Photoshelter, the “business in a box” provider, as it brands itself, has just launched a Flickr import tool. For quite a while, many image distributors, photo agencies included, have banged their heads against their walls trying to figure out how to capitalize on the Flickr offering.

In a nutshell, this tool allows Flickr Pro users ( those are the people paying for their account on Flickr) to easily copy their images into a Photoshelter private archive and license them from their or the newly launch Photoshelter Collection. Either way, Photoshelter takes a cut.

Flickr, or rather Yahoo, soon to maybe be Microsoft, has been studying ways to moneterize the content on their site. Announced for 2007, they are, apparently, still working on it. Photoshelter has come up with a great idea. The question is : Did Flickr authorize the use of its API ?

Not long ago, kiddy site Zoomr had done the same thing, only to see Flickr turn it off. Obviously, they could not accept a tool that would easily allow people to migrate from Flickr to Zoomrrrrrr. PictureSandbox, ex Flickr Cash also tried to use the API with the same result. Flickr said no and terminated the service.

Will Photoshelter suffer the same fate? After all, without a deal, why would Flickr help its users leave the site and make money somewhere else ? Since the press release offers no official comment from anyone at Flickr/Yahoo, it is very doubtful this tool has been fully approved. Sure, Photoshelter’s tool also allows for importing into Flickr, but it is doubtful that would be enough to please the authorities.

Nevertheless, It is the first attempt by an image distributor to take control of the Flickr content and place it in front of pro buyers, with a price tag. There is a good chance Flickr might decide to use a third party to license its content and this would be a good test to see if it would work.

Furthermore, how will the pro community take the invasion of their space by amateurs with a helping hand from Photoshelter. Currently, it seems, the Collection is used by pros. Will the arrival of fresh content from “Sunday Photographers” not only hurt their ego but also their bank account ? Pro and amateurs on the same platform, side by side; doctors, lawyers and photographers sharing the same space.

What will be really interesting, because, in the end, its all that matters, is how are the image buyers going to react. They will certainly continue to purchase with no changes as for them, in this type of stock format, it is the image that matters, not the photographer. If they need an image of a sun rise, they will use the one that matches their layout, regardless of who took it.

Kudos for Photoshelter for launching this API and for continuing to innovate with unmatched brilliance. Are we witnessing the birth of Getty’s next acquisition ?

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