Nix online legalese, says Flickr

Maybe Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg should have listened to Flickr's community manager before he was forced to make a back flip over Facebook's copyright and terms of service last week.

Maybe Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg should have listened to Flickr's community manager before he was forced to make a back flip over Facebook's copyright and terms of service last week.

In the same week that a customer backlash forced Facebook to put its new TOS (which sought to claim a "worldwide perpetual licence" to publish user content) on ice, Flickr's director of community, Heather Champ said that online companies which publish user content such as photos and personal data must nix the legalese and focus on satisfying users that their data is being used in an ethical manner.

Facebook co-founder
Mark Zuckerberg

(A day with Mark Zuckerberg
image by Raphaël Labbé, CC 2.0)

Users of web services have developed expectations about how their content will be used, she told New Zealand's Webstock conference in Wellington last week.

"People know much more about looking at the TOS [terms of service] and understanding what sorts of obligations companies have about using their members content," she added.

The use of customer data is not just about what is legally permissible, but also what is acceptable to the community of users. "It boils down to what's legal and what's right."

User backlash after parent company Yahoo used some Flickr user images in its "Brand Universe" advertising pages had educated Flickr on the expectations its users had about how their creative commons licensed content could be used, said Champ.

But she warned other community managers not to panic at the first sign of user unhappiness when introducing changes: "The kind of feedback you get in the first 48 hours is people's gut reactions. After two weeks you'll get much more thoughtful feedback."

Flickr, now owned by Yahoo, has been operating for five years, and has 3 billion page views per month. It hosts 3.2 billion user photos and video, with 52 million monthly users who upload 5,000 new uploads per minute.