The Attack on Sharing

Abduzeedo

Rarely do I use my blog for any sort of activism, but something came to light recently and I’m having a hard time keeping quiet about it.

Earlier today, Abduzeedo posted this article about an incident that happened last week. A polite outline (as expected from Abduzeedo) can be found explaining what happened and how they dealt with it, but let me highlight the section that rubbed me the wrong way…

“We featured a beautiful photo in a post, giving full credit and linking back to the photographer and his work. We loved his work, it was on 500px and featured all options of sharing including on Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter and even an Embed Code. Maybe too used to the idea of sharing and fair usage, we included his image.

Unfortunately, we received a series of requests, like removing the content, which we did right away, a demand for public apology, which we more than happily did on the same blog post and a penalty fee. We apologize for featuring his work on our blog. Our one and only goal was to share what inspired us with others. We are truly sorry.”

Right, so Abduzeedo shared a photo in an inspiration round-up (with credit and link) and he wanted it removed. Fair enough, we all have final say when it’s our artwork in question and he has every right to request removal. He wanted a public apology. Kinda weird given there was no damage done, but alright. And of course, Abduzeedo obliged.

Then I read the part about the penalty fee… that’s when I got uneasy. As far as I can tell, a “penalty fee” means a demand for monetary compensation. A fee… for sharing a photo with full credit? Abduzeedo never claimed ownership of the photo, nor did they re-sell the image. Confused, I clicked on the link to where the photo is housed, and arrived here on 500px. Let me draw your attention to the giant social share buttons in the upper right corner of that page, which includes an option to embed the photo in your site. See where I’m going with this?

500px

Now, lets have a look at what 500px has on their About page… I circled a pretty key word.

500px

As I said earlier, we all have final say when it comes to our artwork, but this raises some important questions… if one does not want their photos shared, then why would one put them on a site BUILT for sharing then attack someone who shares them? Are these penalty fees demanded from everyone who shares a photo on Pinterest? Facebook? Twitter? Ffffound? Tumblr? Where exactly do we draw the line on what sharing is acceptable and what isn’t?

Rarely do I use the Signalnoise platform in this manner, but I can’t sit idle and watch this kind of thing happen… especially to a site which has done nothing but foster creativity and inspiration for the design community for 7 years. Designers depend on sharing in order to spread work across the web, whether it’s for promotion or inspiration and I’m worried this is setting a horrible precedent.

Am I coming to the defence of Abduzeedo? Of course. But there’s a bigger issue here, the core idea of sharing.

I urge you to discuss your feelings and views, because man, I really think this needs to be discussed. The louder the better.

37 Comments

  1. Well said. I’m going to share my thoughts on my website as well, because people need to see this. Ridiculous that they’d charge a fee for sharing with full credit when they posted it on a platform that allows for doing just that at the click of a button.

  2. I respect that you don’t use your blog to “air” out issues, but I respect you more for choosing to “air” this one out. Like you said, as artists we rely on sharing to get our work out, and many of us rely on those shares for inspiration. The fact an attempt was made to get money is down-right absurd IMO. If an artist, or anyone, doesn’t want something shared, don’t post it anywhere, let alone on a site that features sharing buttons so prominently. I pray that this is a one time incident and does not become a regular thing. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Couldn’t have said it better. Don’t want people to share your work? Don’t put it online on a platform that encourages that behavior.

  4. I just finished reading the whole article on Abduzeedo before I finished your rant on John Mason’s demands. I personally think he is at wrong for requesting a penalty fee for sharing his photo but I also believe this rant won’t do any good except hurt his ego and turn him hard. He may already be aware that he is at wrong but I think this needs to be dealt with personally and professionally. I guess what I’m saying is that we need to give him the chance to correct his wrong doing without the potential bashing of the art community.

    Anyhow, I love Abduzeedo and I hope they keep doing what they’re doing.

  5. Tom

    Sounds like a scam. Did he send the penalty fee to a prince in Nigeria?

