Flickr Permanently Deletes Yet Another User Without Warning

by Aaron on August 18, 2009

The trees are on fire!Flickr seems to be getting aggressive about deleting accounts. Last week I wrote about the fact that Thomas Hawk was banned from their forums for pointing out situations where Flickr’s staff had made nonreversible deletions of members’ accounts. Today I learned of another deletion, that of San Antonio realtor Matt Stigliano, aka @rerockstar. Unlike some of the account deletions which were supposedly over political or offensive images, this one concerns an area much more likely to impact the average photographer: the “no commercial activity” portion of Flickr’s terms of use.

Like other account deletions, Stigliano wasn’t given any sort of warning or notice before his account was permanently deleted. The explanation was given in the email from Flickr staff:

	Flickr account "rerockstar-sanantonio" was deleted by
	Flickr staff for violating our Terms of Service and
	Community Guidelines:

	*Don't use Flickr for commercial purposes.
	Flickr is for personal use only. If we find you selling
	products, services, or yourself through your photostream, we
	will terminate your account.

What are commercial purposes? Who knows. I have a link to my commercial photography site in my profile. I’ve sold work that people have found via Flickr. Stigliano had some photos on Flickr that he was using to show some of the homes he’s selling. I’m guessing you’d be hard pressed to find a sampling of 20 serious Flickr users that have never done anything commercial with the site. I suppose all of our accounts should be deleted as well.

I talked with Dale Chumbley, another realtor who is active in the social media scene, for his thoughts on his future with Flickr. He says:

Since I cannot get any clear definition, I’m going through and deleting all photos of houses in my account. Some of these aren’t even listings of mine; just houses I thought were cool. I hate doing this but do not want to risk being deleted with no warning. I’ve been a paying customer for a few years and have a ton of hours into uploading, editing, titling, describing, tagging and am not willing to lose my account. I can’t even begin to count how many PRO accounts I’ve gotten added to the Flickr world through my social networking and teaching. I will not be so quick to sing the praises of Flickr any longer… I’m quite frustrated that I have to go in and delete a bunch of my stuff that may not need to be. Since they won’t be clear with their guidelines, I’m left no choice.

Without any warning, Stigliano had no chance to remove particular photos or to segregate his real estate photos from those that were clearly non-commercial such as family photos, vacations, local attractions, or his cats. He further inquired if he could open a new account and use his previous username, and was told no, that username will never be available again.

What does this mean for photographers? As I noted earlier, if we have a presence on Flickr, we’re probably not hiding the fact that we’re (pro) photographers. Personally I’m rethinking my Flickr use and starting to use my SmugMug account a bit more.

Will Flickr’s recent publicized account deletions change your usage of the service?

Photo by Tambako the Jaguar, used under Creative Commons licensing

  • http://www.rerockstar.com Matt Stigliano – @rerockstar

    Aaron – Thanks for talking about my issue in this post. It’s been pretty frustrating. I’d like to add that based on my conversations with Flickr support, I agreed with why I had been deleted, but not how. I did have plenty of commercial purpose photos, but as you mentioned so do a lot of people. Pro photographers and real estate agents are all over Flickr and are using the site for commercial purposes, so I fear that we’ll see more of this soon enough.

    I tried to get an answer from Flickr about exactly what made it more commercial (and deletable) compared to others, but they basically just fed me straight back to the TOS. Seems there is a gray area to the way they view “commercial.”

    Dale’s not of being a PRO account and how many accounts he’s brought in was especially notable to me – I signed up for a PRO account after using a free one and speaking with Dale about it one day.

    Thanks again. I’ll be sharing this.

  • http://www.rerockstar.com Matt Stigliano

    Aaron – Thanks for talking about my issue in this post. It’s been pretty frustrating. I’d like to add that based on my conversations with Flickr support, I agreed with why I had been deleted, but not how. I did have plenty of commercial purpose photos, but as you mentioned so do a lot of people. Pro photographers and real estate agents are all over Flickr and are using the site for commercial purposes, so I fear that we’ll see more of this soon enough.

    I tried to get an answer from Flickr about exactly what made it more commercial (and deletable) compared to others, but they basically just fed me straight back to the TOS. Seems there is a gray area to the way they view “commercial.”

