A stern warning (or lack thereof) - Flickr is watching you.

By
Real Estate Agent with Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME

Image Currently Unavailable - Flickr.

photo courtesy of Flickr and their TOS

Flickr won't tolerate you and your real estate ways.

Flickr, the widely popular photo sharing service, is not going to let you abuse them anymore.  By abuse, I mean use them for commercial purposes.  It states in their terms of service that you won't use the site for commercial purposes, but I never really caught onto that.  Until recently.  Seems my content violated their terms of service (it was commercial in nature, no doubt about that) and they closed my account with even a warning.  Because there was no warning, I spent time emailing customer support and asking their Twitter account (@flickr) for help, advice, or at least an answer.  The only way to contact Flickr support is via email and the last time I had a problem (about 6 months ago)...well, I still haven't heard back from them.

While I respect Flickr's right to set rules and use them to control the site, I am not a huge fan of the way they handle it.  Without warning, my account is gone.  A PRO account (paid).  Gone, canceled, terminated, and deleted.  It's only $25, but I'm a little peeved that they were able to cancel my account and keep my money.  I spoke with Emily at customer support today and while I appreciated her taking the time to answer my questions, I felt that the robotic answers made Flickr's responses seem harsh and out of touch with the internet's customer service oriented push.

In asking about how they define commercial purposes, I was met with little more than a link: http://www.flickr.com/guidelines.gne

"Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we will terminate your account."

So I ask the real estate agent public - how do you use Flickr?  I definitely stepped over the boundaries in using Flickr, of that there is no doubt (I admit, I rarely read a site's TOS).  How about those of you that have photo blogs?  Is your use of photos to showcase your town a commercial use?  When I asked Flickr support, they didn't have much of a solid answer other than the link above.  In addition, when you lose your account, you lose your username.  Gone forever.  Have you branded your Flickr page with a name you commonly use (such as my "rerockstar")?  What do you do when that is locked out forever?  I have a lot of unanswered questions thanks to Flickr support.

If we can't use Flickr to host "commercial" content, how can we search for Creative Commons licensing for "commercial" use?  It seems a bit awkward to me.  Admittedly, I'm just a bit bitter now, since I will have to go back through all my photos and recreate some blog pieces as well as all of my slide shows (which are the core of my Neighborhoods section on my site).

Next time you upload a photo to Flickr, think about it - is this for commercial use?  If it is, you may find yourself staring at the photo above - all over your blog and without your former username.

**UPDATE** This whole situation has garnered some attention on Twitter and other blogs.  Although I know I'll never get my account back, it's nice to see some support and discussion on this ruling by Flickr.  Check out Aaron Hockley's article, "Flickr Permanently Deletes Yet Another User Without Warning on Social Photo Talk.

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  1. Mike Mueller 08/06/2009 08:28 AM
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Tamara Dorris

Hi Matt,

Scary stuff!

In fact, yesterday at rebarcamp, they talked about an alternate to Flickr...gotta look in my notes to see more. Of course, if you WOULD HAVE MET ME THERE....we could have chatted about it :-)

Just teasing...but you were missed fo sho!

 

Nice work on the feature, buddy!


ta ta for now,

T

Aug 05, 2009 02:04 PM #82
Rainmaker
91,725
Kerry Jenkins
Prime Properties - Crestline, CA

I don't think that I've put any home pictures on there.  Only pics of my area that I've taken, pics of friends and family.  They shouldn't be able to just dump your account like that though without a warning?  That's harsh.

Aug 05, 2009 02:16 PM #83
Rainmaker
76,253
Glenda Cherry
Keller Williams Realty - Herndon, VA
Realtor / Photographer

Matt, I use Flickr to share real estate photos in the Photography for Real Estate group for critique, but there aren't any links from them, nor do I identify the property in the photos.  I think I'm safe there.  For commercial purposes, I use www.SmugMug.com - I think it will fit the bill for you.  Not only can you upload any photos you want, you can customize your landing page and how your photos are displayed and basically create a web site.  You can even use your own domain name. My SmugMug gallery can be found here: www.CherryFotos.com.

You want cruel irony?  Use the coupon code "flickr" to get a 50% discount off your first year's subscription to SmugMug :-)

Aug 05, 2009 06:23 PM #84
Rainmaker
1,266,874
Gene Riemenschneider
Home Point Real Estate - Brentwood, CA
Turning Houses into Homes

I don't link photos, I down load them (with appropriate copy right acknowledgment) and then upload them to where ever.  Not sure if that is a violation.

Aug 05, 2009 06:46 PM #85
Rainmaker
439,916
Lana Robbins Realtor ® Licensed Real Estate Broker
Aloha Kai Real Estate - Clearwater, FL
Tampa Bay, Florida Real Estate

Hi Matt. I just stopped by to see if anything else came out of it. It seems as though it is now a non-issue since they deleted your account with no warning and that was that? Am curious if it's been resolved though abruptly.

Aug 05, 2009 07:28 PM #86
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Still can't believe how much attention this post drew.  I wrote it to vent more than anything (and figured somebody might find it helpful, but not this many people that had little idea that they could be next).  Thanks everyone and I'm glad it's made a few people think about their options for the future.  I'd hate to see this happen to someone else.

