Flickr Will No Longer Nuke Your Metadata When They Comply With DMCA Takedown Notices

JD: It seems that Yahoo has an extreme policy regarding DMCA takedown notices; even beyond what the law stipulates.

TH: I don’t know how many photos of Crook Yahoo wiped out but there was no need to wipe out the metadata, comments, descriptions, posts, etc. And there was no need to permanently delete this stuff. Yahoo went way beyond what the DMCA requires and I don’t like that anyone can just send in a bogus DMCA notice on my Flickrstream and have hundreds and thousands of lines of text deleted that might be associated with an image.

Yahoo needs to change their policy on this.

February 13, 2007, 10 Zen Monkeys Interview, “Is Yahoo/Flickr DMCA Policy Censorship?”

Back in 2007, Yahoo/Flickr nuked an image of mine citing a bogus DMCA request from Michael Crook (who later was sued by the EFF and apologized to all in internetland as part of his settlement). Stewart Butterfield, who was Flickr Chief at the time, later said that while he didn’t feel it was a mistake for flickr to have nuked my photo and all of the metadata surrounding it over a bogus DMCA notice, that it was a mistake for Flickr not to have a mechanism to restore that kind of deletion.

More significantly to me than the fact that Flickr nuked my image, was the fact that they nuked all of the comments, metadata, etc. around my image. From my own post on the matter in 2007. “Irrespective of any DMCA claim about the image. Yahoo could have simply taken down the image, but left all of the metadata associated with the image,” I wrote.

I’ve been hammering on Flickr for a few years now to change their policy of deleting photo metadata along with photo deletions. Most recently, about four weeks ago, (before I was indefinitely banned from the Flickr Help Forum) I again suggested that there was a better way for flickr to handle DMCA takedown notices.

The good news is that Flickr finally seems to be relenting on this one.

In an article entitled, “After ‘Obama Joker’ debacle, Flickr changes takedown policy,” Mark Millan over at the L.A. Times writes: “One of the site’s 38 million users suggested in the support forums that instead of completely removing the page in question as it had been doing, Flickr should delete just the image, leaving the comments and other relevant information, such as when the offending image was uploaded and how many hits it had gotten.

That’s just what Flickr says it is now doing. As of Tuesday at 3:30 p.m., takedown requests filed under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, or DMCA, will result in the image being replaced with one that reads, “This image has been removed due to a claim of copyright infringement.”

This is a step forward in the right direction for Flickr and I’m really pleased to see this change (even if it has taken two years). It’s unfortunate that more recently it has taken a barrage of negative PR at the brand in order to see this small improvement made.


Flickr still needs to go further. A lot of controversy around the most recent Joker/Obama image was over how seriously Flickr examines their takedown notices. Can any crackpot simply file a DMCA takedown notice and get an image killed? As it turns out, probably.

As part of an experiment, one Flickr user turned in a bogus DMCA takedown notice coming from “Joe Blow” (literally).

“Actually, I’ve verified that they don’t, by submitting a fake claim of my own, from a once-off email address, using the name “Joe Blow” and giving no identifying information other than an obviously fake address (“Anytown, USA”),” wrote flickr user 3e, confirming that the subsequent image on Flickr was nuked.

A lot of people say that Flickr is required by law to remove items when they get a DMCA takedown request. This is simply not true though. If “Joe Blow” sent Flickr a DMCA takedown request telling them that President Obama’s photostream was violating copyright law, I guarantee you they would not nuke the President’s photostream. It’s too high profile of an account. They would choose instead not to nuke his stream and defend it against an obvious bogus DMCA request. And this would be the right decision for them to make.

Although Flickr certainly can’t be held responsible to rigorously investigate every single complaint, they certainly can look at some of these on a case by case basis and make logical and intelligent determinations.

In my own case, when my image of Crook was nuked, I immediately contacted Heather Champ directly at Flickr pointing her to a boing boing post detailing Crook’s abuse of the DMCA by issuing these bogus complaints. Certainly it would not take much investigating to determine that Michael Crook did not hold copyright to the image that he claimed. But none of that mattered. It should have.

Flickr also should also agree to follow Google’s more transparent practice of submitting DMCA requests going forward to the Chilling Effects website.

More coverage on this from Stephen Shankland CNET here.

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  1. David says:

    Heck flickr has shown us the way to force their hand to fix the problem. Everyone just start submitting fake DMCA takedown requests. When they start getting tons of fake DMCA requests for random images then they will be forced to fix the problem or they will have even more pissed of users out there and more bad PR.

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  3. gaston says:

    As I see, from now Blogger ( blogspot) is also erasing all the metadata when you upload an image to theirs blogspot. No mor copyright, your name, camera EXIF, nothing!