    Dale’s not of being a PRO account and how many accounts he’s brought in was especially notable to me – I signed up for a PRO account after using a free one and speaking with Dale about it one day.

    Thanks again. I’ll be sharing this.

  • http://realestatesigns.com jimcalabrese

    Ouch! I guess it’s only a matter of time before Flickr catches me, too. It a mystery to me why all these platforms have a problem with commercial use. Do they plan on existing on venture capital forever?

    I was recently booted from Facebook for pretty much the same thing. No way was I anymore guilty of commercial use than the average Realtor. I was even a Facebook advertiser!

  • http://realestatesigns.com/ Jim Calabrese

    Ouch! I guess it’s only a matter of time before Flickr catches me, too. It a mystery to me why all these platforms have a problem with commercial use. Do they plan on existing on venture capital forever?

    I was recently booted from Facebook for pretty much the same thing. No way was I anymore guilty of commercial use than the average Realtor. I was even a Facebook advertiser!

  • http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com/ Ken Aaron

    Is this a contradiction to flickr’s option to “Make your photos eligible for invitation by Getty Images”? That certainly seems like a commercial use to me.

    But this is going to make me very seriously reconsider my flickr use and look for alternatives.

  • http://www.neighborhoodnotes.com Ken Aaron

    Is this a contradiction to flickr’s option to “Make your photos eligible for invitation by Getty Images”? That certainly seems like a commercial use to me.

    But this is going to make me very seriously reconsider my flickr use and look for alternatives.

  • http://www.photographyreview.com/ Photo-John

    I’ve gotten a warning for the PhotographyREVIEW account because it links to reviews on PhotographyREVIEW.com. But it’s not a pro account. I’ve never had a warning on my Photo-John account, but it’s a pro account. Are pro accounts allowed “commercial” activity? I mean, pro is pro, right? If a pro account isn’t allowed any “commercial” activity, then I don’t see the point. And yes, if a pro account can get deleted for “commercial” activity, it would definitely change the way I use Flickr.

    • http://www.socialphototalk.com Aaron Hockley

      The accounts that are being deleted are Flickr Pro accounts. According to Flickr’s terms of service, commercial activity is not allowed with any of their accounts, including Pro accounts.

  • http://www.photographyreview.com/ Photo-John

    I’ve gotten a warning for the PhotographyREVIEW account because it links to reviews on PhotographyREVIEW.com. But it’s not a pro account. I’ve never had a warning on my Photo-John account, but it’s a pro account. Are pro accounts allowed “commercial” activity? I mean, pro is pro, right? If a pro account isn’t allowed any “commercial” activity, then I don’t see the point. And yes, if a pro account can get deleted for “commercial” activity, it would definitely change the way I use Flickr.

    • http://www.aaronhockley.com/ Aaron

      The accounts that are being deleted are Flickr Pro accounts. According to Flickr’s terms of service, commercial activity is not allowed with any of their accounts, including Pro accounts.

  • http://newscubamarketing.com/ Nick Bostic

    I had been using Flickr mostly as a private offsite backup of my pictures, with the occasional use on my someday-commercial blog site and would hate to have all of my photos deleted without warning due to a photo of mine I made public to use on my own site. Thanks for the heads up and my Eye-Fi cards are now switched over to my SmugMug account as well.

  • http://newscubamarketing.com Nick Bostic

    I had been using Flickr mostly as a private offsite backup of my pictures, with the occasional use on my someday-commercial blog site and would hate to have all of my photos deleted without warning due to a photo of mine I made public to use on my own site. Thanks for the heads up and my Eye-Fi cards are now switched over to my SmugMug account as well.

  • http://www.TomsonBurnham.com/ Melina Tomson

    Dale and I were tweeting about this because we both use Flickr for personal use a lot. I take a lot of nature photos and store them on Flickr. Neither of us want to see our personal stuff just deleted like that.

    I can understand not having real estate listings on Flickr and photos of catalog items and such. But as a real estate agent that loves architecture, I’m always taking shots of houses and buildings. Does that make me commercial because I say I’m a real estate agent on there and I have photos of houses (not my personal listings).

    Hopefully Flickr has google alerts and is getting an earful on this issue. I can see with pornographic and offensive material deleting it immediately when found. I totally understand enforcing the TOS, but why not give someone 24 hours to remove the offending images. I just think that is bad customer service and what’s the point of having a service if your customers leave in droves because they are worried about being deleted?

