Instagram, Flickr, and the price of free

The changes that Instagram announced to its terms of service a couple of weeks ago provided an excellent reminder of the real cost of “free” online services and the need for us as users of those services to be realistic about our expectations. The brilliant xkcd explained this in case we missed it:

The new terms that Instagram announced in early December were so extreme that some tech writers recommended the old-fashioned notion of paying for software and services. The most prominent of these paid alternatives is flickr (still my favorite photo sharing service), which has been quietly going on for years, despite the negative press it attracts from the digerati.

Even though Instagram backtracked on the most extreme clauses in their new contract, I think it’s still worth considering flickr or other paid options as a safe place to store and share your images and videos on line. Here’s one important reason why. Instagram may have backed off from using your name and photos in ads without asking, but they still require that you grant them “non-exclusive, fully paid and royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to use the Content that you post on or through the Service.”

As a Pro (paid) member of Flickr, on the other hand, Yahoo! also requires a similar license, but “solely for the purpose for which such Content was submitted or made available.” Now IANAL, but I think this is a more restrictive set of terms as far as what they can do with your stuff. Furthermore, you can choose to impose terms on the use of your content by others. You can go the “all rights reserved” route, or choose from a selection of Creative Commons licenses that encourage sharing and reuse within defined limits.

These more robust terms are one reason, I think, why flickr partnered with Getty Images, a top stock photo agency, to offer a commercial licensing option to select flickr users.

Even if you’re not interested in possibly making a couple of bucks from your photos, I think the paid and (more) protected option is still worth considering.