Is Flickr Holding Photos Hostage?

Mike Arrington, the founder of TechCrunch, published a post today saying that he won’t use Flickr anymore until they release his photos that they are holding hostage.

My Pro account expired at some point, probably because I missed an email or my credit card number changed. I wasn’t using Flickr as much, having moved more to Facebook because of the structured people tagging feature. But then one day I was searching for an old treasured photo that existed only on Flickr and on the hard drive of some long forgotten and discarded mobile phone.

Flickr won’t show me that photo. If your pro account expires only your last 200 photos are shown. The only way I can get access to that photo is by paying the Pro fee.

His complaint is that if you upgrade to a pro account, upload a bunch of photos, then let your pro subscription lapse, you don’t get the same benefits of having a pro account.  What?  I wasn’t sure I had read it correctly either, at first.  But, I’ve looked it over several times now, and that really is what he’s whining about. I can say that he’s whining, because he says he is, too.  (I probably would have anyways.)

One of the comments on his post (comments run by facebook btw.  What do you think will happen when facebook decides to stop supporting that or charge for it, Mike?) has a pretty good comparison that makes Mike sound even more whiny.  The commenter compares his complaint to that of a person who rents a self-storage unit, stops paying for it, but still thinks he should be able to get his stuff out of it.  Wrong.  What they’ll do is lock you out of it, then auction your stuff off.

The truth, from where I stand, is that Mike came up in the dot-com boom era of giving everything away for free and supporting it with ads.  So, a lot of those services would have existed back then.  The problem is that, at the moment, ad revenue isn’t quite cutting it.  Some of these places are actually trying to show some positive revenue.

On top of all of that, he expects to be able to upgrade to pro, use the benefits of pro, then selectively keep the benefits of that elevated status even though he is no longer paying for the pro benefits.  I got news for you, Mike.  The benefits go away when you stop paying for them.  And, if you go and sign up for a new free account at flickr, it very clearly tells you that only the last 200 images will be accessible.

If you don’t like it, you shouldn’t have gone pro in the first place.  You should have found someplace that offered the full service you wanted for free.  I’m not entirely sure such a place exists, but feel free to look.  In the mean time, I should hope that Flickr doesn’t take you too seriously and decide to test your lawyer mettle with a little bit of a libel suit.  They don’t have much of a case, I don’t think, but Yahoo has spend more serious money on less serious things.

Also, quit whining.