Flickr Selling Your Photos With No Compensation To You If You Agreed To Creative Commons

Posted Dec. 1st, 2014 by Daniel J. Cox

Flickr Selling Your Photos With No Compensation to You If You Agreed to Creative Commons! Well, I hate to say I told you so, but Yahoo, which owns Flickr, has just done what I’ve been worried about from Facebook and other social media sites. Flickr is now selling prints from the hundreds of thousands, maybe millions, of images on the Flickr website for as much as $49.00 and giving nothing to the photographer if the photographer was crazy enough to select Flickr’s Creative Commons option. You can find out more about this blatant rip off of Intellectual Property Rights by clicking on this link to the Wall Street Journal story titled Fight Over Yahoo’s Use of Flickr Photos. I’ve not been a big fan of Flickr to begin with so deleting my account didn’t take much. And that is exactly what I did. A big, fat, DELETE ACCOUNT! You can too by following these instructions.

Delete Flickr Account

Follow these instructiona to stop Flickr from stealing AND profiting from YOUR hard earned photos. Click on the image above to be taken to the Flickr page that takes these thieving bums out of the picture (pun intended).

So the cat is out of the bag and only a serious pushback by Flickr photographers will stop this absurd theft from spilling over to others such as Facebook. If enough of us DELETE our Flickr accounts the message will be sent. If you don’t delete your account, you’re allowing a multi-billion dollar corporation (Forty Billion based on this article printed October, 2014 in the Economist) to make even more profit from your hard-earned photos which you receive nothing for (if you were goofy enough to agree to their Creative Commons contract). If you signed this contract, then I guess you get exactly what you signed up for. Nothing! Other than a stick in the eye from the big kahunas sitting in their ivory towers at Flickr. Do I sound a little ticked? Ya think? Why is it that photographers are so VAIN that they are willing to hand their work out to anybody who promises to put it on their wall? Good grief, anybody can give ANYTHING away. It takes confidence and feelings of self-worth to ask to get paid something for your photography. Buck up and do what’s right for your own self-esteem. Take some pride in your artistic endeavors and your devotion to your passion and vision. Those images are yours and nobody else’s unless you choose to give them away. So please make some noise and take a stand and DELETE your Flickr account now. Let me know what you think and what you plan to do in the comments below. Thanks for your interest and support for keeping photography valued as something special.

Good riddance Flickr. I hope your servers crash on the activity of your long time supporters getting rid of their accounts.

Good riddance Flickr.

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There are 24 comments on this post…
  1. My mother said "Put a light on a C bug and he will run!" This is most unpleasant to comprehend how they can look at themselves in the mirror. we work at taking pictures need to be paid for our time and effort and imagination. Under what thought process waOn Jan. 5th, 2015

    My mother said “Put a light on a C bug and he will run!” This is most unpleasant to comprehend how they can look at themselves in the mirror. we work at taking pictures need to be paid for our time and effort and imagination. Under what thought process was this process of selling our pictures begun. Did they suddenly, ‘say we have too many pictures for our servers to handle’ or was there a more abborant process at work. Can some of the sold images be claimed and court ordered paided monies to the photographer?..

  2. Michael J. AmphlettOn Dec. 16th, 2014

    ref. David Glatz’ point above – “…and (2) obligates them to pay a portion of the revenues to you…” The problem here is that I don’t want anybody setting *my* rates, only I (or my agent) do that! As someone (probably my agent!) told me in the distant past – “if somebody wants your image, it’s obviously worth something”.

    Dan – you mention this: “There are situations where charging no fee is a noble and honourable thing to do”

    Such as…?

    Even charitables/not-for-profits/etc., have a budget for buying images, often a very large one (they just don’t mention it up front!). Ask what the CEO earns or, what their turnover is, before you (or anybody else) supply them for free. Ask them how the new D4s is going to pay for itself with useless rates or freebies. Is that the new business model?

    As an example, the RSPB (the major UK bird charity) had a total income of £122 million – that’s $192 million in 2013! The WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) netted £60 million in 2013, that’s $94 million! Oxfam, Medicens Sans Frontieres, etc., all have incomes measured in tens of millions. This is not small money and, because of that, I see no way why they would have to pay everybody else for services yet, might treat photographers differently…? I’m happy to give them some cash donations, but not my IP.

    The new pre-conception is that we (i.e. us photographers) should be ‘honored’ that they want to use our images… to “save the Panda” or whatever. Well, sadly that idea is flawed from the outset and, the more we bend to their objective of getting images for free, the more it’ll be expected and, eventually, become the norm – some would say we are already in that situation.

