In a decision that will likely breathe a sigh of relief to Flickr users, image hosting service Stashy has decided to shut its doors for good.
Stashy was an image host that, through a set of browser extensions, encouraged users to “stash” images found on the Web into their account. Those images would then be available for browsing by visitors and the general public.
The site caused controversy among Flickr users when it was discovered that various Flickr images were appearing in user accounts there. At first, Stashy temporarily closed the site with a note saying “Sorry folks, we have to clear some images that are not suposed to be here. See you tomorrow,” and began to remove many of the allegedly infringing images.
The site reappeared briefly yesterday evening but disappeared again this morning with a lengthier note. This one said, in part, “We created Stashy to bring joy and fun to the people, not to deal with guys that post copyrighted stuff. And since the site started to fail in its mission and we do not have any profit from it, we decided to shut it down.”
The site is currently offline and, in an email to me following a request for comment they said that “We do not have the man power to control and support the site 24/7 this seams like the best solution.”
Stashy was an ill-conceived service pretty much from its inception. Though likely well-intended, there was, quite literally, almost no legitimate use for the service as every image in Stashy was a probable infringement.
The problem was that Stashy, unlike most photo storage services, would not allow you to upload images from your hard drive. Rather, it would only download them from the Web.
Those with legitimate photo hosting needs would find this site useless as their images would already be available on the Web, however, those wanting to copy images belonging to others would have found it a great tool.
With so few legitimate uses, the site may have found itself dealing with a lawsuit for copyright infringement and, following the Grokster ruling, may have had a shaky case going forward.
Shutting down the site was a wise move. However, it would have been far better to create an application with greater legitimate uses and better protections for copyright.
On that note though, I find the attitude of “blame the users” to be very worrisome. While we certainly don’t hold Flickr accountable when someone abuses its services for infringement, most Flickr users don’t infringe copyright and the service is built specifically to make that as unlikely of an outcome as possible.
With Stashy, the intended use was almost certainly an infringing one. So while I agree with blame the visitors, when the tool is designed for infringement, it has to bear at least some of the responsibility.
To me, what the case highlights is the nature of Web development these days. According the site right now, Stashy was created by a pair of students with almost no resources.
But while that is impressive, with no lawyers or others to guide them, they created a service that was potentially very dangerous to both the Web at large and the creators of the site.
The good news is that, despite some heated words and bad publicity, the story of Stashy is primarily one of a crisis being averted. The site was taken down peacefully, no lawsuits have been filed and everyone can move on.
It could have been much worse.
My hope is that the developers will continue to build new sites, but will pay closer attention to copyright issue in the future.
On that note, if there is any way I can help with that, they have an open invitation to contact me.