Flickr presents great opportunities for Wikimedia Commons, but also presents a number of inherent risks of copyright infringement. This guide is intended to help you spot when an image might be infringing copyright and should be deleted from Wikimedia Commons. This guide is also intended to be useful for administrators and other trusted users reviewing images to determine if the image should be approved or whether it should be deleted.
Questionable Flickr images
- Main article: Commons:Problematic sources#Flickr
First look at Commons:Questionable Flickr images to see if the Flickr user has been determined as someone whose images should not be considered released for our purposes before. See also Commons:Problematic sources#Flickr for an extended discussion.
Time and date
You should always have a quick look to see the image you're bringing in from Flickr or are reviewing doesn't already exist on Commons. However, if the image has been available on Flickr for a lengthy period, consider looking that little bit harder for the image on Commons, especially if it's a popular subject. If the image is recent or the topic much less popular, then it's less likely the image is already on Commons, but it's always a good idea to check anyway.
The time and date on the image can be very useful in determining if the image is genuine and specifically, if it has been created by the user at a later date. Conventions, film premieres, fashion shows and such will all have the date easily available for you to find out what date should be in the EXIF data of the image. Not everybody sets the date on their cameras correctly though. A whole photostream with pictures supposedly from the same event with different dates in the EXIF data is suspicious, 20 images with the same incorrect date, less so.
EXIF data is your friend. Digital cameras aren't cheap enough for most users of Flickr to have 25 different models, so when you first visit Flickr to confirm the image is available under a free license, you should check to see if the photographer is using one or two models of digital cameras, as they are more likely to be the photographer.
If the user on Flickr has photos taken on a number of different cameras, consider the possibility that they are uploading images taken from random websites, including Commons. Some photographers do however upgrade their cameras regularly, these photographers often show brand loyalty and will upgrade from, say, a Canon EOS 300D to a 350D then to a 400D. In these cases, it's prudent to see if one model of camera is used for a certain length of time, then a newer model is used after that, and so on, which would suggest they're replacing one camera with another.
EXIF Data can also provide the date and time the image was taken. If a group of images are alleged to have been taken at the same time or place, does the time and dates match up ?
The photo is also your friend. Once you're happy that the Flickr user isn't simply uploading random images from the internet, you need to make sure they're not stealing images from one or two websites, say, a website belonging to a professional photographer. The images can provide some clues as to this. Images taken on the red carpet at a movie premiere recently are usually worth money to a photographer and are unlikely to be available under a free license, similarly, it's unlikely for a photographer who intends to release their work under a free license to get access to the red carpet areas. Some photographers do, however, release their work under a free license after a period of time and it's always prudent to check.
The backgrounds, setting and backdrop of an image can also provide good information. If the event is open to the general public, you should expect to see the public in the background, if it's a convention, do the subjects of the photos have on passes and such, look for little details which suggest that the image is legitimate or not. If you're looking at movie stars, do they look like they're in a promotional shot or does it look like they're at a public convention type event.
Creative Commons License
Many people will be uploading images having found them on Flickr using the Advanced Search option, checking the Creative Commons boxes towards the bottom, rather than reaching a suitably licensed image after browsing through a photographer's other work. This sadly raises the possibility that we are importing work inadvertently licensed under the wrong license. It's worthwhile spending a few moments to see if only one or two images are licensed under the Creative Commons licence, or if all the photographers images are licensed under the Creative Commons license, does the photographer always use one flavour of Creative Commons licence which permits Commercial Use and Derivative Works, or do they normally license their work under a Non Commercial and/or Non Derivative version of the Creative Commons licence.
If it appears the image you have found has been accidentally licensed under the Creative Commons license, or the photographer's other work is licensed under different licenses, please consider contacting them and confirming the situation. We wish to foster and maintain excellent working relations with Flickr and given the often close knit nature of the community on Flickr, and by trying to hang onto an image the original photographer accidentally licensed as CC-BY or similar, we risk upsetting Flickr users.
Read the uploaders profile and look at their other images, read the background information they provide on their photostreams, if applicable. Does the photographer normally take the type of photograph, have they taken dozens of photos at the event they've attended, do they have photographs from previous years etc. This has two benefits, you might find other photos which would be beneficial to Commons and our sister projects, and you will get an idea what sort of photographs the user takes. It might be sensible for Commons to begin keeping details of photographers that are active in particular fields and when a specific image is required, checking through the list of photographers to see where to look for an image could be a viable possibility.
If you're only looking for one specific photograph on Flickr but you find a number of photographs that could be useful, if you can, upload those images, you might find Flickr upload bot useful if you're not familiar with uploading a number of photographs. If you don't have time or feel confident in uploading these images, please ask someone to upload the images for you.
Look for deleted images
Flickr can be used to circumvent (or attempt to circumvent) our copyright control procedures here, users who upload copyright violations are now starting to move to Flickr, creating an account, and uploading the same images to Flickr then re-uploading them to Commons with their Flickr site as a source. Please check to see if the uploader has recently had images deleted for copyright problems, especially if they have similar file names, or they've uploaded 3 images from Flickr, but had 3 images deleted earlier.
Long standing Flickr users normally have an account with a username, such as mine http://www.flickr.com/photos/notaspy/ whilst new accounts will typically not have a username, but will consist of random numbers such as http://www.flickr.com/photos/22207441@N04/. It's quite difficult, especially for a new user, to select a permanent username on Flickr, so new accounts tend to be easily recognizable, but as ever, double check.
Finally, also check to see if the photos in question were uploaded to Flickr after the user had some of their uploads deleted on Commons, as this could demonstrate Flickr being used in this manner. If in doubt, please ask an administrator to check the images that were deleted and see if they match the images on Flickr.
CC license search
Flickr can search its images by CC license: http://flickr.com/creativecommons
"Many Flickr users have chosen to offer their work under a Creative Commons license, and you can browse or search through content under each type of license."
For example; click the "see more" link for
and then enter search terms and click again. Those are the only 2 acceptable CC licenses for Wikipedia or the Commons.