Flickr “Feature” Frustrates

Flickr recently snuck in a “feature” that I first appreciated in spirit but now have a fairly significant problem with in practice.

I have 2,709 pictures in my Flickr library, almost half of which are marked as Private (viewable to Friends and Family only). Until recently, my ~1,400 Public photos simply bore the CC symbol, identifying the Creative Commons license I’ve assigned to them. This license grants anyone the freedom to copy, distribute, display, and perform the work, as well as make derivative works based on them, with the following conditions:

  • Attribution. You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author or licensor.
  • Noncommercial. You may not use this work for commercial purposes.
  • Share Alike. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.

I’m happy to post almost all of my Public photos with this license (unless they specifically allow me to, I don’t post pictures others have given me permission to post with this open license), because I believe in the spirit of creative sharing behind it, so I found helpful the recent addition of the logos for each of these three conditions below each photo in my main photostream and on each photo page itself (previously, viewing these conditions required clicking through the “Some rights reserved” link to the Creative Commons page):

New CC Logos on Public Photos (by Brian Sawyer)

Though this is the default license I have set for all photos I upload, my Private photos showed up previously as “Only Friends & Family see this” and left it at that (no copyright or licensing details were displayed at all), which makes sense to me. But now, even all of my restricted-access photos bear the same CC licensing logos as my Public photos, which makes no sense at all to me:

Only Friends & Family See This (by Brian Sawyer)

I made those photos Private for a reason. Why would anyone choose to give such an open license to photos they want to share with friends and family only? While I don’t mind people reposting or altering images I’ve decided to share with the world, I don’t want to authorize this liberal use for all of my photos, even by people I’ve decided to let look at them.

I sent a complaint to the Flickr folks in the form of a bug report (surely, this was just an error in how the new feature was rolled out?) but discovered that this new licensing scheme is by design. The response to my query avoided the philosophical issues I had with the feature and simply suggested how to troubleshoot what I saw as a problem:

Setting a default CC license applies the license automatically to all your photos. You will need to change the license of all your private photos. You can do this in the Organizr. Drag the photos to the batch edit area, click “Permissions”, then select “Change licensing”.

I have a problem with this for two reasons. First, because the Organizr doesn’t allow me to search by privacy level, this batch change would be far from convenient under any circumstances. Thankfully, most of my Private photos share one common tag, so I can at least search for them that way. But I found that the Organizr chokes on ~1,300 pictures, hanging on this screen forever:

This Might Take a Minute (by Brian Sawyer)

Second, even if the batch change worked, this new “feature” also means I’ll have to change my default license every time I upload a Private photo, which is a huge hassle. Ugh.

So, I’ll close with the same simple question used to end my email exchange with Flickr tech support. Might I suggest allowing different default licenses for different privacy levels?

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