What’s Wrong With This Picture? Flickr is about to sell off your Creative Commons photos


From Dazed comes news that Flickr is about to sell off our Creative Commons photos. This means photos we’ve taken with the idea of giving them away freely will now be sold, whether we like it or not. And who gets the dough for these photos we took? Only Yahoo.

As a photographer, I now have to choose whether to prevent people from using my photos, or prevent Yahoo from selling them. I can’t have both.

I want people to use my photos. That’s why I take them. I want that usage to be unencumbered. That’s why I chose a Creative Commons license. Some of the publications and businesses that use my photos make no money at all. Others make a little something. I don’t care either way. That’s why I chose a Commercial Attribution license. The license makes my work available to all publications and products, whether commercial or non-commercial. Fine with me.

But Yahoo selling the stuff? Cheesy, desperate, and not at all fine with me. I pay for a Flickr Pro account, and am happy to do so. That’s how Yahoo is supposed to make money from my hobby.

I know the site’s founders (who left years ago). Other friends of mine still work there as designers & developers. They are great people. Talented, user-focused, righteous. None of them is for this.

I’ve had a Flickr Pro account for about ten years. I love Flickr. Sometimes, for years, it has been like loving a friend who is in a coma. Now it’s like helplessly watching a cocaine-addicted friend snort up their kid’s college fund.

Come on, Yahoo.


  1. Read Jen Simmons’s I Don’t Want “Creative Commons By” To Mean You Can Rip Me Off, which addresses weaknesses in the current CC licensing that permit Yahoo to do what it’s doing; clearer and more subtle licensing would prevent it.
  2. Whether or not CC licenses would benefit from what Jen proposes, Yahoo, if it understood the spirit of the community it bought in Flickr—or even if it simply wanted to pretend to understand—could prevent a lot of bad feeling by writing to members whose work is covered by CC Attribution licenses; asking for feedback on its plan; making the plan opt-in; and offering some kind of revenue sharing for those members who don’t mind having Yahoo sell prints of their work. That Yahoo doesn’t think of this—and that some usually thoughtful people are defending Yahoo on the grounds that the CC license allows what they’re doing—I find profoundly depressing. We were a community. What happened?

Hat tip: @Rasmusuu