Dane. Designer.

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A Copyright Infringement Claim, Flickr and Me

C-3PO, avert your eyes

The holidays bring the amazing wonder of a fixed feed (no more raw textile markup), non-invisible pages, working search, a lifestream and some polish on the theme here and there. Hell, the about page even has my e-mail address on it, so people can go ahead and contact me directly, instead of having to go through flickr.

Now, speaking of flickr, it has now been two weeks since my sizable Star Wars collection was removed from flickr.

Lucasfilm filed a copyright infringement case with Yahoo!, telling them that the Collection I had slowly amassed over a few years, actually belonged to them, which in turn caused flickr to—in broad strokes—CTRL-A the collection and press DEL. I wake up to a flickr-mail telling me what happened, and that if I want to, I can file a counter-claim.

Of course I don’t fault Lucasfilm for filing the claim, and I don’t blame flickr for accepting the claim. In fact, I don’t really have much reason to counter-claim anything; except while the images were certainly Star Wars-related, not all of them were under Lucasfilm copyright domain…

Hm.

So I write back, asking for all the images to be made available to me, so I can sort through them and point out which ones should be left alone. But, sorry. They’re gone. Deleted. Expelled and flushed.

Yes, the collection consisted mostly of images copyrighted to Lucasfilm and I have no qualms about that. I will miss having that collection, but that’s just the images, right? What about my metadata? Titles, descriptions, tags and comments? Hell, I can’t even be sure that there weren’t images entirely unrelated to Star Wars deleted from my account; because I have no way of verifying them.

I’m sure Yahoo! has a clause somewhere stating that any and everything on flickr, including my metadata, belongs solely to them and can be used or discarded at their discretion. And you know, there’s probably a whole host of legal reasons why that’s a good idea.

Despite that, I would expect flickr to have a slightly more refined system in place for dealing with copyright claims, than merely deleting everything that seems to be related to the claim.

In any case, the bottomline is that flickr has deleted several hundreds of images from my account and I didn’t get a chance to go through them for false positives, backup my metadata (there are quite a few people I have had contact to, and I would like to retain not only those connections, but also the talks we had about for instance, the design evolution of the X-Wing) or even index the collection for any eventual counter-case.

Not only that, but despite promising ‘a timely response’, two weeks later, I still can’t get anyone at flickr to tell me how this can possibly be their best response to copyright infringement cases. How many of these do they handle every week, and this is their solution?

Really?

What happens when someone manages to fake a copyright infringement claim? Your entire flickr account disappears in a plume of smoke. Deleted. Flushed. Expelled. Shot straight into the sun. Star Wars images? Yeah, who cares? Your child’s first steps? Hope you had a backup. Wedding photos? Gee shucks…

At first I was pissed. Just from principle. That my images were deleted without objection doesn’t give me a lot of confidence in flickr. But that this is actually their system for dealing with copyright infringement claims is just amateurish. I’ve heard from others who are in the same situation, some of whom have waited even longer without hearing from the ‘senior representative’ or the ‘copyright team’.

I’m done being pissed though. Now I’m simply disappointed that not only did it happen, but for a week and a half and despite asking almost every day, I can hardly get a sign of life from flickr. I’ve been a paying member of flickr for over four years, and a staunch advocate and proponent of flickr, so somewhere, you’d think my trust was worth something?

Thanks flickr. You’re the best.

Comments are open.

Related:
Jeremy has his own squabbles with flickr.

Update:
Jan 2nd, 2009: Still no word from Flickr, despite several attempts on my part to contact them.