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500px Updates Terms, Sparks Fresh Outrage Among Photographers


If you’re a 500px member who hasn’t logged in to the photo sharing and selling service for a while, you may be asked to agree to an updated Terms of Service document upon logging in. The latest agreement is causing an uproar (and a new wave of account deletions) among many photographers, but it doesn’t appear that anything has changed from a legal or rights standpoint.

Photographer Beno Saradzic got people talking yesterday after sharing snippets from 500px’s updated Terms of Service document on Facebook. Saradzic is a Fujifilm ambassador and a popular photographer on 500px, where he has nearly 30,000 followers, over 13 million views, and the honor of previously being a guest curator.

“I just read 500px’s updated Terms,” Beno writes. “It seems they have made a full transition to the Dark Side. 500px, seriously, WTAF?? #sad”

We’ve heard that a number of photographers, including prominent ones like Albert Dros and Toby Harriman, have responded to this latest change by deleting their accounts from 500px.

Anger at 500px is nothing new in recent years, especially after it slashed its royalty rates, was acquired by VCG (AKA the “Getty Images of China”), shut down its Marketplace, and wiped out over 1 million Creative Commons photos.

One of the main things photographers are pointing to in this latest surge of resentment is the first term users must agree to when uploading any photos to the service:

By submitting Visual Content to the Site, you grant to 500px a non-exclusive or exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license to use, sublicense, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Visual Content in connection with the Services. This license will exist for the period during which the Visual Content is posted on the Site and will automatically terminate upon the removal of the Visual Content from the Site, subject to the terms of any license granted by 500px or through our authorized distributors and these Terms;

Problem is, however scary this language may sound, these statements are quite standard when you sign up for services that accept uploaded content. The language has virtually been the same in 500px Terms for many years, and the same language can be found with other popular services. Here are Instagram’s Terms, for example:

We do not claim ownership of your content that you post on or through the Service. Instead, when you share, post, or upload content that is covered by intellectual property rights (like photos or videos) on or in connection with our Service, you hereby grant to us a non-exclusive, royalty-free, transferable, sub-licensable, worldwide license to host, use, distribute, modify, run, copy, publicly perform or display, translate, and create derivative works of your content (consistent with your privacy and application settings). You can end this license anytime by deleting your content or account.

The second excerpt that’s eliciting anger involves items 2 and 3 of the section you need to agree to when you opt to license your photos and earn money from them through 500px.

You waive any moral rights (and any similar rights) with respect to the Visual Content to the extent permitted by law, and if no waiver is permitted, you agree not to enforce the right against 500px or our distributors or clients;

500px and our distributors have the right to modify, alter and amend photo titles, descriptions, tags, metadata and other accompanying information for any Visual Content and the right to submit Visual Content to other parties and authorized agents for the purpose of creating tags for Visual Content;

This entire section is indeed a new part of 500px’s Terms of Service… kind of. Here’s what the prior version of the document (from August 2019) looked like at this section:

Before this latest update, the Terms of Service linked to a separate Contributor Agreement for users wishing to license their photos and earn money. And a look at that document shows essentially the same terms:

And this language still only applies to photographers who have checked “License this photo” to sell it through the service.

So basically, no, 500px doesn’t seem to have added new language to its Terms of Service that ask you to give up all your rights to all your photos on 500px — these alarming terms look to be the same ones users had already been agreeing to prior to the latest update to the Terms of Service. What the company has done is consolidate two agreements (Terms of Service and Contributor Agreement) into a single new Terms of Service.

However, if these terms are news to you and you’re uncomfortable with them, here’s a helpful article by 500px on how you can deactivate or permanently delete your account.