Flickr is a cross platform photo and video sharing site. Their focus is on making original content secure and accessible. Their goals are to make it easy for users to upload original content and to then have control over that content. They are one of the few sites that allow creators to maintain rights over their uploads by easily selecting the rights they prefer to retain. Their secondary focus is to make organizing content and metadata collaborative.  

Collections are sorted into albums, though other users can organize an institution’s collections based on their preferences. Flickr shows the metadata from the camera taking each photo or video, if chosen by the user. The other metadata allowed is tagging. Though, organizations like the Toronto Public Library choose to include their own metadata in the descriptions of the photos. Tagging is done both by the content creator and the community engaging with the work.

Terms and Conditions

Flickr’s official stance is that the creator owns images and videos once uploaded and shared. Any photos removed from a creator’s site are subsequently removed from other areas of Flickr. They have an easily accessed complaint department for any copyright infringements.


The main distinguishing characteristic between Flickr and other platforms is how it handles copyright management.

First and foremost, Flickr makes the following clear under their copyright guidelines: ”Flickr accounts are intended for members to share original photos and video that they themselves have created.” Moreover, Flickr consistently reiterates their wish that members do not upload photos that are not their own, and specifies that the upload of non-original content is restricted to the “galleries” and “favorites” options.

Flickr’s copyright information also specifies the proper conduct for dealing with a possible infringement issue by directly contacting the user and if unsuccessful, contacting Yahoo who remains an important factor in the battle against Flickr infringement as one must have a Yahoo account to create an account with the site.

A copyright challenge that Flickr does pose for institutions is perhaps an unconsciously cavalier approach to the monetary value of images uploaded to the site. For instance, Flickr found themselves in a particularly controversial situation when it became clear that their newly developed “Flickr Wall Art” option was allowing for the purchase of high quality photo-prints of site images, the proceeds of which went directly to Flickr and not to the creators. While not strictly illegal, this remains a highly questionable decision on the part of site, and opens up considerations of copyright ethics for collections institutions.

Institution Usage

Flickr does offer wonderful access opportunities for collections institutions. For instance, the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) in New York leans heavily on Flicker member involvement, and encourages the addition of exhibition/collection images to their official Flickr page. Furthermore, MOMA structures their Flickr presence to be predominantly crowdsourced, and tends to not post images from any “authorized” or in-house source.

Moreover, Flickr also provides libraries with a unique advantage to share collection information. The Toronto Public Library (TPL) is a good counterpoint to MOMA, as they also utilize Flickr to showcase their collection, yet they upload all of their own images instead of leaving the responsibility to library patrons or Flickr users. 

It is unclear if MOMA is using Flickr to create a digital image collection in the strictest sense as they only utilize content from other users. However, the TPL is definitely using Flickr to create a digital image collection as they are responsible for uploading the images themselves, and are providing access to their special collections material in an all-encompassing way. 

Creative Commons

Creative Commons is utilized by collections institutions for creative attribution and assurance that all creators are treated fairly (and as specified) for their contributions on Flickr. There are varying levels of CC access and reproduction rights available on every image uploaded to the site, which are specified in the following link:

The copyright challenges for Flickr are essentially, “not every image on [Flickr] is copyright free,” therefore, users must use Creative Commons licenses to dictate the use of their images. This is left up to Flickr members and is their responsibility to specify how their images are to be accessed (or not accessed). Both MOMA and TPL utilize the structure of Creative Commons on Flickr to ensure that the appropriate access of their digital material is left to the individual parties uploading it, or the institute itself.


“About Flickr,” Flickr, accessed February 12, 2017,

Bill Rosenblatt, “Yahoo’s Flickr Angers Professional Photographers with Photo Printing Service,” Forbes, December 10, 2014, accessed February 12, 2017,

“Copyright Issues with Flickr,” Michigan State University, 1, accessed February 12, 2017,

“Flickr Community guidelines,” Flickr, accessed February 12, 2017,

Lahle Wolfe, “Can I Use Images From Flickr, Facebook, or Creative Commons On My Own Website?: Why Search Engines and Social Networks Confuse People About Copyright Laws,” The Balance, September 8, 2016, accessed February 12, 2017,

“Terms and Conditions,” Flickr, accessed February 12, 2017,

3 comments for “Flickr

  1. jpascoe
    February 21, 2017 at 3:00 pm

    Great discussion on Flickr – especially highlighting copyright licenses such as Creative Commons. An interesting story the week of your presentation and related to our discussion of copyright and collections, the MET has opened up access to their public domain content using the CC0 license:

    What are the implications for these collections? Can they be freely uploaded on the social media platforms we’ve discussed, or are there restrictions and other areas that must be tactfully considered?

    The NYPL has also opened up access to their public domain works to the benefit of their collections – specifically creating further engagement and crowdsourcing initiatives:

    What are the benefits to declaring public domain content and assigning a specific license that clearly states the copyright terms for uploaded content?

  2. Naoise and Erin
    February 24, 2017 at 12:23 pm

    Isaac and Blanche have created a strong case for us to start using Flickr again!
    Flickr is a secure place for original content and allows for accessibility. It is refreshing to be reminded that a platform exists where content remains the property of the creator. The copyright for Flickr supports the creator and promotes the use of original content that they have created themselves.

    One of the reasons that Flickr may have lost popularity could be the lack of interactivity offered by the platform. Flickr does not encourage the re-posting or sharing images, while on many other social media platforms it is common practice that content is shared without creator content being properly cited. Also, Flickr was too slow on the creation and improving of their mobile app. Generally, we think it is fair to say that many Flickr accounts have been abandoned due to the popularity of other image based platforms such as Instagram and Pinterest.

    On the other hand, many institutions have invested time and resources into using Flickr as a place for albums of collections. We are interested in what these institutions will do once Flickr becomes obsolete: to where will these albums be moved?

    We have researched what resources are available for safely moving or saving Flickr catalogues. The bulk-downloading of photos using third party apps such as Bulkr, Flickandshare or using Flickr’s own batch download tool are some viable options.

    Beyond museums moving their Flickr archives to other apps or platforms for storage, there does not seem to be any evidence that Flickr is making any attempts to remain relevant, nor does it seem to aspire to be competitive with other image sharing platforms. Flickr offers a creator-controlled platform, but fails to stay popular. If the goal of museums digitizing their archives on a site like Flickr is for accessibility, this cannot be achieved on a site that is declining in popularity. We are curious to see what the next innovation in platforms will be for sharing catalogues online!

    • jpascoe
      February 25, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      You mention an important point about why Flickr might be declining in popularity: that is it was not able to adapt to a mobile environment as quickly as the other platforms. In fact platforms such as Instagram were natively born for use on mobile devices, and it is their computer interface that is lacking. This is important criteria to consider when selecting a platform that is responsive to the digital environment, one that is increasingly mobile. Some useful online articles that are highlight essential of user experience and mobile design:

      Mobile Design Best Practices:

      Responsive Design (this is for planning for a variety of screens):

      And for content creators – considering what users prioritize and their requirements online:

      Even if you will not be developing apps or social media content, it is useful to be aware of the design principles and factors that go into usability and interfaces and how they might work with collections and developing access and audiences.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *