Flickr ends sale of prints uploaded under Creative Commons

The photo-sharing site apologizes for offering professional quality reprints of images uploaded for free use.

Yahoo-owned Flickr said including Creative Commons images wasn't in keeping with the community's spirit of sharing. EMMANUEL DUNAND/AFP/Getty Images

In an abrupt about-face, Yahoo has announced it would cease selling canvas prints of photos uploaded to the photo-sharing site that some photographers intended to give away for free.

The Yahoo-owned site issued an apology Thursday for including the images in its new Wall Art service and said it would refund all sales of images licensed under Creative Commons -- a collection of photos and writings that their creators have deemed free to use, with various restrictions.

"Over the past few weeks, we've received a lot of feedback from the community and beyond -- while some expressed their excitement about the new photography marketplace and the value it would bring, many felt that including Creative Commons-licensed work in this service wasn't within the spirit of the Commons and our sharing community," wrote Bernardo Hernandez, vice president of Flickr.

The criticism began almost as soon as Flickr launched the month-old service, which offers professional-quality prints on finished canvas in artist frames. The original plan was for Yahoo to keep all the proceeds from sales of Creative Commons photos, while giving the photographers of images not covered by Creative Commons a 52 percent cut. However, the inclusion of images licensed under Creative Commons upset many photographers who said they felt Yahoo was making money at the expense of the community on Flickr.

The jostling between some photographers and Yahoo highlighted the debate about how photos can be used in the digital age. Flickr was ensnared in controversy over how images on its service are used in 2007 when Virgin Mobile used a photographer's Creative Commons image on Flickr for a billboard ad. While the company had a right to use the photo, the woman in the image sued for damages, claiming Virgin Mobile didn't have permission to use her likeness in the ad.

While Flickr is excluding Creative Commons images, it is not abandoning the Wall Art. Flickr said users will still be able to order prints from their photo stream as well as art from other artists who are part of the Flickr Marketplace.

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