Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
500px will no longer allow photographers to license their photos under CC (theverge.com)
250 points by keyi 8 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 90 comments

>500px says that it reached out to Creative Commons in May, and explained at the time that the reason for the shift was that they weren’t seeing a lot of activity with Creative Commons images, that they still had a number of bugs when it came to searching for such images, and they only had outdated licenses for photographers. In short, there’s not enough activity for 500px to justify continuing it.

What? That doesn't make any sense. Creative Commons is not some kind of million page regulation that requires constant maintenance - it's just an option in a dropdown, or even just a note in the description. There has to be some hidden motivation behind disallowing it, although I can't imagine what that motivation could be.

As discussed previously[0], 500px has been purchased by a major Chinese photography licensing company. They are now migrating their entire catalog to be used for commercial licensing. Any photos which can't be exploited in this way are not welcome on their platform any longer.

[0] https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=16467347

A Chinese company making money via licensing and copyright has got to be the sweetest irony I have ever seen.

So, just like with an American company today? The US was a notorious "copyright breaker" back when it was bootstrapping...


The U.S. was long a net importer of literary and artistic works, especially from England, which implied that recognition of foreign copyrights would have led to a net deficit in international royalty payments. The Copyright Act recognized this when it specified that “nothing in this act shall be construed to extend to prohibit the importation or vending, reprinting or publishing within the United States, of any map, chart, book or books … by any person not a citizen of the United States.” Thus, the statutes explicitly authorized Americans to take free advantage of the cultural output of other countries. As a result, it was alleged that American publishers “indiscriminately reprinted books by foreign authors without even the pretence of acknowledgement.” The tendency to reprint foreign works was encouraged by the existence of tariffs on imported books that ranged as high as 25 percent.

The United States stood out in contrast to countries such as France, where Louis Napoleon’s Decree of 1852 prohibited counterfeiting of both foreign and domestic works. Other countries which were affected by American piracy retaliated by refusing to recognize American copyrights. Despite the lobbying of numerous authors and celebrities on both sides of the Atlantic, the American copyright statutes did not allow for copyright protection of foreign works for fully one century. As a result, American publishers and producers freely pirated foreign literature, art, and drama.


So, that's like a parent telling a high schooler not to drink, when they had a fake id and everything in their age...

>So, that's like a parent telling a high schooler not to drink, when they had a fake id and everything in their age...

This argument is so bizarre. If I committed murder in high school should I not be allowed to tell my high schooler not to commit murder? (Yes, that example is a ridiculous extreme but hopefully you get what I'm trying to say.)

Simply put, "Two wrongs don't make a right."

You can put the details in to the "America did it, so we can too" argument, but it makes it sound a lot more sinister when you do. Essentially, if America did something bad and got away with it, it can be claimed that doing bad things and getting away with them is therefore a good idea, because look how successful America is and doesn't everybody want to be like them?

>Essentially, if America did something bad and got away with it, it can be claimed that doing bad things and getting away with them is therefore a good idea, because look how successful America is and doesn't everybody want to be like them?

It's rather the "don't deny the ladder you used to get up to people that came there later" argument.

And even more so, don't pretend you're somehow inherently holier than them for not using such a ladder anymore -- now that you're already on the higher level, and fiercely step on the fingers of anybody else trying to climb themselves...

The "holiness" and self-restraint in the matter would have to be judged when you're both starting from the same level.

As to whether copyright infringement is a bad thing, I'm not sure. It sure is an artificial barrier to the "free market", to which many people in favour of, pay lip service to. Especially ridiculous Disney/Sonny Bono flavoured copyright extensions...

If anything, the US good the right thing bad then, and is doing the bad thing now...

I agree with your stance on aspects of copyright specifically as you point out in the Disney vein.

For me it doesn't hold when an individual or small business invents a unique product only to have their product design stolen and sold at knock-off prices removing any chance they have at reinvesting and continuing to produce additional unique products.

The "don't deny the ladder" argument is still a bizarre mindset. There are lots of laws that come into place after a situation where someone has already made lots of money via exploiting the thing that the law now explicitly prevents. Specifically because the now illegal thing was shown to be wrong.

