Last month, Flickr expanded its Wall Art print service to include images from the photo-sharing site’s professional artists as well as images licensed for commercial use through Creative Commons. The project was originally intended to allow photographers profit from the sale of images made into prints, but it generated controversy when users realized that Yahoo (Flickr’s owner) would keep all of the revenue from Creative Commons images.
Though that didn’t violate Creative Commons’ licenses, it angered many of the site’s photographers. In response, Flickr removed Creative Commons-licensed work from the service. In a blog post, it said:
We hear and understand your concerns, and we always want to ensure that we’re acting within the spirit with which the community has contributed. Given the varied reactions, as a first step, we’ve decided to remove the pool of Creative Commons-licensed images from Flickr Wall Art, effective immediately. We’ll also be refunding all sales of Creative Commons-licensed images made to date through this service.
Subsequently, we’ll work closely with Creative Commons to come back with programs that align better with our community values.
Users will still be able to order prints from their photostreams, as well as licensed artists in the Flickr Marketplace.
The Wall Art program and Flickr Marketplace are part of the site’s initiatives to better compete with rivals like 500px by attracting professional photographers who want to make money off their images. Others new features include photo books and a licensing program that helps professionals get their images onto news sites.
It’s important for Flickr, which was launched in 2004, to figure out how to stand out against the crop of rival photo-sharing sites and apps that have sprung up and surpassed it in terms of growth and popularity in the last decade. The controversy over the Wall Art program, however, shows that Flickr needs to figure out a way to move forward without alienating its long-term users, many of whom originally joined the site to participate in different communities and not with an eye to selling their photos.