    Flickr et al are no different and, who reads the T&C’s *before* they sign up to such sites…? They all want our IP for nowt, but, jeez, check out some of their T&C’s; holier than holy, totally untouchable yet, they expect us to drop stuff with them for zilch, why?

    This whole mess is symptomatic of the way the world has changed and, how it dramatically affects things which were, pretty much, set in stone. Of course some things need to change and, to that end, we photographers have embraced digital technology for many years now; the irony is, that the very thing which has “freed us up” is now biting us in the butt!

    But we really should not be so surprised anymore.

    We are (or should be) the masters of our own destiny but, if we give our IP away for free, that phrase will come back to ‘haunt’ us…

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 16th, 2014

      Michael, thank you for such a thoughtful well presented post. I have to agree with you on it’s entirety with a minor caveat to working with nonprofits. In principal I agree with you and if they are the size of nonprofits you used as an example, I don’t give my images to these folks. Groups like WWF, NFW and the like. However, I do have two extremely small nonprofits that I donate to on a regular basis and I know for a fact, due to being personally involved, that they have no money for pictures. So there are some cases I still feel its worthwhile but not many and it has to be a win/win. What’s a win/win? That’s for each person to decide. For me and PBI it’s a chance to work with some of the worlds leading scientists and being involved with a group that I am their main go to photographer for special projects that I gives me images to market to my long list of publishers. The ORI is also another good example where I have a very good friend who is in charge in it’s entirety and we do some great projects together. Both of these projects relate to what I consider my Legacy and that is the changing arctic and it’s effects on wildlife and people. That’s important to me and I would have no other access if I wasn’t willing to be part of the team.

      It’s a unique situation with both these groups and I’ve worked at building the relationship for two decades. Most folks are willing to do that but it works for me. Thanks again for stopping by to add your voice.

    • Michael J. AmphlettOn Dec. 17th, 2014

      Hi Daniel,

      First off, my apologies for not prefixing my previous post with “Hi Daniel” – simple courtesy is one thing I don’t usually skip on! 😉

      As it happens – and my previous post was becoming rather more than a brief comment – I agree with what you say about your small non-profits, particularly where you are in close contact with them and their staff and, I’m occasionally in the very same situation.

      Of course, there are always exceptions and we photographers need to recognise them, both for our own business opportunities and the support of those trying to help specific, well thought out, causes. Nothing wrong with that!

      I fear the issues we are discussing here are not those that the burgeoning mass of ‘new photographers’ ever think about (or are aware of?) when they ‘spray’ their iPhones, iPads and compacts at almost anything that moves and everything that doesn’t, then immediately post their images to a ‘social’ media site, with barely a nod to the consequences…

      In the meantime, may I wish you and your family (and all on the list) a very *Merry Christmas* from the UK and, mostly, a very healthy, peaceful and profitable 2015! 🙂

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 17th, 2014


      Once again, more great information and insight. All of it I agree with. I regularly speak to our photo tour guests about the importance of their photography and why they should be proud to be a photographer. When I explain to them the worth of a good image they are surprised and inspired. One of the most effective ways to make an impression is to encourage photographers to download the Media Kit from any magazine that has it listed on their web site. I then suggest they review the fees those magazines charge for advertising. This is always an eye opening experience for anyone to see that the magazines and other users of images are actually getting paid large amounts of money for advertising. Why should the photographer not be paid a reasonable sum if the photo is what makes the readers check the copy out?

      So for any photographer out there that are reading this, do this little exercise for yourself. Take a favorite magazine, look them up on the web and search for what they most likely will call their Media Kit or Media Rates. See what they charge for 1/4, 1/2 or full page advertisement in their magazine. Now check their photo payment rates and see if you think what they offer is fair. Some will be fair but many others are not. It’s a good exercise to give photographers the courage to charge a fair and reasonable rate. For more info on what to charge for those who want to know, check out, Could not live without this software of pricing photography.

    • David GlatzOn Dec. 17th, 2014

      Michael my point was only that they are not selling the images and giving zero compensation to the photographer. I’m not saying it’s a fair rate or making any comment about setting prices. If you want to set all your own rates go for it. That’s your choice.

  3. Carol HenrichsOn Dec. 8th, 2014


    I may have missed it but where is the source you have that Flickr is selling photos that have the Creative Common license? You link to the Creative Commons license options but I see nothing to indicate Flickr is selling these images.


