Flickr expands into image licensing to take on its frenemy Getty Images

Companies and creatives alike are starting to recognize the value of photography, as good design becomes evermore ubiquitous and essential. Flickr announced Tuesday that it too is expanding into the image licensing game, allowing photographers who upload their images to sell them through a newly-created Flickr Marketplace.

Called “curated connections,” Flickr’s announcement was vague on details regarding the new licensing options, but the company has since clarified that it is currently invitation only. Because of the “different opportunities” for Flickr photographers and buyers, the Marketplace does not have a strict pricing structure yet, according to a Flickr spokeswoman. The post hinted that photos could be licensed for use on a variety of Yahoo property sites, like Yahoo travel, or photographers could be commissioned. The marketplace site also teased connections with news services and blogs, including the New York Times, Reuters, Gizmodo and the BBC.

Flickr is advertising its connection with parent company Yahoo as part of its new licensing program.
Flickr is advertising its connection with parent company Yahoo as part of its new licensing program.

Image licensing isn’t exactly new to Flickr. The website has long been applauded for offering its photographers an easy way to set creative commons distribution licenses or to have them license their photo professionally through Getty Images. However its deal with the photo agency, which went back to 2008, was discontinued this March after the two parties decided not to renew the contract between them.

The photo agency appears to be back in Flickr’s good graces, however, as the marketplace site advertised connecting with “photo editors, designers, and agencies including Getty Images” even though Flickr’s licensing program pits it in direct competition with Getty and other imaging sites like 500px.

A Flickr spokeswoman explained their born-again relationship as image partners:
[blockquote person=”” attribution=”Ana Braskamp, Flickr spokeswoman”]”Prior to the new program, photographers could work directly with Getty Images to license their work. We have a new agreement with Getty Images that allows us to work directly with our creative community to provide exciting licensing and monetization opportunities. We are excited to begin a new relationship with Getty Images through its Image Partner program, whereby we will continue to supply content to Getty Image’s market leading audience of photo buyers.”[/blockquote]

Flickr’s move could even position them against smaller image licensing niches like mobile photography, since the number one camera on the site is an Apple iPhone.

The site’s power is its users who already upload millions of photos a day to the site, which has more than 10 billion images already. It’s a widespread group, including amateurs uploading their day to day photos to professionals posting entire photoshoots. We at Gigaom even post our event pictures to Flickr instead of hosting them on our site (although we set our copyright to all rights reserved). If photographers who upload to Flickr naturally have the option to sell some of their photos, then they’re likely to do so through a platform they use instead of going elsewhere.

This story was updated at 4:30 p.m. PST with comment from Flickr.