Site Review – Flickr
For those that don’t know, you know, those of you have been under a rock for the last few years, Flickr is a photo sharing site. It has numerous social media features which make it very easy to post your content, add it to groups, discuss it with others, etc. It supports all types of cameras as well as files from applications like PhotoShop and PaintShop Pro. They recently added the ability to share movies.
In short, it’s great. I use it all the time.
But, like all systems, especially in the fancy 2.0 world, there is a risk assessment that you should consider.
- Easy to use
- Free to low cost
- Active community with which to interact
- Who owns your content?
- How can you use other’s content?
- How can others use your content?
- How is your content backed up?
- Are you at risk from social engineering?
Please note that copyright is a complicated thing and well outside of the scope of this blog. For real questions, please see a lawyer. However, I’ll be glad to answer my own fake questions, after all, it’s my blog, right?
Who owns your content?
Yahoo! Inc. (“Yahoo!”) welcomes you. Yahoo! provides the Yahoo! Services (defined below) to you subject to the following Terms of Service (“TOS”), which may be updated by us from time to time without notice to you.
So maybe it would be more accurate to state that “you own your content right now”. Not exactly ringing with assurance, but it’s the best we can do.
How can you use other’s content?
Oh, this one is easy! Each photo is marked as “All rights reserved” (meaning you can’t use it) or “Some rights reserved” (meaning, umm, maybe). Flickr uses the Creative Commons to allow people to license their photos as they wish. Luckily, they also provide an advanced search so you can find photos that you can use and alter for commercial use.
Of course, there’s nothing preventing a user from posting a photo that you can re-use and then changing the licensing AFTER you’ve used it. Any idea how you could prove that it used to licensed differently? I sure don’t know.
Also, what happens if a photo is licensed so that you can use it but the person in the photo never signed a release? Is it usable? Can you be sure?
How can others use your content?
OK, this one should be easy, right? After all, you upload your photos and you set a license and you’re done. Flickr does all the magic to make sure that people only use your photos the way you want, right?
Well, not exactly. See, if you license your photo under any of the Creative Commons options, the original image is available to everyone. In other words, they have to voluntarily agree to abide by the copyright. If they don’t, you have to deal with that yourself. Are you able to monitor all the images on the Internet to make sure that yours are being used according to your wishes? I know that I’m not.
How is your content backed up?
This really isn’t known. There’s no mention of backups in the terms of service, and there has been at least one high-profile issue involving backups. In general, they should be safe, but you might want to consider other options. Or, you know, just keep a copy of whatever you upload to them.
Are you at risk from social engineering?
Finally, once that can be answered definatively. Yes. You are always at risk of social engineering. The more interesting question is “How are you at risk from social engineering?”
Flickr allows you to post photos. Odds are that these photos will be of people you know and places you’ve been. You can tag these photos by location, put people’s names into them and otherwise release loads of information for the savvy social engineer. They can take this information and use to develop friend and family graphs and identify themselves to you or one of your friends as someone who seems trustworthy, but isn’t.
Wow, that’s a lot of negatives. Does that mean that you shouldn’t use Flickr?
Well, that’s a decision that you have to make on your own. In case it helps you, this is the decision that I made:
I choose to use flickr because I like the community and because I want others to use my photos. With the exception of people that have not signed a release, all of my photos are tagged under the Creative Commons to allow re-use but only for non-commercial use and if I am credited. Also, since a great many of my photos are taken at zoos, I allow zoos to use my photos for free, even for commercial use, so long as they ask politely.
In short, I do not make much of a living directly off of my photos (though I’m working on some projects at the moment that may change that). Rather than expend my energies pursuing and defending misuse, I choose to trust the majority of people to do the right thing. I do, however, keep the originals on my systems and am prepared to defend my rights, should I become aware of a violation.
I do NOT use anyone else’s photos for a commercial purpose without their permission. I do not consider accent and illustritive photos in this blog to be commercial use (as I make no money off this site), so I may use someone’s photo here or there. However, I am very easy to get ahold of, and if anyone asks me to take down one of their photos, I’m easy to work with.
So yeah, it’s not exactly straightforward, but to me, it’s worth the risk.