Flickr, Getty Images, and revoking CC licenses

Flickr started a program earlier this year with Getty Images, in which Getty staff find great photographers and ask them to put some of their work into the Flickr Collection on Getty Images, so that Getty can sell rights to the images and pay the photographers when their photos get licensed.  As the Flickr blog explains, they are now expanding this program: photographers can submit portfolios of their best work to be considered for inclusion by Getty.

When I first came across this Getty Images-Flickr program a few months ago I noticed something interesting in the terms of the program, and it might be a lot more significant now that this program is ramping up.  The FAQ specifically addresses the issue of CC-licensed photos:

There is a chance one of your Creative Commons-licensed photos may catch the eye of a perceptive Getty Images editor. You are welcome to upload these photos into the Flickr collection on Getty Images, but you are contractually obliged to reserve all rights to sale for your work sold via Getty Images. If you proceed with your submission, switching your license to All Rights Reserved (on Flickr) will happen automatically.

If you’re not cool with that, that’s totally cool. It just means that particular photo will need to stay out of the Flickr collection on Getty Images.

But what happens if, say, Wikimedia Commons already has those CC images?  Are Getty and Flickr basically just looking the other way about the fact that in many cases it wouldn’t be possible for photographers to” reserve all rights to sale” on their freely-licensed works that are circulating in the wild, even if they wanted to?  What about intentionally making sure your CC images have been added to Commons and verified by the Flickr review bot before submitting them to Getty?

128 thoughts on “Flickr, Getty Images, and revoking CC licenses”

  1. I stumbled across your interesting post. The CC issue is interesting, especially in the light of Jane Ginsburg’s analysis of CC licenses at, which suggests that you can’t really change the terms of a CC license.

    Here is an excerpt:

    The author can’t change her mind; if she tries, she may make things worse.

    It must be emphasized that once the author has granted a public license, there’s no going back. Once publicly licensed copies are made available, they will generate more licensed copies, and it will be too late to reverse course. While the author can cease to offer the work herself with the license, or can re-offer it with a more restrictive CC license (for example, to exclude derivative works where once she allowed them), she will not be able to stop the circulation of copies previously accompanied by prior terms of the license.

    Downstream users whose copy of the work incorporated the prior version of the license may be entitled to rely on – and further propagate – that version. In that case, confusion will reign if different versions of CC licenses with regard to the same work are simultaneously circulating.

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