If you’re one of the millions of users registered on Flickr, you may want to check the license settings of your photos. The Yahoo-owned photo sharing site recently announced that it’s going to be selling prints of 50 million Creative Commons-licensed images. With the exception of a few, hand-selected photos, the photographers will see no portion of the profits. And yes, this is perfectly legal. The Wall Street Journal confirmed:
Yahoo says it is complying with the terms of Creative Commons by selling only images that permit commercial use. The licenses “are designed for the exact use case that we’re enacting through our wall-art product,” Bernardo Hernandez, vice president of Flickr, wrote in an email.
Each canvas print will also come with a small sticker bearing the name of the artist.
A spokesman for Creative Commons, a nonprofit group formed in 2001, confirmed Yahoo is in accord with its licenses. Legally, “it doesn’t appear that Flickr is doing anything wrong,” said Corynne McSherry, intellectual-property director for the Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Still, it certainly feels slimy. Photographers on Flickr are divided over the announcement:
The Wall Street Journal contacted 14 photographers with Creative Commons-licensed works on Flickr. Eight said they didn’t object to Yahoo’s move and are happy to get additional exposure for their work. “Any amateur photographer would love to have his or her photos hanging on walls around the world,” Andreas Overland, a Flickr user in Oslo, Norway, said in an email.
Six others objected to the company profiting from their works.
“When I accepted the Creative Commons license, I understood that my images could be used for things like showing up in articles or other works where they could be showed to public,” Nelson Lourenço, a photographer in Lisbon, Portugal, said in an email. Yahoo “selling my work and getting the full money out of it came as a surprise,” he said.
Even the company’s co-founder Stewart Butterfield, who left in 2008, called it “a little shortsighted.”
“It’s hard to imagine the revenue from selling the prints will cover the cost of lost goodwill,” he said.
In the meantime, what you can do? Take your photos off Creative Commons, or hope that your image is one of the chosen ones.