    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 8th, 2014

      Carol, I’ll fix that link. Meanwhile here is a correct link for your review.

  4. Eric BowlesOn Dec. 7th, 2014

    The key to the Flickr Creative Commons and similar efforts by other sites is to use it for your benefit. You clearly don’t want to post images with significant commercial value. You don’t want to post selects.

    When we photograph a subject or location, there are always second quality images that would normally simply end up archived with no value. These images can be shared using creative commons if properly watermarked. If a potential buyer or client wants a higher resolution version of the image, or a better version, it provides a method of access. Getty and others have free images with limited rights. This is the same idea with iTunes, Amazon, and others. There is a limited amount of free music, books, and other electronic media available through those sites, but the idea is to have a strategy to create revenue.

    I think it’s worth experimenting a bit on the potential proactive use of creative commons.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 7th, 2014

      That’s one perspective Eric. The difference between music and photography is most people realize and accept they will never produce music that people want to listen to. However, with photography, everybody believes they are a quality photographer and with a disproportionate number of images out there that have not been vetted, so to speak, it dilutes quality photography. Your example of “Second Quality Images” is the exact same argument that started us down this road in the mid 90’s where photographers selected their so called second tier images and added them to CD’s. At that time it was easy to get a CD with 250-500 images for $29.00-99.00US and be able to use them anyway you want. I was astounded how many photographers I knew that made your same argument. “I’m just giving out my second tier images”, they would say. The problem with that is a second or even third tier image from one photographer like Art Wolfe for example would be dramatically better than a first tier image from someone who has no idea how to use a camera. So if somebody like Art would join the downward spiral, there is no longer an incentive to go get the first tier images from anybody. I use Art, a photographer I admire and respect greatly, only as an example of what could happen of the worlds best would see it as you do. I have no idea if he participates in this sort of thinking but I have my doubts. Just my two cents.

  5. ArnoOn Dec. 5th, 2014

    I’m thinking that if Flickr thinks they can make a good print of my 600px (on the long side), all under 100k images, that are covered top to bottom in watermarks, they can give it a try. But they’ll get some nice negative client feedback, I reckon.

    Flickr is for displaying images only for me. I’ve set my images to All Rights Reserved anyway, and people can complain about the watermarks that I put on my images, but this is exactly WHY I put them there.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 5th, 2014

      Good info Arno. You’re doing all the right things to retain your rights. Thanks for sharing your insight.

  6. David HOn Dec. 4th, 2014

    Thank you so much for this insight. I have DELETED my FLICKR account. However couple of months ago I was introduced to something called YouPic. It is a heaven for photographers !

  7. Don SchaeferOn Dec. 2nd, 2014

    Dan, thanks much for this. I see two upsides: that Flickr users will wise up as news spreads and remove their CC licenses, and that, according to Flickr’s “Explore Creative Commons” page, nearly 200 million images have the NC (non-commercial) designation. However, we’ve seen many CC-NC images used to attract eyeballs on many ad-supported or revenue generating sites, even deep-pocket news sites. The risk of discovery is slight and few would know what action to take, anyhow.

    I consider any image used to build one’s brand or attract eyeballs to one’s page, however little or no money one is making, to be commercial use. (If you go to the CC page defining what “commercial” is, they say it is up to the user to decide.)

    49% return on selected work? Well, that is better than Getty! 🙂 It is sad, however, to see what people will accept as fair value for their art.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 3rd, 2014

      Good input Don and yes, 49% is better than Getty. However, it’s the Creative Commons license I’m more concerned about. The sale and payment for those images, not represented by the Flickr’s Creative Commons contract, are a fair and reasonable way for the photographer to make some additional money. AND I applaud all photographers retaining their rights so they can be compensated for their work. It’s the no payment part that so many people have obviously singed up for that blows my mind. Actually, Liz West will forever be the little old lady that Flickr took advantage of and the press it has made is a blessing. Yes, she made her own bed, by signing the Creative Commons contract, but this is just a legal excuse for a big company not doing what is Fair and Right. Flickr’s CEO Marissa Mayer should be embarrassed.

    • Don SchaeferOn Dec. 3rd, 2014

      Dan, I’m sorry to introduce an ineffective bit of humor that created misunderstanding. My 49% remark was cynical. I agree completely with you and applaud your effort. I would hope people will spread your story throughout social media and arts advocacy groups, as I have.

