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.

Thoughts on Flickr changes and Second Life, with a little advice from Berry


Update, November 5th: Today I received an e-mail from Flickr support which may be of interest to quarterly Pro account holders: The 30% one year discount on annual Pro subscriptions (available through until the end of November) is also available to those who opt to  switch from the quarterly plan to the annual plan. 

Quite a few people have registered disappointment over the recently announced changes being made to Flickr free accounts by new owners SmugMug.

Personally, I admit to finding Flickr has been good value for money as a Pro member. I’ve enjoyed unlimited storage (and could continue to do so) and – more particularly – ad-free browsing of the Flickr site, as well as a good level of support. True, I am a little narked that in August Flickr removed the grandfathered rate for Pro users (introduced when Yahoo decided to up free accounts from 200 photos to up to a terrabyte of storage) without apparently e-mailing all Pro users about the change; but, at the end of the day, even the increase still represents pretty reasonable value for a dedicated service that offers a solid platform for image sharing.

Further, the upping of Pro fees puts Flickr on a par with SmugMug’s Basic offering, allowing a fairer comparison between the two for those who might want to have a potentially more flexible approach to how they organise and share their images. For example, SmugMug’s offering includes customisable web page options for displaying images, a greater video length (20 minutes / 3Gb per video, rather than Flickr Pro’s 10 min maximum).

Of course, we all hate paying for something: but like Second Life, Flickr is a business, and as such, SmugMug need to ensure it remains viable. As such, the revisions to the free account are, at the end of the day, something of a reasonable balance: the provision of 1,000 free images is still 5 times the volume originally offered to free account holders at the time free accounts were extended to 1 Tb of storage, allowing what SmugMug to see as the majority of the free account users going without forcing them to upgrade, while it is not so excessive as to have Pro account holders looking elsewhere for a home given that the grandfathered rate for long-time Pro users has been rescinded.

In my piece covering the announcement by SmugMug I offered a link to Toms Guide’s recommended photo sharing sites for those SL users on Flickr free accounts who might be considering their options. Whether people decide to move or not is entirely a personal choice. But it is worth that given Flickr’s track record on frequency of changes, it’s likely there will be few additional pricing updates to the platform in the near future; thus, Flickr does still represent good value for money. Less that US $5.00 a month when paying annually, and US $6.00 a month for those on the quarterly plan (with the ability to make a swap to elsewhere with greater ease than annual subscribers are able to enjoy).

Even so, for those remaining with Flickr (either by limiting themselves to the free account or upping to Pro), there are some understandable concerns. In blogging about spam on Flickr, SmugMug came close to sounding as if digital images from the likes of Second Life would no longer be welcome. However, Don MacAskill, SmugMug’s CEO, has made it clear this is not the case.

Black Bayou Lake; Inara Pey, October 2018, on Flickr
SL images uploaded to Flickr should be labelled “Screenshots” to meet SmugMug’s Terms of Service requirements. Strawberry Singh has provided instructions on how to do this – also see the video below. Image: Black Bayou Lakeblog post)

But, as Strawberry Singh points out, in an exceptionally clear and concise blog post, in order to ensure SL images do not run afoul of SmugMug’s Terms of Service, it is essential they are correctly labelled as screen shots). Strawberry provides clear instructions on how to do this in her blog post. In addition, she also provides some important advice to Second Life Flirckr group owners, and for SL content creators using Flickr; as such I strongly recommend reading her post if you do intend to continue to use Flickr.

Berry has also produced a video on making the required changes to meet SmugMug’s TOS (together with other information), so I’ve taken the liberty of embedding it here for those who prefer a video guide to what needs to be done.


Flickr announces significant account changes


Flickr, the image and video hosting service is exceptionally popular with Second Life users. Initially created by Ludicorp in 2004 and then acquired by Yahoo! In April 2018, it was sold to SmugMug, with the promise that there would be changes down the road.

On November 1st, 2018, those changes were officially announced, and could hit those SL users making use of Flickr’s free account offering hard.  In short, it has been announced that:

  • As from January 8th, 2019, free accounts on the platform will be limited to no more than 1,000 photos or videos.
  • After that date, members over the limit will no longer be able to upload new photos to Flickr.
  • Starting on February 5th, 2019, free accounts that contain over 1,000 photos or videos will have content actively deleted, starting from oldest date uploaded, to meet the new limit.

To compensate, SmugMug is upping the Flickr Pro account to try to make it more attractive to users. Pro accounts already receive unlimited storage, ad-free browsing and advanced stats, and will in the near future include things like a 5K photo display option, an increasing in video length from 3 minutes to 10, improved support, and additional partner discounts. To further encourage free account holders to move to Pro usage, those upgrading to the service before November 30th, 2018, will receive a 30% discount on their first year’s annual Pro membership (usually US $49.99 or equivalent per year).

As well as the main announcement, SmugMug have offered a blog post explaining the changes, which in part justifies them as being something as a “return to Flickr’s roots”: prior to 2013, free accounts on the platform were limited to just 200 photos at a time. The further state that in their estimation, the majority of free account holders tend to have fewer than 1,000 photos stored on the service.

Given the prolific nature of Second Life users, I double either of these reasons will serve to sate upset at the announcement – particularly given that the old free account limit was rescinded simply to encourage wider user of the service. Whether the “extras” of the Pro account will be enough to persuade those so affected to pay the annual fee or simply bite the bullet and move their work to another platform, remains to be seen. Those interested in seeing what else is available might want to check this list from Tom’s Guide.

It’s also interesting to note that at the time of the announcement, SmugMug’s own photo sharing options can be utilised from US $48.00 a month, putting it slightly below Flickr’s usual annual pricing for Pro accounts, with a 14-day free trial period. Their Basic account provides users with: unlimited uploads, 20 min / 3Gb videos, a customisable website, full-screen galleries, drag-n-drop photo organisation, multi-level password protection (allowing controlled access to images), print ordering options, and the expected sharing options.

In the meantime, if you’ve not already seen the announcement and the blog post from Flickr and are a free account user of the service, be sure to follow the links above, read, and consider your options.


JMB Balogh asked about the grandfathering of Pro accounts – something I wrestled with querying myself in the above article, eventually opting to keep to just the facts about the free account impact. However, in checking my quarterly Pro membership fees (I’d forgotten a payment was due at the end of October), it would appear the Grandfathering has been rescinded as well.