Probably not but it’s not as far-fetched as it sounds. The other day I was browsing through Apps on my iPad and came across one called Explore Flickr (also available for the iPhone). The description of the app says that it will allow the user to browse hundreds of the top daily images on Flickr, find beautiful wall paper and lock screen images, view photo details and browse photo comments right on Flickr.com from within the app. And then there was this one other feature that really caught my eye, “Download high definition images direct to your iPhone or iPad photo library“. This last item seemed a little curious to me so I downloaded the app to check it out. It was free after all.
After installing, I opened the app and was greeted by a screen full of thumbnail images fed by Flickr.
I have to admit that there were a lot of great looking images and I was enjoying tapping on the individual images and seeing large, beautiful versions of them. After all, the iPad does have a kick-butt screen. As I explored the images, I noticed that there was a small gear symbol up in the corner so I gave it a tap and up popped a couple of actions; one said Save to Photo Library and the other said View Photo on Flickr.
I also noticed something on the particular image I had opened. There, at the bottom of the image there was writing, which read Danny Irvine Photoraphy ©. Seeing that, I couldn’t help but wonder why it was that I could just download the image and use it if Danny had clearly marked it as copyrighted. I decided to use the option to view the photo in Flickr, which opened up the Flickr web page for this image. When the page opened I discovered two things. First, Danny Irvine is an extremely talented landscape photographer. Second was this statement below his images, which read “All images are © Danny Irvine Photography, All Rights Reserved. You may not use, replicate, manipulate, redistribute, or modify this image without my written consent“
So if it plainly states that Danny’s images can’t be used for any purpose without his permission, how is it that I was able to download it directly to my iPad? It’s actually due to the Flickr API. For those that don’t know, an API is an Application Programming Interface, which allows a software program to interact with other software. In this case, the Explore Flickr program is using the Flickr API to locate and display images from the Flickr pool. The problem is that this app, like so many others that use the Flickr API, can bypass the photographer’s wishes by ignoring copyrights.
So how can you fight this sort of problem? Well, the first thing you should do is to make sure that you have asserted your rights within the Privacy & Permissions section of Flickr. Under the Defaults for New Uploads section you can set your license to All Rights Reserved.
Next, and probably most importantly is to set your download permissions. Under the Global settings section you should set the Who can download your stuff option to Only You.
If you have this option set, the only one that can download your images is you, while signed into Flickr. This was apparent when I selected a different image on my iPad and saw the message below.
With so many many stories of folks having their Flickr images used without their permission, it only makes sense to lock them down as tight as possible so that they can be enjoyed but not taken.
By the way, I want to give a huge thanks to photographer Danny Irvine, who gave me permission to use his image for this article. You can check out all of his work on his Flickr page or visit his website to see more of his fantastic photos.