  • http://www.TomsonBurnham.com Melina Tomson

    Dale and I were tweeting about this because we both use Flickr for personal use a lot. I take a lot of nature photos and store them on Flickr. Neither of us want to see our personal stuff just deleted like that.

    I can understand not having real estate listings on Flickr and photos of catalog items and such. But as a real estate agent that loves architecture, I’m always taking shots of houses and buildings. Does that make me commercial because I say I’m a real estate agent on there and I have photos of houses (not my personal listings).

    Hopefully Flickr has google alerts and is getting an earful on this issue. I can see with pornographic and offensive material deleting it immediately when found. I totally understand enforcing the TOS, but why not give someone 24 hours to remove the offending images. I just think that is bad customer service and what’s the point of having a service if your customers leave in droves because they are worried about being deleted?

  • http://bit.ly/smn101 Ed Bisquera

    Wow, what’s up with Flickr not responding better to this issue? Perhaps they should take a lesson from Alaska Air and improve their customer service!

    I too have explored more use of Flickr directly because of Dale and the fact the he and his brother ar avid pro/hobby photographers (that distinction shouldn’t violate Flickr’s TOS, IMHO) make me think that Flickr staff is staffed with former INS agents or border patrol, who are overweight, power-hungry buffoons and just are deleting accounts without any word, like @reockstar’s account and others.

    I’m guessing they don’t use Google alerts, since they’re part of the Yahoo family of companies? (Is there such a thing as a Yahoo alert?!)

    They need to just restrict access and allow some time for a warning to be issued. How hard would that be to do?

    Good God, even if you screwed up on eBay, for example, you had time to deal with your error (whether intentional or not).

    Is there anyone listening at Flickr?? knock, knock, anyone home at customer service??

    Regarding the “gray area” issue of commercial activity on one’s photostream and how it breaks TOS, can someone explain to me, like I’m in 5th grade, exactly what can or can’t be done??

    :-)

    Ed

  • http://bit.ly/smn101 Ed Bisquera

    Wow, what’s up with Flickr not responding better to this issue? Perhaps they should take a lesson from Alaska Air and improve their customer service!

    I too have explored more use of Flickr directly because of Dale and the fact the he and his brother ar avid pro/hobby photographers (that distinction shouldn’t violate Flickr’s TOS, IMHO) make me think that Flickr staff is staffed with former INS agents or border patrol, who are overweight, power-hungry buffoons and just are deleting accounts without any word, like @reockstar’s account and others.

    I’m guessing they don’t use Google alerts, since they’re part of the Yahoo family of companies? (Is there such a thing as a Yahoo alert?!)

    They need to just restrict access and allow some time for a warning to be issued. How hard would that be to do?

    Good God, even if you screwed up on eBay, for example, you had time to deal with your error (whether intentional or not).

    Is there anyone listening at Flickr?? knock, knock, anyone home at customer service??

    Regarding the “gray area” issue of commercial activity on one’s photostream and how it breaks TOS, can someone explain to me, like I’m in 5th grade, exactly what can or can’t be done??

    :-)

    Ed

  • http://www.nuwomb.com/ Scott Webb

    I am way too small to be on their radar, but I have posted up a few logos, and link to my website. Flickr is no follow so what’s the harm? Are people putting up the price of some photographs or it’s a bit confusing how they are saying its for commercial. I understand that if a realtor is putting up their house listing that’s a bit off, but I like the idea of marketing.

    Guess I better not have specific links to my store website once it’s up!

  • http://www.nuwomb.com Scott Webb

    I am way too small to be on their radar, but I have posted up a few logos, and link to my website. Flickr is no follow so what’s the harm? Are people putting up the price of some photographs or it’s a bit confusing how they are saying its for commercial. I understand that if a realtor is putting up their house listing that’s a bit off, but I like the idea of marketing.

    Guess I better not have specific links to my store website once it’s up!

  • http://www.HawaiianShirtGal.com/ Diane Sundberg

    This makes me very happy I never paid for a pro acct with Flickr, even when you pay for sites/ areas on the web you’d best make sure you read all of the fine print & read every update if they tell you about it.
    Most “free” sites outside Google will have some hook in there somewhere & “you’re” lack of knowing about it is no excuse as they see it. Buyer beware I guess best sums it up.

