Toyota and Saatchi Used Images From Flickr Without Permission

Last Updated Nov 6, 2009 3:09 PM EST

Toyota (TM) and its ad agency, Saatchi & Saatchi, have been accused of stealing photos from Flickr for use on a web site for the Toyota 4Runner. Toyota has apologized, according to PDN:
Toyota apologizes for pulling images from Flickr without photographer permission. Images from a handful of photographers appeared on a Toyota site for five days. We're working quickly to reach out to the individual photographers involved. Until then, the images have been removed, and corrections have been made to the process of pulling images from Flickr.
The snafu reveals a structural problem with agency hiring: Agencies often prefer very young creative staff, often under 30 and certainly under 40. But young 'uns who grew up with the internet often erroneously believe that material published on Flickr is either "free" or in the "public domain" and can be used without permission. The images in question were not published under the Creative Commons function on Flickr, which designates copyright-free material.

It's the second time recently that Saatchi has gotten into trouble on the Toyota account. The agency was sued by a woman who said she was "terrorized" by a hoax campaign for the Toyota Matrix.

About 40 images were used without photographers' permission. One of the photogs, Snorri Gunnarsson, had a dramatic photo of the sea swirling around some rocks at sunset. He said on his blog:

... when big corporations and well known ad agencies that of course have their own work copyrighted to the teeth, start behaving like kids on Pirate-bay, then that is just too much. This is not a case of fair use or for educational purposes, this is just to sell a car. Nothing wrong with selling a car, but then I also want to get paid for the use of my image.
Flickr user Jakerome identified over 40 Flickr images used on the 4Runner site and compiled them in three galleries. Another snapper, Stuart Zero, said he's in touch with Saatchi about unauthorized use of his work.

It was the second time this week that Saatchi was accused of being less than original in its creative work. Apparently, there's some controversy regarding its international image work for the Kosovo government.

Here are a couple of the ads and the Flickr images that were taken for them:

Image of bears by Michael Calanan. Image of the sea by Snorri Gunnarsson.