As if upsetting a whole bunch of customers by forcing Flickr users to sign up with Yahoo to logon to the service, Yahoo now shoots itself in the foot by breaking their own terms of service.
Yahoo’s new vertical brand sites, such as their Wii page, are pulling content from the rest of the Yahoo world, including Flickr. Unfortunately they are pulling content that has been set as All Rights Reserved or non-commercial, which means it should be going nowhere except Flickr.
When loading content up to the site, the ToS are clear that you own the photos and always will; they allow you to choose from a wide range of Creative Commons licenses to define how you assert rights over the photo. Flickr maintain a licence to display the images on their site and their site only. Flickr also has an API which allows people to pull thumbnails of images into their websites and link back to the photo. This API has an explicit clause preventing it’s use on commercial sites.
So by building the Flickr widget on the wii page, showing all photos that are tagged with wii they are breaking the API rules and stealing content from people who have asserted their IP rights.
Now, not everyone obeys all these rules, but normally big businesses with big lawyers should now better. We don’t know the thought processes behind these decisions, if whoever made the design choice is aware of the rights behind the images and just thought they were Yahoo and they could do what they want with Yahoo images. (read the comment from one of the developers though, which implies a mistake)
In protest, a whole bunch of images have been tagged with wii, including ones that call out their copyright violations and these have been appearing in the photo stream.
A couple of hours after all this kicked off on the forums the staff came back to say they had tracked down the developer team and they are changing the code to only pull photos licensed with the appropriate CC. From start to finish, from the ‘error’ being identified and to it being fixed took 2-3 hours which in normal circumstances would be treated as a perfect example of how building a community around your product and having places where you can converse with customers and get their feedback and communicate back to them directly helps you react to crises. Unfortunately for Flickr it comes on the back of the login issue, so more bad karma.
The last word is for Stewart Butterfield, Flickr founder:
And the more important point is: whether or not this use was legal (and I’m personally sure that it is), we’d like to operate at a slightly higher level than mere compliance with the law. You can count on this being the center of many interesting internal conversations!
Let’s hope they can continue to operate at a slightly higher level!