Some obvious extreme examples:

Child labor, legal prior to the 1900s. Should China be putting pre-teens in factories for 16 hours as well without any guilt because "The US did it while it was bootstrapping."?

Slavery, the United States used slave labor in the establishment of it's economy. Should China be allowed to use slavery?

If your counter argument is, "Well those are humanitarian issues violating individual rights where copyright isn't." then you're just attempting to divide what's considered wrong into "more or less morally acceptable shades of your own making" which doesn't have the effect of suddenly making those more morally acceptable things now acceptable within the greater opinion of humanity at large. Simply put, "Yes, there is scale but copyright infringement is still on the 'wrong' side currently within our society."

If you want to argue that copyright infringement is the right thing to do on the grounds that all copyright infringement is inherently good then I'm willing to accept that's your stance.

If your stance is still, it's "OK" for China to engage in copyright infringement (when you think copyright infringement is wrong) just because the United States did it 160 years ago, then you're holding what to me is a viewpoint based on your own bias towards wanting it to be "OK" for China to engage in copyright infringement and your rationalizing why after the fact.

> look how successful America is and doesn't everybody want to be like them?

Gotta admit, you made me chuckle.

>This argument is so bizarre. If I committed murder in high school should I not be allowed to tell my high schooler not to commit murder?

Not if you profited from it and still live off of those profits.

Setting the analogy aside, really?

"Really" what?

Is there a question that the US profited economically earlier on from it's lax copyright on foreign IP? And that it was part of what bootstrapped its economy?

Or is that just mock outrage, despite the fact that I didn't bring up that specific analogy?

The ironies and weirdnesses in Chinese economics are so common as to be banal

> I can't imagine what that motivation could be.

Last time I checked, their revenue came from members. If they plan to act as middle-men, this move makes sense if they see CC as a no-profit scenario.

Yep. Same reason YouTube wanted to pull the Blender videos. Very popular content that's freely licensed costs them money. Hosting isn't free. We need more distributed platforms where everyone who views the content can help serve it to their neighbours as well.

Stripe just cut off Bitchute, so distributed platforms are facing some clear hostility from Silicon Valley insiders.

silicon valley and stripe don't live in a bubble separate from the rest of the world. The credit card processing rules against file sharing sites like Bitchute were imposed by visa et al several years ago. They sent out a notice to everyone years ago.. I remember reading it. It really is out of stripe's hands if stripe wants to stay in business.

If you want to start a company like that you can't use credit cards. They have to use bitcoin, etc. These were the rules years before Bitchute even wrote the first line of their code.

Decentralization is great for disrupting existing incumbents, and has the added benefit of creating an opportunity for a company to re-centralize the culture. GitHub is a great example of this, as are the many attempts to chip away at email

GitHub is a great example of decentralization? In what way? I view GitHub as a centralized service.

> has the added benefit of creating an opportunity for a company to re-centralize the culture

Bitchute is also primarily far right wing/white power vloggers and conspiracy believers. That's probably a second reason that they would get cut off by an established player. They would really need to diversify their user base to become more palatable.

>Same reason YouTube wanted to pull the Blender videos.

What? Blender was a victim to The Algorithm, not to some nefarious plot by YouTube to rid itself of the billions upon billions of free and unmonetised videos currently hosted on its platform.

I thought it was because blender refused to allow ads on their videos? Was it something else?

It was something else but it took a while for them to figure it out because even the Google support staff were hopelessly confused.


The latest update indicates that in fact they do have to agree to monetize their videos.

>The Algorithm

speak: YouTube.

That doesn't make it any better for YouTube.

Of course it does, don't be ridiculous. The difference between a faceless, directionless algorithm miscategorising videos and performing actions without direct oversight from a human being, and an underhanded (and, frankly, nonsensical) plot to rid the site of one particular set of videos out of the literally billions and billions of free videos that already exist on the site is palpably obvious.

The difference is certainly worth knowing, but it doesn't affect the situation one bit for anyone who wants to watch those videos but can't.

It does effect the people who want to watch those videos, because once the humans at youtube are alerted about the problem, the videos are put back up, as in the case of the blender videos. But if it was an intentional human takedown, the videos wouldn't be put back up.

