Sourcing Blog Images From Flickr? Here’s What You Need To Know.

7888385676_9fcb734d3c_zSince Marissa Mayer took over at Yahoo!, many of its properties have been revamped. Flickr is no exception. It now has a much nicer interface – it’s actually a pleasure to browse through the millions of images hosted on the site looking for inspiration or a picture to add a bit of visual sparkle to a blog post. Changes to the limitations imposed on photographers for storing their images has attracted back many who abandoned the service in favor of competitors, which means more images are being added to the site’s servers than over the last few years.

Images have been proven to help with user engagement, which has SEO benefits and greatly aids with social media exposure, but, treasure trove though Flickr may be, there are a few gotchas that bloggers – particularly business bloggers – need to be aware of before they start snagging images to enliven their posts.

Photographers are a quite reasonably a prickly bunch when it comes to use rights for their images, so, unless you want to be on the wrong end of a rant or even potential legal action from an angry photographer, you need to be aware which image you can use and under what conditions.

If It’s On Flickr I Can Use It For Free

This is absolutely not true. Images are placed on Flickr with a variety of different licenses determined by their owners.

As a blogger, I know it can be intensely frustrating to find the perfect image, only to discover it has restrictive licensing that means I can’t use it for my clients. But, we should avoid the temptation to just take what we want regardless. We don’t like it when sites scrape and steal our content. We should have the same respect for photographer’s work that we have for our own.

What Can I Use?

Take a look at this image on Flickr. It’s a beautiful picture and it’d look good on any blog, but to be sure we can use it we need to check out the image’s licensing. You can find that at the bottom of the right hand column below the image under “Additional Info.”Flickr All Rights Reserved“All Rights Reserved” means that we basically can’t do anything with it, which is why I have just linked to it rather than including it in this post. To use this image we’d have to get in touch with the owner to ask for their permission to license it. Under copyright law the photographer has every right to do this, so there’s no point grumbling. We’ll have to find something else.BearThis image, by the talented Flickr user Longhorndave, has different licensing:Some Rights ReservedIf we click on “Some rights reserved”, we re taken to the license page, which clearly lays out how we can use this image and what the photographer expects in return. In this case, the image is licensed with an Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0) license, which means we can do anything we like with it so long as we provide proper attribution. Attribution usually consists of a link to the image source or the Flickr profile of the photographer along with a mention of their name.

Creative Commons licences come in many different version but most of them are concerned with:

  • Whether you can copy, distribute, or transmit the image (which includes using it on a blog).

  • Whether you can make derivative works.

  • Whether you have to attribute to the copyright owner.

  • Whether you can use the image in commercial contexts.

If you click through the “Some rights reserved” link on images you want to use, you’ll see a clear explanation of what you can do and what is expected of you.

Commercial vs. Non-Commercial

Many photographers make their images free to use except for commercial purposes. The trouble is that no one knows exactly what is meant by “commercial.” Creative Commons licenses are vague on this point. Does it mean you can’t print it on a t-shirt you intend to sell? Does it mean you can’t use it if you’re a company? Does it mean you can’t use it if you have advertising on your site?

It’s not clear. But in a survey of Creative Commons license users, most of them had very strict definitions of what counted as commercial, including sites with advertising. It’s a very fuzzy line, but to be on the safe side, if there’s a hint of commerce in your intended use, it might be safer not to use images licensed in this way.

Finding Creative Commons Licensed Images

Flickr provides an excellent advanced search facility, which can be used to filter for images that have Creative Commons licenses and those that allow commercial use.

There are also dedicated services for finding free images on Flickr, including PhotoPin and CompFight.

So long as you stick with Creative Commons licensed images and adhere to the provisions of the various licenses, Flickr is a fabulous resource for finding images to use on a blog or website.


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