Lana - Resolved?  I guess.  The resolution is I'm out a username, a lot of hard work, and $25.  That's their resolution.

Aug 05, 2009 07:48 PM #87
Rainer
37,213
Jerry Gray
Allen Tate Realtors - Winston-Salem, NC

Hi Matt,

Thanks for the heads up on Flickr.

Jerry Gray CRB,CRS,GRI / Prudential Carolina Realty / Winston Salem, NC

Aug 05, 2009 08:00 PM #88
Rainmaker
821,270
Lyn Sims
RE/MAX Suburban - Schaumburg IL Real Estate - Northwest Suburbs of Chicago - Schaumburg, IL
Schaumburg Homes

Shane wrote about this in his posts a few months ago so I knew of the possibility.  I don't really have anything there, I use PhotoBucket.  Maybe I should head over there & read what that says!  Obviously 'commercial' might have broader terms than I might imagine. Yikes you didn't have a backup of your slide shows? 

Aug 06, 2009 10:04 AM #91
Rainmaker
149,303
Kathy Opatka
RE/MAX CROSSROADS - Ocean City, MD
Serving Ocean City, MD, & The Delaware Beaches

Matt,

Excellent! Thanks for sharing! I'm glad I saved my $25 bucks!

Kathy Opatka

Aug 06, 2009 03:36 PM #92
Anonymous
Anonymous
Anonymous

I have had problems with several sites saying one thing, and then changing.  The old bait and switch i guess

Aug 06, 2009 11:58 PM #93
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Talk about irony - I just got an email saying that had moved my case up to Level 2 support.  Of course, the "Emily" I keep mentioning is from Level 2 support and they had already moved me there.

Aug 07, 2009 04:05 PM #94
Rainmaker
42,689
Michael Barrow
Keller Williams Realty - San Diego Metro - San Diego, CA
Realtor, San Diego CA Real Estate

Just started using Fickr...Thanks for the warning!!!

Aug 11, 2009 12:43 PM #95
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Michael - Try and be careful, I'd hate to see it happen to anyone else.  It's a nightmare when all of your photos and slideshows disappear overnight.

Aug 11, 2009 03:50 PM #96
Anonymous
Anonymous
Ira Serkes
Could you let us know what you did or how you specifically posted violated TOS?
Aug 17, 2009 12:32 PM #97
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Ira - I was unable to get any specifics from Flickr to really nail down what it was that was considered the violation.  I've talked to many agents since this happened and a lot of what I was doing, so were they.  My guess is that someone reported me.

Aug 17, 2009 08:08 PM #98
Rainmaker
573,804
Cheryl Johnson
Cheryl Johnson, Bob Taylor Properties, Inc., Los Angeles, CA - Highland Park, CA

Years ago some of my online photog friends were big on pBase.com, but... I just looked at SmugMug and  and it looks great, but ....

This is a no-no in the SmugMug TOs "Unsolicited promotions, political campaigning, advertising or solicitations;"  

So if a real estate agents posts photos of homes and neighborhoods on SmugMug  ... is that advertising or soliciations???

 

Aug 22, 2009 08:28 AM #99
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Cheryl - I guess it's really left optn to their interpretation on the rules.  I have heard good things about SmugMug, but then again everyone raved to me about Flickr too.  I think I'm going self-hosted and just going to work hard to regain my top positions on those keywords.

Aug 22, 2009 09:28 AM #100
Rainmaker
573,804
Cheryl Johnson
Cheryl Johnson, Bob Taylor Properties, Inc., Los Angeles, CA - Highland Park, CA

Back in the early days, I self hosted all of my photos; but then I discovered Flickr and thought the whole friends-and-sharing thing was great ... but...

Anyway, now that I am revisiting self-hosting, I just thought I'd mention I still think Breeze Browser Pro http://www.breezesys.com/BreezeBrowser/features.htm is a great little program for quickly generating web galleries. 

After you've created the gallery, you simply upload one folder full of images/thumbnails/html pages to your hosting server.  (The number of different galleries you can have is limited only by the available space on your server.  :-)  )

 

Aug 24, 2009 05:21 AM #101
Rainmaker
270,631
Matt Stigliano
Kimberly Howell Properties (210) 646-HOME - San Antonio, TX

Cheryl - I've downloaded a few options that I'm going to play with.  I have unlimited storage on my site (and unlimited bandwidth - mmmmm), so I'm good there.  I just want something that can still generate some of the SEO benefit of Flickr, which is what I loved about Flickr (and probably what caused me to get noticed).

Aug 24, 2009 08:11 AM #102
Rainmaker
97,548
Dona Reynolds
Berkshire Hathaway Home Services Stein Summers - Saint Joseph, MO
St. Joseph MO

Matt:  I do not use Flickr, guess I am not going to start now.  I am chiming in here to see what the outcome is going to be.  Does not seem right a few can do it but others can not.

Sep 09, 2009 02:48 PM #103
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