It also has implications on the future of all other videos. If it's actually an intentional plan to take down free videos, then that means we can expect the people who made this decision on blender to continue their plan and take down other free videos. But if it's an algorithm mistake, we don't expect it to become more widespread, and hopefully the algorithm will be tweaked so that it will actually become less widespread.

This thread is about a company (500px) intentionally taking down free content for business purposes to make more money. Saying that youtube is doing the same thing is false.

> once the humans at youtube are alerted about the problem, the videos are put back up, as in the case of the blender videos. But if it was an intentional human takedown, the videos wouldn't be put back up.

It could also have been an intentional trial balloon, to test the waters to see how much they can get away with. Politicians do that kind of thing all the time.

So you're saying that it was an intentional thing, and not just a bug? PhasmaFelis was agreeing that it was just a bug, and that's what I was replying to.

I'm saying that it very well could have been intentional, yes. Not in the sense of somebody at Google targeting Blender specifically (that's possible but seems very unlikely), but in the sense of somebody at Google trying to see how far they can push forced monetisation through algorithmic coercion.

I don't think we have enough information to say for certain what really happened.

> I don't think we have enough information to say for certain what really happened.

https://www.blender.org/media-exposure/youtube-blocks-blende... has been updated. (and you are correct.)

How come Khan Academy are allowed on YouTube then?

Google funds KA (https://www.google.org/our-work/education/khan-academy/).

Also, most KA videos have views in the thousands (usually less than 10k).

Most Blender videos have views in the tens/hundreds of thousands.

(Also I would like to point out that I don't think anyone at Google had an evil plan to delete Blender, it was probably "The Computer".)

The Computer is Google's most valuable employee.

Perhaps they allowed monetization?

I am not up to times, what are the Blender videos?

Blender is a 3D model tool and they have a lot of free video content showing users how to use the software. YouTube wanted to monetize the content but Blender repeatedly said no. YouTube then wanted them off the platform and Blender moved themselves to PeerTube.

The story has a bit more nuance than that but that's a simplified run down.

To be specific: YouTube blocked all of Blender's videos, globally, and only restored them after Blender published a blog post on it and moved to PeerTube.

... While also silently pushing their "service agreement" across the table. That agreement explicitly enables ads from which Google takes 45% of the revenue. [0]

[0] http://download.blender.org/institute/Contract%20between%20G...

Google takes 45% of the revenue that they go out and get for you while they cover 100% of all expenses... Not the worst deal I've heard of. Seems like a better deal than app stores that take 30% of the revenue that you go out and get yourself.

... Is this reply for real? This is absurd and disingenuous. Google is one of those 30% app stores. Google/Youtube also absolutely does not cover 100% of the expenses and certainly doesn't "go out and get for you" the revenue. Google/Youtube doesn't pay anybody shit for creating the content that populates their network. Google should be on its knees thanking these content creators, not clubbing the altruistic creators of free software over the head with their insidious racket. This must be what it's like talking to Apple fanboys about paying double for overpriced garbage hardware.

Seems like all around a poor decision.

Basically the same thing that Youtube did to Blender and MIT: Monetize your videos or we're taking them down.

if a feature isn't beneficial to your platform and you can remove the code that implements that feature, well, removing code is beneficial.

500px has grown increasingly developer and community hostile recently. They abruptly shut down their API earlier this year: https://support.500px.com/hc/en-us/articles/360002435653-API...

If people need alternatives to 500px, Flickr allows CC-licensed photos, and recently got sold to Smugmug. Hopefully they'll keep the licensing intact.

I switched back to Flickr when SmugMug bought them and 500px killed their API. The switch was a little harder to accomplish because I was planning to use the API to grab the originals I'd pushed to 500px and since archived, but I'm glad for it now. I guess this was the push I needed to move off the platform altogether.

One of the things I prioritise when picking a platform is answering the question "how easy is it to leave?". Flickr still seems pretty easy to leave if it comes to it.

I had deleted my Flickr account with my Yahoo account deletion as there was no way I could keep Flickr without Yahoo. When SmugMug bought Flickr I wanted to sign up and try it again. But I see that the sign up is still via Yahoo accounts. I guess it will take some more time.

Yeah, I've signed up with an account that's separated from my regular online identity. Hopefully, that gets sorted; if not, it's all at arm's length anyway. I should preferably get around to hosting this stuff personally, and federating to Flickr/wherever somehow.

