What’s Flickr Commons?

And how could it help your institution?

The Flickr Commons is a special program that lives on flickr.com. It’s designed to support cultural organizations in sharing their photography collections with the public, and to help them gather new information added by interested Flickr members.

The main benefits of Flickr Commons are:

  • Huge exposure of your collections, with views in the millions over time
  • New possibilities to easily connect with international audiences and build community around your collection
  • Free Flickr Pro account, sponsored by Flickr.com
  • Low-cost, high-usability, high-traffic web platform, used by millions of people since it launched in 2004
  • World-class software features to organize and share your photography collections, like albums, galleries, tagging and more
  • Joining a community of over 100 other international cultural organizations
  • Technical accessibility via the powerful Flickr API 

“No known copyright restrictions” (NKCR)

Flickr has created this special program to support cultural organizations with photography collections where copyright is unclear. It allows you to publish your imagery where you can confidently claim there are “no known copyright restrictions.”

If today you are able to confidently attach a copyright license or a Creative Commons license to the digitized photography in your collection, you may be better suited to a standard Flickr account. In future, our hope is to include the more open content licenses in the Flickr Commons program, likely CC0 and/or the Public Domain Mark, to support organizations which are able to claim copyright over their holdings and can offer fully open reuse.

Find out more about NKCR

Born photographs (mostly)

Flickr Commons has a focus on photography. This program, and the Flickr platform at large, is about photography. The Flickr Commons is a home for archival photography. We wish to encourage this focus on photography, but we are OK with not requiring it.

Flickr.com’s “content type” settings can be used to indicate non-photographic content.

Read our full Collection Development Policy for Flickr Commons

Many use cases

Flickr Commons was created to help cultural heritage organizations large and small. Here are some examples of how some institutions have used Flickr Commons. Feel free to also explore them on your own.

Two young romanian men in persian lambswool hats hold a bottle and gaze into the camera

Collaboration & Fundraising

Costică Acsinte was a Romanian photographer whose glass negatives spanning 1935–1945 documenting Romanian life were acquired by the Ialomița County History Museum and slowly digitized. The digitized images were made available on Flickr Commons and the work was documented on a project blog which was used to promote a GoFundMe and an Indigogo fundraiser to support further digitization.

The images have been viewed over 50 million times.

Photograph of Geraldine Bertram Robinson from 1907

Identifying people & new cross-referencing

The Archives of the Law Society of Ontario joined Flickr Commons in 2009 and is still active on 2023. One of their projects has been to upload photos of Osgoode Hall Law School graduates including this sub-album of early women lawyers in Ontario. Their tag “firsts” allows for cross-linkage of Clara Brett Martin, the first woman called to the bar in Ontario and Judge Helen Kinnear, the first woman in the British Commonwealth to be created a King’s Counsel.

Society of Artists' Selection Committee, Sydney, 1907 showing seven men and one woman having an impromptu picnic in a large warehouse space

Direct connection to catalogs

The State Library of New South Wales 4600+ photographs all have permalinks that point to additional data in the library catalog. This popular image of the Society of Artists’ Selection Committee (in their Bohemian Sydney album) is represented in seven groups, four albums, and fourteen galleries.

a green spiral pattern from a book end paper

Exploring themes in Flickr albums

The Bergen Public Library in Norway has a smaller collection with thematic albums including one that is all antique book patterns as well as ninety portrait photos of Edvard Grieg and an illustrated story of when zeppelins flew the skies.

Florida Memory Mary Billie and her daughter Claudia C. John holding handmade Seminole dolls

Sharing undiscovered treasures and local history

The State Library and Archives of Florida has a huge Florida Photographic Collection which they felt was underutilized. They chose specific sub-collections to highlight as a way to “let Floridians and the world know that we have images of important people and events in Florida history.” Read their story.

“Life in the library” photos

Today, Flickr Commons accounts are intended for historical photography collections. If you also want to publish “life in the library” photos, we kindly suggest you create a separate, standard Flickr account for this. You can see a great example of this via the Library of Congress Flickr Commons presence, and their separate Library of Congress Life account.

Here’s superstar Lizzo hanging out with the librarians and their flutes and sheet music collections, taken in 2022, and in the “daily life” account:


Compare standard Flickr accounts with Flickr Commons


Flickr Free account Flickr Pro account Flickr Commons account
Established 2004 2005 2008
Intended for Anyone, individual or organization Anyone, individual or organization Recognized cultural institutions (and not individuals)
License options Use any licenses offered by Flickr: full copyright, Creative Commons Use any licenses offered by Flickr: full copyright, Creative Commons

Use the special assertion only offered to Flickr Commons members: “No known copyright restrictions”

(We are planning to introduce CC0 and PD licenses in future.)

How many accounts? Millions! Millions! 113 registered members
How much content? Billions of images! Billions of images! About 2 million images!
Cost Free $71.99 per year Free
(Sponsored by Flickr Inc.)
Account limits Find out more about Flickr Pro accounts on flickr.com