The unofficial “Guide to Hipstamatic” iPhone photo app has been causing quite a controversy these days. It seems the app grabs images from Flickr groups, specifically Hipstamatic-oriented Flickr groups and uses the photos to illustrate Hipsta’s various films. The apps developer is neither paying for providing attribution for the photos, which despite the developer’s claims, may violate the Creative Commons licensing on many images.

When illustrating Hipstamatic’s various films, the app grabs images from Flickr which have the appropriate tags and are displayed in the app without permission from the owner of the image.

Flickr recognizes that more and more people are going to scrape images off the internet. That’s why they integrated Creative Commons licensing which gives the owner of the photo the option of how the image can be used. Users can decide whether or not their works can be used or not, if they require a photo credit, can they be used commercially, and can the image be altered.

The app was updated recently to include a vague disclaimer. “In creating this unofficial guide, we assert its rights under the “fair use” doctrine pursuant to United States copyright law and the equivalent in other jurisdictions…” but I saw no image credits when I was testing the app.

If the app were non-commercial, that is if you didn’t have to pay a buck for it, the developer’s claim that he’s using the images under the “fair use” doctrine would hold more water for me. However, I found that one of the users who claims their images have been scraped by this app has their photos locked down with an “All rights reserved” licensing.

Because the developer is making money off the app, I think it’s unfair to earn money off the backs of artists who’ve specifically stated on their works that they don’t want you to.

As for the app itself, it’s pretty thin. All those App Store one-star reviews are pretty accurate. It’s not much of a guide — more of a basic introduction to Hipstamatic. It lacks examples of many of the recent lenses and films. It fails to mention which films effect the image and which films are frame-only. There are no descriptions of the gear whatsoever. There’s no comparison chart of the over 1,400 possible lens, film, and flash combinations. There’s no troubleshooting information. Because the app is grabbing sample images from the web, it doesn’t work very well when not connected to the internet anyway.

Even if the app didn’t have questionable licensing issues, the information contained within it isn’t worth paying for. The Hipstamatic Field Guide Wiki is free and contains much more info. For a more up-to-date breakdown of Hipsta gear, you should also bookmark Mark Bruce’s Hipstamatic Combination chart. These two excellent resources are available online for free.

Guide to Hipstamatic by Charles Jensen (App Store link) is neither created by or supported by Synthetic or anyone officially associated with Hipstamatic.



Big thanks to Alyss Thomas for the tip on this story.