On June 24th Sonia Zjawinski posted a piece for The New York Times’ Personal Tech section: Flickr as an Interior Decorating Tool. In it she both celebrated the number of excellent photographers that can be found in the flickr community but also seemed to advocate using those photographers’ images to decorate one’s home. No mention was made of permissions, copyright or fair use policies both within flickr and on the internet in general.
As you can see from the number of letters that post got, Sonia hit a nerve although I can say from years of experience with flickr, there are various interpretations of flickr’s fair use policies and tools for sharing photographs.
Sonia and The Times printed a followup post to back off a bit on the “flickr is a great place to get free stuff” meme that was explicit in her first post: Are Flickr Photos Fair Game for Home Printing?.
This post is getting plenty of comments as well, some of them, like in the first comments section incredibly rude. I think Sonia and The Times have handled this perfectly.
What many in both comment threads fail to acknowledge is the responsibility of the creator of the content to understand the terms of the flickr universe and correctly set up their flickr account to control access. Of course, flickr members need to consider whether they want a copyright or maybe a creative commons license on their images and then, whether or not they want to allow searches from outside of flickr to include their images (public access).
All of this being done, flickr is a photo sharing site, the key word being “sharing.” Sharing doesn’t mean stealing but having one’s work online runs the risk of the wrong people finding and taking it.