Flickr: All Rights Reserved

March 31st, 2009

I recently received an email from a photographer who was a little perturbed about her Flickr photos appearing on one of the website my team maintains. She was adamant that, since she had set the licensing to All Rights Reserved, her photos should not appear on any other website without explicit written permission. This reminded me of something that Jeremy Keith had highlighted a few years back.  He created a PHP $stroppy_users array to deal with that particular problem!

The interesting thing about this is that Flickr doesn’t prevent All Rights Reserved photos from appearing on third party websites as standard. People who use the Flickr API have to build the feature into their widget. Surely it would make more sense for the API to block these kind of photos by default, enabling the widget developer to override this setting?

It turns out that Flickr users can prevent their photos from appearing in public areas by activating a setting in their Flickr preferences. This means that their photos will no longer appear in the public time-line or under the various ways of browsing people’s photos (by tag, by date, by location). However, plenty of photographers are looking to make money from their photos and as such would not get the desired exposure if their photos were hidden from public view. It seems that such photographers are keen that their photos are available on the Flickr public areas but not via third-party websites. There is no setting within Flickr to accommodate this requirement.

I put a lot of photos on Flickr myself. But I’m not a professional photographer. I have no intention of selling my pics and can’t imagine anybody would actually want to buy them anyway. I’ve had a few requests here and there from various organisations who want to use my photos (Southampton Football Club and Buckingham Floods being two recent examples). I happily let them use the pictures with the usual “as long as you give me credit” caveat. But I don’t make a living from photography. I’ve come to the conclusion that perhaps Flickr isn’t the right place for pros to set up shop. But what are the alternatives?

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3 Responses to “Flickr: All Rights Reserved”

  1. Guy Carberry

    is watermarking your photos the answer?

  2. Keren Mills

    I have found in the past, when someone wanted to use some of my photos and contacted me for permission, that Flickr does prevent access to the full size image if it’s marked ‘All Rights Reserved’, but I suppose if you’re using them for webpages that doesn’t matter.

    Perhaps watermarking, the way iStockPhoto does, is the answer. Perhaps Flickr should offer a watermarking option at the point of upload.

  3. Guy Carberry

    Hi Keren, yes I think they do only allow access to a small version. The thing a bout the widgets I’m talking about is they’re often of the ‘sidebar’ thumbnail variety — tiny little previews of the photo that when you click on them you end up at the larger version which is hosted on Flickr.

    In this case the images are so small that they are hardly useful at all — especially from a reuse perspective. Watermarks wouldn’t event be seen at this size.

    I’m still not convinced that people who are using Flickr for commercial purposes are using the right tool though. Are there any options for the pro photographer that offer a more restrictive API?