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Commercial Use of Flickr (and a Rant about Customer Service)

Terms of Use, Terms of Service, Terms, Community Guidelines, Policy. The rules of the road for social media platforms have many, varying names. Some platforms have their rules centralized. Others have Terms as well as Guidelines (which, by the way, is a total euphemism for “rules” because they are enforced in the same way as “terms”). Others, like Google and Yahoo! and their myriad subsidiary sites, have a set of centralized rules and multiple off-shoot sets of rules. It can be dizzying.

So, what does this have to do with Flickr? Well, we have a client which recently had their account deleted – photos and all – from Flickr without any prior warning – apparently for somehow violating the Flickr Terms of Use (and/or Community Guidelines ). Beyond that, I can’t be sure. (The Guidelines, of course, indicate that they give warnings and believe in second chances. Not apparently true here…)

A bit of background. This client sells product internationally, online and over the phone. Their Flickr account existed prior to our involvement with them but we continued to use it. It was not highly trafficked but did help SEO-wise. It probably hosted fewer than 150 images – product shots, office and staff photos, trade show snapshots, etc.

When we launched the company’s blog in May, we did use the Flickr account to embed a few photos in blog posts. Not many photos, probably fewer than 20. The Flickr photo captions (where they existed at all) were brief descriptors with no links. The one and only link to the company site was in the Flickr profile.

When we realized that the account had gone “missing”, we emailed Flickr customer service. Almost immediately, we received an automated response with a case number and a note indicating that it may take a few days for a meaningful response due to volume of emails.

Two days later, I received this:

Okay, fair enough (though I’m a bit curious as to who reported the “abuse”). I wanted to know a bit more about the specifics of the violation. So, I asked,

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