  6. James (Author)

    John, please note that I’m not bashing anyone nor is this a “rant”. I’m voicing concern over the kind of precedent might set. This issue is disheartening and important for those who rely on sharing to build their career.

  7. On the other side of the coin — should simply slapping a share button on a website remove the responsibility of asking for permission before showing someone else’s work, credit or not?

    There’s an unwritten contract perpetuated by websites that allow the sharing of content — that you don’t need to ask permission to share. I don’t think there’s anything wrong in opting-out of that, even if at this point it has become the norm. You shouldn’t have to opt-out of online communities in their entirety because you can’t find one that doesn’t mindlessly attach social sharing buttons to everything.

    Though it may sometimes seem so, communities aren’t a hivemind. If someone acts completely within their rights as a creator of content, I think we all need to respect that whether or not we agree with it. Who wants to be part of a community that chastises everyone for not sharing the same value?

    Would we all really be worse off if Abduzeedo and other sites that operate largely from sharing the artwork of others did the smallest amount of due diligence and simply sent off a polite email to ask permission?

    At the very least asking for permission fosters conversation, and if we all talked to each other more often we could free ourselves from some presumptions. Maybe then we wouldn’t be so quick to run out to grab our pitchforks.

  8. Agreed. This guy only lose, his artwork could reach so much people with Fabio’s inspiration posts.

  9. I’d love to see them try and push this “fee”. How ridiculous. Someone obviously has a chip on their shoulders. Exposure helps everyone and there wasnt any malice involved either. I get it if you want something hidden or kept secret, but don’t put it out there!
    I compare this to a guy trying to start a fight when they’re clearly inebriated. You just want to say :”oh take it easy there tough guy”

  10. Jason Bequette

    This is totally an example of copyright infringement overkill. I see he has a clear line stating that he wants to be contacted for any use, so I get where a misstep might’ve happened on Abduzeedo’s part. But come on Mason, it’s a social sharing platform – go into it with the idea that your work might be picked up regardless of what you state. And a simple email would’ve done the trick, not this public apology/fee crap. Get signed on with Getty instead of 500px if the idea of free exposure gets you all riled up.

  11. I’m aware, James. I’m not accusing you of misdemeanor. But I’m only worried that it may serve as a catalyst. But I may be wrong so I guess we’ll just hope for the best and hopefully be able to conclude the issue without regrets. :)

  12. Mirna

    There is a difference between sharing content on social networks and sharing content on “private” websites, such as abduzeedo.com. I presume the owner(s) of the site abduzeedo.com make a certain amount of money off their website. The website ‘earns’ the money by displaying content which is interesting to a certain amount of people. Therefore, by displaying this artist’s work, the owner(s) are (potentially) making money off it.

  13. ryan

    Typically it depends on the website’s terms of service. Facebook, pinterest, twitter, etc all have a TOS. I’m sure if you read through the 500px TOS you’ll see that said artist has agreed to ‘by posting’, share the photo (at the low res size prob).

  14. Bla1ze

    @Jason Bequette That disclaimer was only recently added as it does not show in earlier cached versions of the site so I assume it was placed there because of the issue with Abduzeedo’s post. May or may not be the case but it is indeed, a recent addition to his photo post.

  15. ryan

    So yeah.. case closed, here’s what you’re looking for (full details follow):

    The license granted to 500px includes the right to use your Content fully or partially for promotional reasons and to distribute and redistribute your Content to other parties, web-sites, applications, and other entities, provided such Content is attributed to you in accordance with the credits (i.e. username, profile picture, photo title, descriptions, tags, and other accompanying information) if any and as appropriate, all as submitted to 500px by you;
    500px uses industry recognized software and measures to restrict the ability of users and visitors to the Site to make high resolution copies of Content posted on the Site. Notwithstanding this, 500px makes no representation and warranty that Content posted on the Site will not be unlawfully copied without your consent. 500px does not restrict the ability of users and visitors to the Site to make low resolution or ‘thumbnail’ copies of Content posted on the Site and you hereby expressly authorize 500px to permit users and visitors to the Site to make such low resolution copies of your Content; and
    Subject to the terms of the foregoing license, you retain full ownership or other rights in your Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your Content.

