Flickr Free account changes: CC licenses, and downloading


Following the November 1st statement by SmugMug that Flickr will be changing its account options, limiting Free account holders to only 1,000 images, the company issued an important – for some – clarification on what will happen with free accounts.

In the original blog post, it was stated that Free accounts with more than 1,000 photos or videos have until Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 to download content over the limit, after which Flickr would start deleting content from accounts over the limit (from oldest to newest) until it is reached.

However, on Tuesday, November 7th, a further announcement was made, indicating that images uploaded under Flickr’s own Flickr Commons license or – more particularly for Second Life users – displayed under a Creative Commons licence will not be deleted – but there is a potential catch.

Specifically, the November 7th, 2018 blog post states:

Photos that were Creative Commons licensed before our announcement are also safe. We won’t be deleting anything that was uploaded with a CC license before November 1, 2018. Even if you had more than 1,000 photos or videos with a CC license. However, if you do have more than 1,000 photos or videos uploaded, you’ll be unable to upload additional photos after January 8, 2019, unless you upgrade to a Pro account.

– From: The Commons: The Past Is 100% Part Of Our Future
Don McAskill, SmugMug / Flickr CEO

Obviously, this doesn’t change the fact that Free account holders will not be able to upload more than 1,000 images. However, if you are a Flickr Free account user, and have uploaded your images using a Creative Commons license, it means you should not have to worry about pictures being deleted if you are already over the 1,000 image limit; your images will be preserved  – as will blog links, etc., to them, even if you opt to use another service going forward.

The potential ambiguity with the statement is in the use of the words uploaded with a CC license before November 1, 2018. This might imply that images uploaded under a different licence (e.g. All Rights Reserved), but which have their license changed after November 1st are to be excluded from this arrangement.

I reached out to Flickr to see if they could clarify whether or not images that have their licensing changed after November 1st, 2018 will be included in the new arrangement. Unfortunately, the reply I received this morning was not really helpful:

We’ve been talking with the E.D. at Creative Commons generally about the changes and they have shared their concerns and priorities with us.

At this time we do not have all of the details needed to provide you with a more thorough answer, however, once we do we will update you as soon as possible.

– Statement from an e-mail received from Flickr, November 9th, 2018

Whether “as soon as possible” means before the January 8th, 2019 deadline for the deletion of older images or not, is anyone’s guess. If they do provide me with and update (or issue a clarification) then I’ll certainly post.

But, given that a potential amnesty has been offered, and you are a Free account holder with more than 1,000 images not under a Creative Commons license, you might want to consider altering them anyway, just in case the answer is “yes, they will also be preserved”. This can be done in bulk relatively easily:

  • In Flickr click on You > Organise to open the batch editor.
  • Use the image preview bar at the bottom of the window to scroll through your images to those you wish to change licenses.
  • Drag the photos from the preview bar up into the editing panel.
Batch editing your Flickr images to change permissions

When you have selected your photos (you can obviously do this in batches):

  • Click on the Permission drop-down in the second menu bar at the top of the window.
  • Select Change Licensing from the drop-down.
  • Use the radio buttons to select your preferred Creative Commons license type.
  • Click Change License to apply the change to all the photos you’ve placed in the batch editor.
  • Use Clear This Batch (top right of the screen) to clear the current selection of photos and repeat as required.
There are a number of Creative Commons license options, use the one you’re most comfortable with. Selected option for illustrative purposes only

Also, remember that if you don’t have originals of your images saved locally, you can re-download them at their original uploaded resolution from Flickr in one of two ways:

  • If you’ve organised your photos into Albums, you can download an entire Album.
    • Go to You > Albums > select the required album > click on the download button in the album banner.
    • The images will be ZIPped and saved on the Flickr servers, and you will be sent a download link via e-mail.
  • Otherwise go to You > Camera Roll. By default, this will display your images by date uploaded. You can then select them individually or via the Select All buttons, and use the download button displayed on the pop-up at the foot of the Flickr window to save them to ZIP files ready for download.
    • Multiple images will be ZIPped and saved on the Flickr servers, and you will be sent a download link via e-mail.
    • How many ZIP file you use is down to you and the volume you wish to download.
    • You can re-sort your images by what Flickr call their “Magic View”  – whether this helps sort your images or not is debatable.