Is Ripping Off Flickr Photogs OK?

20-2 Image by discarted

This week, in the New York Times tech blogGadgetwise,” writer Sonia Zjawinski advised readers to download “practically free!” flickr images to decorate their walls.

Of all the artwork I have in my studio apartment (there isn’t a bare wall in the house), my Flickr finds get the most attention. Best of all, they were practically free! I use a Kodak ESP7 AIO printer to ink my finds on various sizes of photo paper and frame them in inexpensive frames found at Urban Outfitters or Ikea. The only thing I pay for is ink, paper and frames — peanuts, in my opinion. 

Now, I get it’s a neat interior design trick she’s stumbled upon. The fact that she’s printing it for public consumption – in the New York Times of all places! The pinnacle of journalistic integrity! – floors me. She’s basically endorsing theft.

Because of the firestorm of complaints, Zjawinski wrote an update to say she consulted a couple lawyers who (absolve her and) say it’s basically a grey area and OK as long as you ask permission. It’s a grey area alright, and you sure as hell can’t control what people are printing in the privacy of their homes. But for her to publish something like that with no research or forethought is so seriously irresponsible – and, sad to say it, goes to show how little respect there is for photographers’ rights that it didn’t even cross her mind to do so.

 Article via New York Times

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4 Responses to “Is Ripping Off Flickr Photogs OK?”


  1. 1 Tom June 29, 2009 at 6:31 am

    It all depends on the licensing of the photo. All of my flickr photos are Creative Commons Non-commercial attribution share-alike licensed. What she’s doing is perfectly within her rights on all of my images, as a matter of fact uses like this are WHY I licensed them like that in the first place. If she started selling them, then I would be angry. Other people with other licenses may have a legitimate complaint against her.

    Also, note that when I signed up, Creative Commons Non-commercial attribution share-alike was the default license. I don’t know about now, but you may want to check your license on flicr to make sure that you’re not giving your stuff away for free if you don’t want to.

    • 2 Alex June 29, 2009 at 2:46 pm

      Yeah, the type of licensing you select makes the biggest difference here. I used to upload full-res version of my work on flickr, until I found out that one of my contacts made poster-sized prints of four of my images and then disappeared when I tried to contact them about it. Now I only upload medium-res versions, have downloading of even those blocked to all but certain contacts of mine, and have everything set to full copyright. If and when someone does use my stuff, I probably won’t know about it, and even then it’s usually not worth hiring a lawyer to persue it, but might as well take whatever precaution you can.

  2. 3 Workingindust July 4, 2009 at 8:06 am

    Bottom line is that any thing you put up on the internet is going to get ‘miss-appropriated’ one way or the other no matter what your settings are. Like Alex said, if I put up a med to hi-res shot up on Flickr and didn’t want anybody to use it other than viewing it on a web page and then not having the brains to at least watermark it, then it’s pretty much my fault.

    This isn’t so much of a bad thing though if you think of ‘free’ as a way to get other business, through future contacts, exposure etc…

    Do I like it if some schmuck grabs one of my shots and mass prints it for sale at the local Sunday Swap Meet? No! But if I didn’t take the time to at least do the minimum work to protect it (e.g. watermarking, lo-res image, odd ball aspect rations, Flash based web site etc…) then I’m not really protecting it am I.

    Why should I expect Flickr to do the work for me?

    Just my two cents

  3. 4 Workingindust July 4, 2009 at 8:14 am

    “odd ball aspect rations”

    Should be ‘aspect ratios’

    Apologies lest the spelling and grammar police flame me

    -it’s been a long week 😐


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