Not about licensing but someone on Reddit looked at Flickr's privacy policy and wasn't impressed; https://old.reddit.com/r/privacy/comments/8v3v64/smugmug_bou...

It seems like a lot of that is a holdover from Flickr's preexisting technology; for instance, I don't think Smugmug itself performs image recognition. I'm personally hoping for some changes in there as the new owners take hold of the platform and start to shape it.

I remember everyone leaving flickr for some reason yeeears ago (I don't remember the reason)

As someone who is not a photographer, I only follow photographers on Instagram. FWIW.

Instagram is like a performance show; every shot a photographer posts there is expected to have a wow-factor and generate Likes.

Flickr is much more relaxed; it's not perfect ( you can't exclude photos fron the Photostream for example ) but there's less of an expectation of consistent performance. I'm happy to upload 'warranty shots' to Flickr, unexciting but interesting documentary photos.

More importantly, Instagram downscales your photos to poop and bans zooming.

Flickr has been seemingly starved of resources since Yahoo purchased it - development definitely slowed down and the performance of the service got noticeably worse. It was looking grim for a while there, so it's really hopeful that smugmug have bought it.

There's also https://unsplash.com/ which is a great project

Unsplash also changed from their CC0 license on photos last year: https://medium.com/@UserRoadmap/unsplash-is-no-longer-under-...

It's still a liberal/free license but they're now using a custom license under their control and have also accepted 7.25M funding round so they could also become hostile in future. For this reason I'm hesitant to rely on their APIs and only maintain and use offline copies of photos I like.

What is Unsplash's business model? I can't really discern one.

They talk about it from their Series A announcement:

> The funds being invested today will be going toward defining a new economic model around photography. It won’t be a model where photos are going to be paid for with cryptocurrency. It will be a model that leverages the unprecedented distribution Unsplash photos gain to bring as many opportunities to contributors as possible while maintaining the open, free-to-use principles of the community.

- https://medium.com/unsplash/we-just-raised-7-25-million-for-...

"Why You Should Never Upload Your Images to Unsplash"


Getty is an awful company, I refuse to use any of their photos ever, ever again. They have sued multiple businesses that I know of when those businesses put photos _they PAID for_ on their sites and Getty threatened them.

Everyone needs to know about the "legal extortion" that Getty uses with their stock photography.


This business with 500px stinks of a massive takeover of any sources that will compete with Getty. Be warned, they smell like the Microsoft of the 90s.

Props to the team at the Internet Archive led by Jason Scott who archived 3TB of images in 48 hours after the decision was announced with zero notice. [0]

[0]: https://twitter.com/textfiles/status/1013464718923718658

These types of business decisions always mystify me. It's certainly their right to choose what content to host. And, I wouldn't expect them to host content that isn't serving their business. But, making such a change with basically no warning is a pretty clear sign that they will do so again. And, who wants to deal with a company that will make such drastic changes, basically overnight, if you have any other options.

> “if you have any other options.”

This is always the key. What are you going to switch to? Shutterstock? Getty? They all do crap like this unilaterally and with no regard for what contributors or customers want. It’s a calculated business choice that the people upset by the change won’t materially impact business as usual. Unfortunate but omnipresent.

All very true. I'd just naively assume that the risk of some very negative PR isn't worth it when you can largely mitigate it by providing just a few weeks notice. Clearly, they didn't see it this way.


Pexels is another place to upload CC photos:


The Internet Archive also allows you to upload photos, and has a slideshow display for multiple photo collections


Another good one is:


I use both for reference photos when painting.

My guess is that they are not even interested in taking new customers onboard. Before knowing all of this I was interested in purchasing their most expensive plan but I had a question, so I contacted them. I got an automatic reply saying that they were going to reply in 10 days. Well... after 12 days they hadn't replied yet. I contacted them again on Twitter and they just replied it takes 14 days for non customers. But again, they never replied to my questions, not even after 20 days. Not interested to buy anything anymore at this point.

[Unsplash](https://unsplash.com/) is a site that offers photos licensed almost one-to-one with CC0. I'd strongly recommend giving it a shot.

- Unsplash license: https://unsplash.com/license

- Compare with CC0: https://medium.com/unsplash/the-unsplash-license-f6fb7de5c95...

