My photos are … well … mine

It was a rather innocuous moment.

I was on Skype with My American and, in a flash of crazy, we started a Google search for Maremma sheepdogs.

Which ones look like Shep? Aw, wookadawiddle puppies of fluff!

A Walk on the River 046

Hey, wait a second … that one does look like Shep. A lot like Shep. Um, because it is Shep.

It must be one of my links, I thought, and clicked through. Nope. It was the Pinterest board for an American security company. And so I clicked through to the link they had attached to the Pin.

To my shock, I saw a cluster of three pictures of my boy, another on the landing page for a feature about flock guardian dogs.

The only place I can remember posting those pictures is Flickr. I don’t remember a message requesting use of the photos and there was no credit to my Flickr account on the website.

I was sure, I thought, I had my Flickr account set to All Rights Reserved. I checked.

Flickr SS

I fired off an email as polite as I could muster.

I figured this small-time Canadian entrepreneur wouldn’t hear back from some big-time American company. First thing this morning, thought, I got an email. I was further surprised when the person on the other end not only apologized profusely but took responsibility for what we both thought was an error.

After a couple of back-and-forth emails, she sent me a series of links that show the pictures in question as “Some Rights Reserved” in the Creative Commons, which means all the security company has to do is give me a credit and they can use the pictures.

I thought there must be some kind of error but then I realized something. Go back up to the screenshot and see the words in pink letters.

Defaults for new uploads

I can only assume that in my naivete when I started my Flickr account four years ago, I had the settings at Some Rights Reserved. And Flickr apparently has a little loophole that doesn’t change the settings on already-uploaded photos when you change your mind.

So I only had All Rights Reserved on some of my uploads.

My only recourse, I thought, was to delete the whole shebang. And that’s what I did, uploading this message to my friends and followers who had favourited some of my photos:


Many of us upload our photos for free to share, thinking we might bring a little smile to anyone who happened upon them or maybe even hoping for a little reassurance that, hey, we can take a decent picture.

And whether we set our accounts to All Rights Reserved or Some Rights Reserved, it”s no protection. It’s only a Stop sign at a four-way intersection and we all know how many people roll right through.

I still haven’t figured out whether I should try selling any of my shots. Some friends tell me I should.

But in the event I do, I don’t want any free copies floating around there.

You’ll notice watermarks on the photos I think are pretty good. And you’ll see a new policies page going up on It’s just my way of protecting myself as best as I can.

If you have any suggestions or advice, please feel free to leave them in the comments.


  1. Don’t be polite. Sue whoever is using your images without your permission as that’s the only way to learn that. People steal whatever is online and don’t think they are crooks bu they are.

    1. I’m giving them a pass, Marcelo. I didn’t know the rules well enough to protect myself and they were cooperative. I know now where I went wrong and I’m doing what I can to correct it. I guess my biggest problem is that I’m an oversharer. 🙂

  2. Brutal Angela. I totally understand why you’d yank them all. I also appreciated the comments about stealing your crappy Instagram photos. As for the business end – I don’t think enough companies really understand the legal requirements for using photos they find online. Stock photos, hell even a photo shoot you schedule for your organization doesn’t necessarily mean that you have free range to use the photo however you want, whenever you want. It costs money and you should suck it up and pay for it organizationally. We struggle with this on a daily basis at my job. Most people just don’t get it.

    1. This is especially painful, Nic. I worked for a boss who would say ‘get a photo.’ When I couldn’t find something in the (stock), he would say ‘just Google search for one and use it.’ I asked about copyright issues and he said ‘no one’s going to notice.’

      I felt sick to my stomach every time I had to do it.

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