Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer said something that was insensitive to some and downright insulting to many.
“There’s no such thing as Flickr pro because today, with cameras as pervasive as they are, there’s no such thing, really, as professional photographers. And then there’s everything that is professional photographers – certainly there’s varying levels of skill – but we didn’t want to have a Flickr pro because we wanted everyone to have professional quality photo space and sharing.”
Obviously, she and her crew feel that if everyone has a “professional-level” camera then everyone is a professional. That’s sort of like saying that because I can afford an expensive, computerized keyboard, then I’m a professional musician. Ridiculous!
What It Means to be Photo Pro
To her credit, she did acknowledge that there are “varying levels of skill.” Let’s examine a couple of those “levels of skill.”
- Make great photos on demand, day in and day out.
- The knowledge, preparedness and willingness to run towards danger and make story-telling images as John Tlumacki did at the Boston Marathon bombing  instead of fleeing like the “citizen journalists” armed with “professional” cameras.
- Find the perfect image that captures the human drama in a horrible disaster like Sue Ogrocki did at the Moore, Okla., tornado .
- Do all of this under severe deadline pressure and in unfamiliar territory.
Ms. Mayer and her minions made several disingenuous attempts at praising photographers and photography during the press event. For example; “Photos make the world go ‘round” and “We wanted to bring about a photo-centric world!” But, when you compare what they said to what actually happens on their websites, it’s apparent that calling no one – and everyone – a professional photographer is a focused strategy that serves their bottom line.
Yahoo! Wants All Your Images
The most revealing statement came from Ms. Meyer, “We want ALL of your images in full resolution.”
Adam Cahan, SVP, Mobile and Emerging Products, Yahoo!, said, “We’ve actually brought those photographs into so many different experiences at Yahoo!… So throughout, we always are looking for ways to expose the creators who are giving us those images all around Yahoo! in all these different products.” (The emphasis is mine.)
Notice the language. It’s very friendly and beneficent but what they’re really saying is, “Hey, we want you to post these fantastic, full-resolution photos so we can use ‘em free of charge in all of our products! We’ll give you exposure instead of money!”
It’s All Detailed in the User Agreement
So, how can they do that? It’s right there in the Terms of Service/User Agreements.
This links to the complete User Agreement for Tumblr , but here are the pertinent parts:
When you transfer Subscriber Content to Tumblr through the Services, you give Tumblr a non-exclusive, worldwide, royalty-free, sublicensable, transferable right and license to use, host, store, cache, reproduce, publish, display (publicly or otherwise), perform (publicly or otherwise), distribute, transmit, modify, adapt (including, without limitation, in order to conform it to the requirements of any networks, devices, services, or media through which the Services are available), and create derivative works of (including, without limitation, by Reblogging, as defined below), such Subscriber Content. The rights you grant in this license are for the limited purpose of operating the Services in accordance with their functionality, improving the Services, and allowing Tumblr to develop new Services.
In addition to giving Tumblr the right to do whatever they want with your photos, this also allows them to transfer those rights to the mother ship – Yahoo! – so they can use them however they want in their “Yahoo Services” – which is everything they do – apps, websites, news services, etc.
Below are the pertinent sections of Flickr’s TOS – which also happen to be Yahoo!’s :
…with respect to Content you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services, you grant Yahoo! the following worldwide, royalty-free and non-exclusive license(s), as applicable:
…With respect to photos, graphics, audio or video you submit or make available for inclusion on publicly accessible areas of the Yahoo! Services other than Yahoo! Groups, the license to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content on the Yahoo! Services solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available…(Emphasis mine)
What About Copyrights and Embedded Info?
So, now you’ve turned over your photos to Yahoo! so they can use them free of charge with any of their products/properties. What happens then? What about your copyright? What about your IPTC information? Do they stay with your photos?
“We obviously respect copyright,” said Mayer. “When you look at the user-generated sites, like Tumblr and like Flickr, part of this is that people are creating on the platform and their copyright needs to be respected.”
Markus Spiering, Head of Product for Flickr, quickly followed Mayer, “…we care a lot about attribution…at Flickr we always think about how to attribute our users (and) how we can make sure that the work they post onto the Internet is always attributed.”
Perhaps, but actions speak louder than words, as you will see.
One-Click Downloads Make Theft Too Easy
One of the “cool” aspects of the new, high-resolution Flickr is the ability to upload your images with a single click. They also have one-click for downloads along with an option to turn off download entirely.
However, a casual look at the Flickr “More Popular Photos” on the front page of Yahoo! shows that a small but significant percentage of those photographers did not disable the “download” option. What happens when someone downloads those images? According to this study , after downloading the image, if you look at the Exif and IPTC info, you’ll find that “…’by’ was (overwritten), (and) all embedded metadata stripped-off from image files”! Definitely not a good way to “make sure that the work they post onto the Internet is always attributed”!
Tumblr is a little better about this. In my quick tests on a student’s blog, the IPTC and Exif info remained when I downloaded an image. Let’s hope it stays that way.
The Logical Conclusion: Your Photos Are Yahoo’s Photos
So, let’s follow this to its logical conclusion; Yahoo! steals one of your images and uses it on one of their products, free of charge – Oh! Excuse me! I mean, “expose(s) the creators who are giving us those images all around Yahoo!, in all these different products.” And if there’s caption/credit info stored in the photo, it will be displayed when you roll over it – and that’s good.
Except for one little thing.
I conducted a test and went through multiple pages on the Yahoo! site. I found that I could easily download any images, including wire services photos. Some images downloaded in web res, some in higher res. But, when I looked for the Exif and IPTC info, poof!, it was gone – even from the wire service photos!
No payment. No info. No attribution. No copyright. Untraceable.
The definition of “professional” in Merriam-Webster reads in part:
“…characterized by or conforming to the technical or ethical standards of a profession… participating for gain or livelihood in an activity or field of endeavor often engaged in by amateurs…”
So, when you consider the real definition of “professional,” it’s easy to understand why Marissa Mayer would like the public to believe there’s no such thing, really, as professional photographers.