The Unsplash license contains the following:

"This license does not include the right to compile photos from Unsplash to replicate a similar or competing service."

Therefore use "for commercial and noncommercial purposes" is quite restricted to whatever Unsplash considers "a similar or competing service", a vague definition that could change at any time. The medium.com article you pointed to has a bad pointer[1] when it comes to explaining what this means. Unsplash decides what that means ad hoc so you don't really know what your rights are. If what comes under "photos published on Unsplash" could also be considered a computer program, the above quoted clause would render such a program to be nonfree software (see https://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html for a definition of free software).

CC0 has no clause comparable to the above quoted clause in the Unsplash license. Also, CC0 is a more thorough abdication of copyright power in copyright regimes where the public domain exists. Unlike the Unsplash license, CC0 uses licensing under a lax, permissive license as a fallback, not a primary mechanism for giving up one's copyright power in the work. This point is not given its due in the medium.com article you pointed us to. Finally, according to https://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html#CC0 CC0 is a non-copyleft free software license when applied to computer software.

[1] https://community.unsplash.com/help-section/what-is-the-unsp... didn't work when I tried it.

While I don't doubt that all of the reasons they give are strictly true, I wonder if they dropped CC and other public licenses because to host such an image still costs money but they don't get any revenue for it. So if the percentage of images that are holding non-revenue generating licenses is too high, their fixed costs cut too far into their revenue to sustain operations.

One could argue that the might work on being more efficient about their fixed costs but this seems a simpler fix.

Just wondering, why can't you license your photos through whatever service/license they want, and mention in your profile that all pictures are under Creative Commons and copying is authorised (plus mention a personal site with all the pictures in full resolution there)? As the original copyright holder you are allowed to grant this extra license in addition to whatever the platform says.

You could, but it won't help anyone find it. There used to be an option to filter searches by license.

Photo hosting is not exactly rocket science, I think the community could invent something a distributed community using like IPFS+ActivityPub.


Not much yet but it's being worked on. Contribute?

Good incentive for photographers to ditch this service.

No way, this only affects remixers who can't be bothered to shoot their own references.

Nonsense. I publish all of my photos on Flickr using a CC license. My picture of California’s Martins Beach has been used in several publications, my pictures from state parks have also shown up in quite a few places. I don’t need to monetize this aspect of my life. That people are enjoying and using my artwork is great, more than I was expecting.

Not true, I release all my photos under a CC license out of principle.

What is that principle?

I'm a fan of CC, and I see how it is valuable to people, but what is the core principle involved with not being paid for your work?

Honest question. Creative Commons is a wonderful thing. I'm just wondering what you mean by stating that you have a principled reason for releasing everything under CC.

> but what is the core principle involved with not being paid for your work?

I doubt their core principle is to not be paid for their work, and they never said that it was - you've imagined that from a silly twist of what they've written. They said their core principle was to licence as CC.

Do you think charity volunteers have a core principle to work for free? Of course not - instead they have a core principle to contribute towards a cause and they accept not being paid for it in order to achieve that.

I would imagine this person's core principle is the same - they want to contribute their photographs for other people to use without licensing problems and they accept not being paid for it.

Err, you can use CC-BY-NC the same as AGPL can be used for semi-commercial software like CockroachDB et al. Yes, a plain CC-0 or CC-BY makes it hard to sell licenses, though they are still possible, due to not being able to make it look endorsed by the original creator, which is somewhat hard in e.g. submarine ads, like those where billboards show something you don't understand for a few weeks/months, followed by a reveal that links the brand to the campaign. There are probably other usecases that are blocked/made hard by CC-BY alone, without even going to CC-BY-NC.

It's mostly: I use other people's software/media/services which give me a lot of freedom, so it's the least I can do, to release the photos I already took under a license under which I also give those freedoms to other people.

I'm mostly an amateur photographer and only occasionally do payed work anyway. Most of my work with models is TFP (Time for print), and then I negotiate that those pictures become CC too.

You can dual license, CC non commercial attribution or something, and a regular commercial license.

Or anyone who wants to put up images for talented remixers to create new works with...

I guess we're all going back to Flickr: https://www.flickr.com/creativecommons/

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact