Effect of Flickr on Stock Photography Business

Flickr, owned by Yahoo, is one of the world's largest social media websites, an entity that has affected the stock photography business. It is a free network that allows photographers to upload and share their work. Ultimately all creators own their work under copyright laws. However, Flickr allows it's uploaders to upload their images under a creative commons license. These are special licenses created in 2002 by Creative Commons, a U.S. non-profit corporation. There are four basic licenses that one can apply to an image under the Creative Commons. Those are attribution, non-commercial, non derivative works, and sharealike.

Understanding Creative Commons Licenses

An attribution license alone allows anyone to take the image, do whatever they want to it, and use it however they like as long as they are giving proper credit to the owner of the image. By adding a non-commercial license the image is limited in how it can be used, or how it can not be used. Non derivative means that the image can not be altered. Sharealike means that even if you create a derivative of an image it must retain the same license as the original.

Effect on Stock Photography Business

Let's say that 20 years ago, before the internet became what it is today, a newspaper in New York was running a story about Hollywood and the editor wanted a picture of the famous Hollywood sign. Rather than fly one of their photographers out there, put him up in a hotel, and pay for his meals they would go to a company that specialized in stock photography. They would pay the company a fee for the license to use their photo in the story and everyone is happy.

Today that has changed drastically because now the newspaper can log onto a site like Flickr, find an image they like, and run it in their paper for free with just giving the owner credit (unless the license is non commercial). So now you have a happy editor who saved more money and a happy photographer getting exposure for his work. But you also have an unhappy stock photography business owner who has just been cut out of the deal.

How Much Business is Actually Lost

Stock Photography companies have lost some of their market share in the digital age, but Flickr is not the biggest cause. The creation of digital cameras has resulted in more people taking and sharing pictures as opposed to the old days of film when there were only a select few in the photography business. Also, non-commercial licenses means that businesses can not use those free photos.

Some stock photography companies have moved into the internet and also specialize in video. They continue to prosper by offering high quality images of rare subjects that not everyone has access to.

Flickr might have taken away some of the stock photography's market share but these companies still exist and thrive because the photography on Flickr is geared for artistic purposes, not commercial ones.

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