Hi Lifehacker, I was wondering whether I have full ownership and property rights for photos I upload to flickr? The offer of 1TB of space makes online photo backups enticing, but am I giving up too much? Thanks, Snap Happy
The default copyright setting for uploading images to Flickr is 'All Rights Reserved', which means you are the sole owner of your images (assuming that you actually produced them yourself, that is). Indeed, one of Flickr's chief selling points is that users maintain all ownership rights to the photos that they upload.
Here's what parent company Yahoo! has to say on the subject of image ownership on its Terms Of Service page:
With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible area of the Service other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Service solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available. This license exists only for as long as you elect to continue to include such Content on the Service and will terminate at the time you remove or Yahoo! removes such Content from the Service.
In nutshell, this grants Flickr the right to display and modify your images to fit in with its website UI (generating small, medium, and large sizes, for example). Once you stop using the service, all permissions and rights remain with you.
Flickr also offers you the ability to make images available as Creative Commons, which means anyone can use them without attribution or payment. You therefore might want to jump into your Flickr account and double-check that they're labelled correctly. (To change the license for a specific picture, click on 'Owner Settings' at the bottom of your photo page and switch to 'All Rights Reserved'.)
That said, it's important to note that existing user agreements are subject to change — sometimes without notice. You may recall the furor that erupted when Instagram changed its terms of service in an alleged bid to sell users' images to third parties without permission. The company eventually backpedaled, but its still a timely reminder that no policy is ever set in stone.
While you can generally trust a company to stick to its terms of service, there's nothing stopping other users from stealing your images and passing them off as their own; something that Flickr does not actively police. If you're paranoid about your photos being downloaded for commercial purposes, you can restrict who can see what via your account's privacy settings.
Got your own question you want to put to Lifehacker? Send it using our contact form.