Idea: a script to find Flickr photos being used online

Flickr is a great place to find photos to use. Many photographers assign their photos with a Creative Commons license, so any can use the photos. (there are different requirements with this license. Some require attribution. Some don’t allow profit use.)

Whenever I see an article using a Flickr image, I almost always click over to see the rest of the photographer’s work. In particular, I like to see if anyone noted to the photographer that their image is being used.

Here’s a great example. Here is an article about a media company launch. Ken Doctor writes some of the best articles analyzing the media industry. And now he’s launching his own media company! Very exciting news.

The featured image for his article is a tourist binocular pay thingy. The name of his company is Lookout, so that image kinda makes sense.

Screenshot of article using Flickr image

At the very bottom of the article is the attribution for the image.

Screenshot of attribution for flickr photo

Clicking through to the photo, there is no mention of this image appearing on this important announcement. Perhaps the author privately contact the photographer about using his image. Since Ken Doctor is so incredible with his media experience (i’m being serious), I’m fairly certain someone from his team would have contacted the photographer to give him a heads up.

[Update to article] To be clear, I’m completely fine with an author using an Creative Commons licensed photo, and giving attribution in the article. Just as Ken Doctor did here. This is completely fine. The article has the photo. The article has the attribution. All is good. I just like the common courtesy of letting the photographer know the photo is being used.

In this case, the photographer might be unaware, so I left a comment.

Screenshot of flickr comment

There’s gotta be a ton of photos where the photographer isn’t aware where their photo is being used.

I bet that can be scripted to find those instances.

An automated Google search that finds pages that meets three requirements:
1) Text says “photo by”
2) Text also says “creative commons license”
3) Link points to an image page on

Then the script would visit that Flickr image page.

Using the Flickr API, the script would check two things:
1) It would check the image to see if there are zero comments
2) It would also check the description to see if URL of the article is not mentioned

If both of these criteria are met, then the script would add the image to a list. The resulting list would be all the images that don’t mention anything about the image being used somewhere.

Note: the script would not automatically leave a comment because there are definitely spammy sites that use other people’s Flickr photos. You don’t want to be dropping spam links on people’s photos.

Maybe somewhere in this script, it would filter out the articles that are spammy.

Anyhow, as a photographer, I know I love knowing when my images are being used. A tool like this would be helpful for photographers.

And since I’m technically using this photo, here’s the credit to the photographer:

» Photo by Jonathan Silverberg used under a Creative Commons license.

Now do I leave another comment on Jonathan’s Flickr photo page to let me know I used his image in a blog post about the article using his image? So meta!

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