Is Flickr Protecting Photos From Download?

A friend of mine pointed me to this oddity. If you visit a Flickr page (for example this one) and try to save the displayed image either by dragging it to your desktop or right mouse-clicking “Save Image As…”, the downloaded image isn’t there.
I’m sure this is pretty easy to hack. It might be some sort of weird layering trick where the image is overlayed with another blank image or something. Regardless, it’s sitting there in my browser so it can’t be too difficult.
The real question is: why is Flickr even bothering?

21 Comments Is Flickr Protecting Photos From Download?

  1. Tom D.

    Countdown until some clever coder writes a page that makes getting around this as easy as putting the url into a form and clicking a button and posts it to
    10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5…

  2. erik dahl

    flickr users can specify who can download their photos, and yes, if its in the browser, it can be saved. See the allowing download option for more details:
    some text from the above page:
    When people are looking at a photo page (e.g.), they will see a button labelled “all sizes” underneath the photo title. From there, they can download any of the different photo sizes available, including the original file, unless you choose to prevent it.
    Preventing people from downloading a photo also means that a transparent image will be positioned over the photo on the photo page, which is intended to discourage* people from right-clicking to save the photo, or dragging the photo to their desktop.
    If people are unable to access a photo of yours — for example if you’ve marked it as private — they won’t be allowed to download the original photo either.
    People with free accounts aren’t able to offer their original image files for download.
    Who can download your photos?
    Only You
    Your Friends and/or Family
    Your Contacts
    Any Flickr User
    Anyone (Recommended)
    Or, return to your account page.
    * By “discourage” we do mean simply “discourage”. Please understand that if a photo can be viewed in a web browser, it can be saved. The transparent image overlaid on the photo will not keep your images safe from theft, and is intended only as a slight hindrance to downloading.

  3. Josh

    It’s definitely not hard if you’re using Safari. Just open the Activity window (Window > Activity) and you can find the image in the list of assets used to browse the page. I’m sure there are methods in Firefox to do the same thing.
    Maybe they’re doing this some basic “protection” for users who want to share their images, without really sharing them. Probably in response to one or two users complaints.

  4. Alex Moyler

    Aye, it’s the usual 1×1 pixel image stretched over.
    With firefox it’s pretty easy to remove, either by adblocking the image or with the Nuke Anything extension, but it should slow down the odd person flicking quickly for images to use without permission. Good on flickr for trying though.
    Oh here, for any gm scripters out there, I’ll get you started. :]
    var img = imgs[i];
    if (img.getAttribute(“src”)
    && (img.getAttribute(“src”) == “images/spaceball.gif”))

  5. John

    In Firefox, simply go to your Tools menu, select Page Info and under Media all page images are available to do what ever it is that people do with other peoples “media”.

  6. giffo

    view the source, just type the image number found the url, and get the link from the source and slap it in your browser’s address bar and your sorted.

  7. chris

    have photos i display how can i get a program to make them seem invisible to illegal downloaders this excites me. seem like fun

  8. Jay

    You know…
    On some computers, screenshots can be “good enough”.
    You can try to protect your digital media, but trust me; the effort will be endless and maybe even not worth the time. Still, blocking right click will deter most but anyone that wants to figure it out badly enough, easily will (see posts above).

  9. Photo


    Add captions and other information.Offering photographic and consumer electronics, including new and used equipment. Large pho…

  10. J. E.

    Here are specific instructions:
    View the page source in your browser. Then Search (Edit menu, then Find) for the following:
    Right after that, you’ll see something like
    http://… thing is the URL to the actual picture.
    Copy it and paste into the URL address bar of your browser to get the picture!

  11. John Doe

    The only way to protect your images is to overlay a big, ugly watermark. Or, do not put them on the net in the first place right? It’s an unfortunate fact that people will always try to steal your stuff no matter what you do to protect them.

  12. Mosey

    @John – thanks for the Firefox tip! :) Learnt something new about Firefox!
    p/s: I save photos because it means I don’t have to be online when I open up my ‘beautiful pictures’ folder to view breath-taking photos. Always saved with the name of the original photographer’s name and also the title of the photo though. Not used for anything else.

  13. The Boss

    perhaps the easiest way to save a protected picture in flickr or nearly any other website provided that its not encoded in flash or with some complicated watermark, is to (Using Firefox) go to [Tools > Page Info > Media] and just scroll through the list of images to find your image. You can then click “Save Image” when you find the right one.

  14. Big G

    If you are using Adblock Plus (an ad blocking extension for Firefox or Netscape), you can open the blockable items list and hovering over each of the items with an image extention until you find the one you are looking for.

  15. GMG

    It should be possible to create a layer using psp or adobe photoshop which should stop a photograph from being modified to easily,
    and yes water marking is a good idea but unless it’s in a good place on your pic you will probably find someone will simply try to crop it.
    alternativly write protecting a file puts amateurs off, but chances are it won’t be rp by the time it’s been uploaded and come full circle back to your temporary internet folder.
    If a pic is that important just don’t upload it.


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