Tuesday, June 12, 2012

That Flickr Fiasco Concludes...

If you're a regular in these parts you might remember the ongoing saga involving Flickr and their strange policy that led to them unnecessarily deleting content without good reason.

It came to my attention when one of my photos was deleted because a company called Degban had filed a copyright infringement notice against me.

Of course Degban didn't own the copyright to my photo. They hadn't even seen my photo. They were working for a porn company called Wasteland. They had found a link to my photo on a blog. That blog also contained the word 'wasteland'. That was it. There was no other connection. Because my photo had been linked to by a blog that had also mentioned the name of their client's business their system had automatically sent out a Notice of Infringement.

Degban later claimed that their system had been hacked but were so bad at lying that they said the hack had happened several days after they'd filed this particular Notice of Infringement. D'oh.

I ought to add that Wasteland were fantastic about the whole thing. They were appalled to discover how Degban were behaving - there were countless other examples of them filing bogus takedown notices - and they were quick to fire them as a result.

When they receive a takedown notice Flickr are obliged to respond. They are obliged to remove the photo from view. What they're not obliged to do is delete the page it lives on, delete all the comments left on it and render any links pointing to it useless. But that's what they were doing. For reasons they were unprepared to discuss.

All of this meant that when a Notice of Infringement was successfully contested - as in my case - they were unable (or unwilling) to restore the content they'd removed. (Which is their obligation). Every blog that had linked to that photo (and there were many) was now pointing to a deleted page. I still had the photo - I had a copy of the original - but the photo's history was deleted.

I kicked up a bit of a stink about it. Obviously that wasn't my first reaction. My first reaction was to try and politely engage with them and ask them to explain their policies and consider changing them. But when they did their best to ignore any polite enquiries then I made it my business to kick up a stink. And lo the stink was kicked.

And when tech-journalist Jack Schofield started asking questions of their PR team suddenly the unresponsive company were transformed. The Head of  Intellectual Property Rights for flickr's parent company, Yahoo! was on the phone a day or two later and promising me that they were going to look into changing their policy.

It would be impossible to retread the whole saga here, but if you're interested in the grisly details of Degban's weasly dishonesty and Flickr/Yahoo's intransigence you could point your eyes here and read my previous post on the subject. It contains links to other earlier posts too, so if you really have the appetite you could pass an afternoon going back to the beginning and working forward. (There's also a good summary in this Tech Dirt article if you just fancy a quick refresher.)

Anyway... it's taken a while but I'm delighted to say that the story now has a happy ending. 

I'm pretty chuffed about that.  


Tara Cardwell said...

Yeah :-D You should be rightly chuffed - good for you for sticking with it and stink kicking.

Unknown said...

Good work!

Matt said...

Well done Dave 'Consumer Crusader' Gorman!

If you ever tire of comedy, you'd make a cracking Watchdog presenter!!

Bob T Builder said...

Well done Dave for sticking it to The Man...you should write a book about it!

Lynne said...

'and lo, the stink was kicked.' Good on you! Nice to hear about a happy ending.

Pip said...

I believe the phrase is "props to you".

Or, you know, nice one Dave.

Stephen said...

How satisfying. Well done you!

Anonymous said...

Book, tour, DVD. ;-)

Rob said...

Great news. Now you just have to work on their use of "going forward" *shudder*

Zazen999 said...

Global change. Cool.

If only eh?

Steven said...

This is excellent :)

MikeDX said...

I say well done to you for achieving this, but all it teaches me is to host my own pics on my own servers and flickr can go screw itself.

Anonymous said...

this is a really good article about how yahoo missed a massive oportinity with flickr and distracted them from what they were good at

Anonymous said...

hats off to you Mr G, you've done all us Flickrers a great service there. Cheers. :)

LeeJayWhistlingIsNotAnnoyingMe said...

Congratulations on your tenacity over this Dave! An excellent outcome.

Dave Gorman said...

Thanks for the kind words folks.

@MikeDX: as I've said in the earlier blogs on this issue, flickr isn't just a place to host images. It's about photos and community. It's not important to everyone, but it's a part of what I pay for. Their old policy destroyed the links etc. In effect it destroyed the stuff that community lends to it.

The new policy doesn't. Which is a good thing.

But if the response is, "I'll host them on my own servers and screw them"... well then it doesn't matter because you're opting out of the community anyway.

Smylers said...

Thank you for making Flickr better for everybody.

Willi said...

The internet thanks you.

Anonymous said...

You have every right to be chuffed. Well done, and as a Flickr user, I thank you. x

Emma Spreadbury said...

Wowee Dave, that's amazing. Internet Protector. You should have a cape.

sasastro said...

It is a victory - of sorts. But I'm sure that Flickr will still delete other accounts without dialogue if they are reported as breaking the T&C of "Don't Be Creepy" I mean, how vague is that?

A street photographer friend of mine had his account deleted because someone had reported it for just that reason. No dialogue, just zap. it took him 4 weeks to get an answer as to why. Seems someone at Flickr didn't know there was a genuine genre of photography called street, they decided it was "voyeuristic" And it was a pro account too.

So I won't be celebrating this victory until Flickr clarify their terms and conditions and begin entering into a dialogue for all such reported accounts

Dave Gorman said...

@Sas: the terms & conditions are vague. And they should be. Because what they demand is that people play within the spirit of the rules. It's impossible for someone to make a precise list of all that is right and all that is wrong and the moment someone did, you'll find people coming along and finding new examples of things which clearly feel wrong but have not been specifically mentioned as being such.

Just as there is no way of someone precisely defining what is porn and what is art there is no way of defining what is street photography and what is voyeurism.

But I've seen street photography that is definitely intrusive and voyeuristic.

To my mind, "Don't be creepy" is the best way of explaining that.

That said, when you start your post with, "It's a victory - of sorts" you conflate two issues... as if the situation you're writing about is connected to the issue addressed in the blog.

They're not connected. One is about deleting content sight unseen because of a mistaken belief that they have a legal obligation to do so.

The other is about them deleting accounts they have seen because they believe them to be in contravention of their own guidelines.

They don't delete accounts just because they're reported for being voyeuristic. They look at them. And delete them if they believe that to be the case.

There will always be people who are upset by that. And maybe some of the judgements are harsh. (Although none I've witnessed have been - but human error is always a possibility).

But I know there is no policy of deleting-every-account-complained-about.