    I’ll warn my camera club about this though as I think some of them get paid for their pics & may get caught in the crosshairs.

  • http://www.HawaiianShirtGal.com Diane Sundberg

    This makes me very happy I never paid for a pro acct with Flickr, even when you pay for sites/ areas on the web you’d best make sure you read all of the fine print & read every update if they tell you about it.
    Most “free” sites outside Google will have some hook in there somewhere & “you’re” lack of knowing about it is no excuse as they see it. Buyer beware I guess best sums it up.

    I’ll warn my camera club about this though as I think some of them get paid for their pics & may get caught in the crosshairs.

  • staffing321

    Dale's not of being a PRO account and how many accounts he's brought in was especially notable to me – I signed up for a PRO account after using a free one and speaking with Dale about it one day.

    Find more jobs: http://www.staffingpower.com/

  • http://vstudio-international.com/blog/ Bob van Ooik

    There is actually a very funny thing about this commercial purpose thing. Flickr has now this agreement with Getty… once you are selected by Getty basically all your work has now a commercial purpose ;)

    The way Flickr is deleting and restricting accounts is going in the wrong direction. A couple of my friends have gotten into trouble with them too. And it is really their way of doing that will hurt them the most. See here for instance: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tingreen/4151949878/

  • http://vstudio-international.com/blog/ Bob van Ooik

    There is actually a very funny thing about this commercial purpose thing. Flickr has now this agreement with Getty… once you are selected by Getty basically all your work has now a commercial purpose ;)

    The way Flickr is deleting and restricting accounts is going in the wrong direction. A couple of my friends have gotten into trouble with them too. And it is really their way of doing that will hurt them the most. See here for instance: http://www.flickr.com/photos/tingreen/4151949878/

  • http://twitter.com/stock_image Rachael Towne

    I recently had my Flickr account deleted with no warning. I am a stock photographer and included links to my blog in every image description. Sometimes I wrote things like “To purchase this image in high resolution see my blog…”

    So I went to log in the other day and discovered that my account was gone. No email. No warning. Nothing. Just gone.

    Since my only violation was the commercial issue I figured that had to be why my account was deleted.

    I wrote to customer service and pointed out a few Flickr IDs that were very popular and had been using Flickr in this manner for several years.

    4 days later I got a response:

    Hello,

    In joining Flickr, our members agree to abide by the Yahoo!
    Terms of Service and the Flickr Community Guidelines:

    http://www.flickr.com/guidelines.gne
    http://www.flickr.com/terms.gne

    “Don't vent your frustrations, rant, or bore the brains out
    of other members.
    Flickr is not a venue for you to harass, abuse,
    impersonate, or intimidate others. If we receive a valid
    complaint about your conduct, we'll send you a warning or
    terminate your account.”

    Your account was brought to our attention through Report
    Abuse. Upon review, we determined that your content and/or
    behavior was in violation and your account was terminated.

    Regards,

    Flickr Staff

    What? Ranting? Harassing and abusing other members? Somebody sent a complaint about my conduct?

    If commenting on a few images per day with short compliments like “I love this! Nice colors” etc. is considered bad conduct….wow.

    I'm sure it was the commercial issue and that they were just making something up to make me go away.

  • Ladyinvisible

    My account was also deleted unceremoniously exactly because of what Flickr deemed “commercial purposes”. There was no warning via email or on my home page – just zap, and one day, it was gone. All my pictures were gone. Days of uploading vanished. It was a pro account which I paid for, and I find their way of handling customers terrible – that's no way to treat anyone. Send a warning – heck, I didn't even know about this restriction. Who ever reads the fine print?. And that unceremonious message which basically reads like :”You didn't read the fine print – so goodbye. No arguments. This is it. Now you know, you can sign up again with us if you want. We don't care.” This will be their downfall. Apparently, someone must've tipped them off about my account. Flickr is so big. I don't see their staff monitoring everyone's accounts day in and day out and terminating them permanently. I'm looking at Picasa now – it doesn't seem as if they have an issue with photos that may have any form of commercial content. Does anyone have any experience with Picasa?

  • Ron Scubadiver

    Just got deleted by flickr for “voyeurism”, only no image woud be voyeur under any law in the USA. They seem to have a definition of anything they don’t like.

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