    ———-http://500px.com/terms

    Content Submitted Or Made Available For Inclusion On The Service

    Please read this section carefully before posting, uploading, or otherwise submitting any Content to the site. By submitting content to the site you are granting 500px a worldwide, Non exclusive license to use the content and are representing and warranting to 500px That the content is owned or duly licensed by you, and that 500px is free to publish, Distribute and use the content as hereinafter provided for without obtaining permission Or license from any third party.

    In consideration of 500px’s agreement to allow you to post Content to the Site and 500px’s agreement to publish such Content and for other valuable consideration the receipt and sufficiency of which are hereby expressly and irrevocably acknowledged, you agree with 500px as follows:

    You acknowledge that:
    By uploading your photographic or graphic works to 500px you retain full rights to those works that you had prior to uploading.
    By posting Content to the Site you hereby grant to 500px a non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content in connection with the Services. This license will exist for the period during which the Content is posted on the Site and will automatically terminate upon the removal of the Content from the Site;
    The license granted to 500px includes the right to use your Content fully or partially for promotional reasons and to distribute and redistribute your Content to other parties, web-sites, applications, and other entities, provided such Content is attributed to you in accordance with the credits (i.e. username, profile picture, photo title, descriptions, tags, and other accompanying information) if any and as appropriate, all as submitted to 500px by you;
    500px uses industry recognized software and measures to restrict the ability of users and visitors to the Site to make high resolution copies of Content posted on the Site. Notwithstanding this, 500px makes no representation and warranty that Content posted on the Site will not be unlawfully copied without your consent. 500px does not restrict the ability of users and visitors to the Site to make low resolution or ‘thumbnail’ copies of Content posted on the Site and you hereby expressly authorize 500px to permit users and visitors to the Site to make such low resolution copies of your Content; and
    Subject to the terms of the foregoing license, you retain full ownership or other rights in your Content and any intellectual property rights or other proprietary rights associated with your Content.
    You represent and warrant that:
    You are the owner of all rights, including all copy rights in and to all Content you submit to the site;
    You have the full and complete right to enter into this agreement and to grant to 500px the rights in the Content herein granted, and that no further permissions are required from, nor payments required to be made to any other person in connection with the use by 500px of the Content as contemplated herein; and
    The Content does not defame any person and does not infringe upon the copyright, moral rights, publicity rights, privacy rights or any other right of any person, or violate any law or judicial or governmental order.
    You shall not have any right to terminate the permissions granted herein, nor to seek, obtain, or enforce any injunctive or other equitable relief against 500px, all of which such rights are hereby expressly and irrevocably waived by you in favour of 500px.

  16. If I were the photographer, I will be grateful when one Abduzeedo blog feature my photos, one of the respected website out there that can drive more audience to my creation

  17. I love abduzeedo I’m on it on a every other day basis. Also James @signalnoise, is a great artist. I do not know the full situation, but I agree in part with both sides, abduzeedo is great inspiration and help with their tutorials, this other gentleman probably enjoys his artwork/photography “shared” although this is the kicker, does abduzeedo profit of the site at all?? If the site makes money then in a since abduzeedo is using others work to drive traffic to their site where they make money. Please correct me if I’m wrong. I also must say I would love to see my art liked enough to be shared on abduzeedo

  18. Kash Smith

    well said James!

