Last April, photo sharing service SmugMug purchased photo sharing service Flickr and I was optimistic: Flickr of Hope
. I still am, but Flickr's tension between being a public good and a private company is hitting the fan (so to speak) after they announced that they will delete photos from free accounts that have more than 1,000 photos: Why we’re changing Flickr free accounts
I have 1,433 photos
at Flickr and I'm not paying for a pro account so 433 photos will disappear in January. I'm not a pro member for many of the same reasons Brian Sawyer writes about here: So Long, Flickr, and Thanks for All the Photos
. (Brian edited the Flickr Hacks
book I co-wrote in 2006.) At one time I shared all of my photos online at Flickr but I don't use the service today. I downloaded those photos long ago, but I still think it's valuable to leave them in their original context. They're not important historic documents that need to be preserved but maybe the Flickr archives as a whole do count as an important historic document?
Alt copyright framework Creative Commons thinks so: CC Working with Flickr to Protect the Commons
. They say, "Flickr is one of the most important platforms to host and share CC licensed works on the web, and over 400 million of the photos there are CC licensed – representing over a quarter of all CC licensed works on the web." Flickr's new policy could remove a good number of those but I haven't seen any estimates.
Flickr is in a difficult position. As a private company they can't store an infinite number of photos for free indefinitely. That's traditionally the role of institutions like The Library of Congress
but does the LOC care about millions of personal snapshots? Maybe the Internet Archive
could take them on, but I can imagine it would strain their resources as well.
I hope Creative Commons can help Flickr find a home for those photos. If not a new home, maybe a grant of some kind to help with the costs to preserve our collective history.