Do you use Flickr? They have recently come under fire for selling canvas prints and wall mounts of user-submitted photographs through their website without passing any of the profits on to the creator. Creative Commons (“CC”) licensing is allowing them to do this 100% legally.
There are a lot of different ways people use the service. I use it to store backups of photos. It also has a very robust “Advanced Search” feature, which comes in handy to find free stock photos. Flickr is full of user-submitted Creative Commons photographs, which can easily be sorted using the Flickr search function to find photographs for “commercial use.” Flickr is a great alternative to pricey stock companies such as iStockPhoto/GettyImages, Shutterstock, and Adobe’s soon-to-be acquired Fotolia. I definitely recommend Flickr if you want to add some extra “jazz” to a company e-mail, personal blog post, or simple flyer for distribution. For the more important projects, I recommend sticking with a professional stock image company and purchasing a license. Never simply use a Google Image search as a means of finding stock content, even if it’s for a company email (however, Google offers a robust Advanced Image search which can be useful).
I felt now was an appropriate time to address a “best practice” when working with stock content. A lot of users and creators may be re-thinking their CC licensing of their photos because of the recent media attention given to the issue. Therefore, it’s important to keep records.
Document everything. An important practice when using Flickr, or any stock services whether paid or free, is to keep a log (screenshot the page, print as a PDF, create a running Excel document, etc.) as to which type of license is being offered, was it a paid-for license, who was offering it, where it was being offered, date, time, how it was used, and a copy of the original, unmodified version. As with everything on the Internet, the license offered can be changed by the user/creator at will. That doesn’t mean your initial license changes, too. It just means you better have proof as to which license was in place when you originally used the image!
Image Credit: “Woman Photographer” by Pedro Ribeiro Simoes via Flickr.