  19. Martina

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts. It happened to me as well, when I have liked a blog on wordpress so much , that I have re-bloged it. Now with the feature of “reblog” wordpress automatically compresses all the images into one mosaic like thumbnail, reposts the bit of the post and SAYS reblogged from XYZ and when you want to read the post it doesnt open it on your own blog but transfers to the rightful owner which I am more than happy with. The author thanked me for liking the post but asked me to remove the images due to copyright. Wrote back that I would more than happy to do that if it wouldnt be out of my hands and the only thing I could actually do is remove the reblog. Now my reblog was automaticaly shared on twitter which has got favorited by visit Sweeden (post was about sweeden although author was other nationality) and other people, but due to the request of the author I have deleted the post. Now – in these days of culture – like mentioned in article, why you post something on the sites which are based on sharing ( with full credit ) if you are so “thick” sorry for the language, to ask everyone who is giving you free traffic to your website, promotes actually your work -its not like me or abduzeedo is critisizing your work, and brings you new fans and admirers ? Then keep it only on your own website with full copyright ( or better keep it locked in the cupboard in their house ) and dont post it on social platforms. I do understand ( as designer ) the reason for copyright and I absolutely respect it, however if someone is promoting ( in the era of internet ) your work, with full credit, doesnt have any gain from it ( doesnt resell etc ) then they need to maybe check themselves out. I would be more than happy if someone shared my posts, my art ( especially site like abduzeedo ), brought me higher traffic to my site/blog, new followers etc.

  20. Over the 3,5 years I’ve been creating my inspiration posts on From up North I’ve only got 2-3 removal requests from the 25K images posted, which is absolutely fine. If you don’t want your work to be seen on certain sites, it’s totally your call as the owner of the artwork.

    But forcing the blog to pay a penalty is just strange in my eyes. On my blog it’s usually the other way around. People are actually willing to PAY to get published on it, which I bet is the same with Abduzeedo since it’s one of the most popular design blogs out there. So if you don’t want your name and work to be spread, why upload it to a portfolio site in the first place?

  21. Politics aside, if you’re a photographer who makes a living photographing, why wouldn’t you want thousands of people to see your work?

    Isn’t that what 500px is anyways? A platform to expose your work.

    Its like an musician complaining because they playing his song on the radio.

    Too much ego + a bit of ignorance, and this is what we got.

  22. A lot of these responses make the assumption that someone should *want* their work to be shared on a blog that generates some amount of ad-based revenue. Maybe it just keeps the lights on, but the fact of that matter is that it’s still ad-generated revenue.

    Why is it wrong for someone to choose not to be a part of that?

    Just because you think their blog is a great place to share content doesn’t mean everyone has to. You may want more exposure and more views from anyone willing to provide them — but that doesn’t mean everyone should want the same thing.

    It’s also odd that designers will decry the phrase “I can’t pay you, but think of all the free exposure” when it comes to their personal livelihoods, but will take the same phrase and turn it into a positive thing in this light.

    People also seem to be ignoring that there’s a fundamental difference between Twitter or Tumblr shares and content posted on a independent blog. The fact of the matter is a blog not only exists to promote the content, but that content also promotes the blog itself — is a bit different from the more personal sharing that platforms like twitter and tumblr promote.

  23. Dustin Kemper

    This type of thing is absolutely ridiculous. Actually, I don’t think the photographer has any legal right to charge a penalty fee (especially after reading 500px TOS). Seems a bit like a phishing scam to me, or an act of total egocentric ignorance. I hope Abduzeedo knows their rights and hasn’t paid that idiot. I’m still curious to the amount of the fee though.

  24. James (Author)

    AwesomeRobot, as I said in the post we all have final say when it comes to our artwork, and where it is posted. So you’re right in that nobody should assume others WANT their work posted anywhere, no matter what exposure or traffic is at hand. Sending a request to remove is perfectly acceptable, and I don’t think anyone would dispute that.

    While I appreciate your devil’s advocate viewpoint (discussion is always awesome), the reason I wrote this post is because of the financial aspect. We can dissect the ins and outs of the internet all we want, but the fact remains that sharing IS a part of the web whether we like it or not. Specifically in this case, having sharing functionality displayed then fining someone for using it sets a terrible precedent in how we fundamentally spread content.