      I wasn’t aware there was a way for Flickr users to make money from direct sales via Flickr. I’ve heard about agencies recruiting photographers via Flickr but nothing about direct sales. And I am confused by your mention of “Flickr’s Creative Commons contract”. Do they have their own?

      I agree with David Glatz’s suggestion to remove all CC licenses. (Might be impossible for people with 10k images.) However, all image uses prior to license removal hold the original CC license, and their derivative uses have likely cascaded through many, many reblogging and sharing iterations. So, if you get my point, those images, the ones that have been shared from the original CC license, still retain the original CC permissions, and will keep regenerating forever (unless they violate the terms). That is the hopelessness of the CC model.

      I don’t think many people will delete their accounts, but I hope your call will wake users up to the dangers of the CC model and the inappropriate hijacking of Flickr users’ content for profit.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 4th, 2014

      Don, Great additional input. Really appreciate you updating your comments. As far as I know the Creative Commons contract is not specific to Flickr. I’m not positive however and will take a look. I do agree with you about the issues with Creative Commons licensing. I’m also hopeful photographers will come to realize the value of their work. Time will tell.

      Thanks for stopping by to take part in the conversation.

  8. ChristerOn Dec. 2nd, 2014

    Flickr has always only been a place where I put some of my iPhone images.

    Still, there’s too much creative content stealing going on so now they are gone (unless of course Flickr already has taken any).


  9. Mark RichardsOn Dec. 2nd, 2014

    Hi, as David points out, only images that the photographer has deemed of no great value – by selecting creative commons licence – are effected. Image makers need to be sure who is allowed access to their work and protect that which is of value using well established methods. Facebook etc using software removal of all metadata and then benefitting under the ‘orphan’ image designation need to be stopped and only public opinion will end such practices. Unfortunately there are millions of folk out there in cyberspace who want to use images for free or very cheaply and this is where the big guns can make a few bucks!

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 2nd, 2014

      This situation with Flickr is actually good in retrospect. To finally get a person that people can related to, Liz West who looks and sounds like she could be anybodies grandmother, to speak out about her displeasure with Flickr is a tremendous blessing for bringing attention to the issues of big corporations doing as these please. Unfortunately, we live in a world where, in many situations, not all, if you let someone or something (Flickr) take advantage of you, they will. Can you imagine what a different story this would be if Flickr would have done the Fair & Right Thing and just agreed to pay this lady and all others a percentage of the proceeds? Especially if they didn’t have to. Do you suppose Liz Kay had any idea what she was agreeing to when she turned her images over to Creative Commons? I have my doubts. But now many people will be better educated to the realities of handing their work over for no compensation. There are situations where charging no fee is a noble and honorable thing to do. We offer the use of many of our images to worth while nonprofits, but to I’ve never agreed to a total Creative Commons license.

  10. David GlatzOn Dec. 1st, 2014

    Thanks Dan – agree about Flickr setting prices. We debated about whether it was smart and concluded (rightly or wrongly) that it was non-exclusive and that it was another avenue to get SOME $$ for our work. Our Peter-Lik-type-gallery is still under construction – ha ha!!

  11. David GlatzOn Dec. 1st, 2014

    Dan – agree with the underlying points of your post, but there is a distinction I think is relevant. Yahoo/Flickr can only sell your images with no compensation to you if you elected the “Creative Commons” license for those images. This designation allows the commercial use of your images, and Yahoo/Flickr are apparently interpreting this to mean they can sell them without compensation to you. This is BS as you noted. However, not sure why anyone would designate any image as Creative Commons. We have images on Flickr and use the Copyright – All Rights Reserved designation.

    Flickr just started a license program for the “handpicked” (as referred to in the WSJ article) images they want to sell. You have to elect into this program, which (1) grants them a non-exclusive license to use/sell your image and (2) obligates them to pay a portion of the revenues to you (also as noted in the WSJ article). I personally don’t see anything wrong with this program. Agree 100% that the Creative Commons and the sale of images without compensation are BS. I think there is just another solution – remove the Creative Commons designation from your images.

    • Portrait of Daniel J. Cox

      Daniel J. CoxOn Dec. 1st, 2014

      Good point Dave. I should have mentioned the Creative Commons part of this issue. However, I know I don’t want Flickr putting a price on my work and selling it for whatever they can get even if it isn’t part of the Creative Commons group. That said, the Creative Commons is an important distinction. I will update the post. Thanks for adding your professional legal input.

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