale of prints of their CC-licensed photos without giving them a cut of the proceeds.

In the Internet spirit of sharing, doing this is actually legal, but is seriously uncool. Now, Consumerist isn’t a totally disinterested party here: this site would look very dull without Flickr users granting us permission to use their photos, either through Creative Commons or by submitting their images to the Consumerist Flickr Pool. However, what we’re doing is creating a new article illustrated with the image, not re-selling the image without adding any value, in an environment where it’s impossible to click on the photographer’s name to learn more about them and see more of their work. While users have to opt in to make their work usable for commercial purposes, Flickr selling prints of their photos without asking for permission or offering them even a nominal cut of the proceeds was unacceptable.

In a public apology to all Flickr users, the vice-president of the company wrote:

Over the past few weeks, we’ve received a lot of feedback from the community and beyond — while some expressed their excitement about the new photography marketplace and the value it would bring, many felt that including Creative Commons-licensed work in this service wasn’t within the spirit of the Commons and our sharing community.

We hear and understand your concerns, and we always want to ensure that we’re acting within the spirit with which the community has contributed. Given the varied reactions, as a first step, we’ve decided to remove the pool of Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr Wall Art, effective immediately. We’ll also be refunding all sales of Creative Commons-licensed images made to date through this service.

That’s nice, but will it be enough? Flickr users have stayed loyal to the service through years of benign neglect from parent company Yahoo, and here they’re upset about a blatant cash grab. While that makes an auspicious change, it makes many Flickr users wonder whether the company understands what the spirit of its own site is about. It’s also interesting that Flickr simply ended the Creative Commons-licensed photo program rather than having users opt in or arranging some kind of revenue sharing arrangement.

An Update on Flickr Wall Art [Flickr]
Flickr ends sale of prints uploaded under Creative Commons [CNET]