    Whether it’s Twitter, Pinterest or a private blog, it doesn’t matter. The share functionality for all mediums is there.

  25. 500px has buttons to share to Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest… not Abduzeedo, which again – is a site that more directly promotes a brand and generates ad revenue. Maybe the guy just thought it reflected poorly upon his work to be displayed alongside a blinking gif selling questionable SEO.

    It would have been pretty easy to ask permission.

  26. James (Author)

    AwesomeRobot, there’s a share button to embed the photo in any site, right above the email icon. It even provides the code.

    As I said before, we all have final say when it comes to our artwork, and where it is posted. No question. The only part of this story that I find unsettling is the financial retribution.

  27. Jason Bequette

    Good point @Bla1ze, I didn’t consider he might’ve added that. AwesomeRobot, great points as well, for all we know he has never heard of Abduzeedo (inconceivable as it sounds!) and questions the intent, the possible income generating nature of the blog, and the possibility of bad advertising. That makes sense.

    The monetary ask is the bit that kills me, though – the embed code puts your work out there to share and the tos for 500px doesn’t seem to strictly prohibit sharing on a commercial blog – but maybe he’s been burned before, and has a certain view of things.

    I still keep coming back to the idea though that if you sign up for a platform like 500px, you have to be comfortable with the idea that your work gets shared, keeping in mind that you also have the right to ask that it be taken down – which was done; no harm, no foul. But asking for money? I don’t know about that one. I’d reserve that option for when someone resells my work, claims it as their own, etc.

  28. well i mentioned this in a facebook post, but ill repost it here too.

    im worried that this might be some strange “bad publicity” stunt for this guy… to get attention onto his work.
    Yeah, its a scummy thing to do to someone who is giving you “positive publicity” to their audience. but perhaps the plan was for other designers and Abduzeedo fans to talk about it and basically say “hey look at this guy, look what he did…”

    In which case im worried about this blog post doing exactly as planned. providing another platform to spread word about this photographer.

    huh… Damned if you do help, Damned if you don’t, eh?

    what i get from this is that now more people know this photographers name and have more than likely searched him up (evident from within these comments) and all this talk has only prolonged his media attention, gaining more people to know his name.

    I worry about the precedent this is setting, like you, James. and also fear for copycat stunts like this… because annoyingly… if im right, and this was a planned strategy to gain more traffic to his work. then it has been a success…

    DAMN

  29. Preach it, brother! The more someone shares my work with full credit, I think the better! It means more links back to me from new viewers!

  30. Can I share this post? #toosoon?

  31. Simply, if you don’t want it shared, don’t put it online. But art is about sharing, so 500px you are wrong.

  32. Audrey Hutchins

    I think sharing on the internet runs into a bit of a Catch-22. If you’re wanting to put something up on a sharing site to get visibility you’re typically expected to be okay with anyone sharing it, regardless of whether credit is given or not. However, if you don’t want that to happen, you’re not really given that option, as mentioning not to redistribute your images can still result in their being shared without permission. In fact, these days all you need is a little bit of know-how and someone can steal the credit for an image they snatched from a site even if it’s not a sharing site like 500px.
    I can understand the guy asking for the image to be taken down, but the public apology seemed a bit much to me. As for the monetary fee? I have all kinds of rude thoughts as to the person’s intentions with that, most of which are probably way off base. Abduzeedo, in the end, did the right thing all around, from giving full credit when choosing to share the image for inspiration to removing it and apologizing for it when asked.

  33. Nonamingandshaming

    I understand if someone does not want others to share their creation, photo, artwork whatever. But wanting a public apology and monetary compensation considering the way it was shared is ridiculous! As if his public image was damaged in any way. John Mason if you are reading this, you are a DOUCHE BAG.

  34. JediUrsa

    The TOS speaks primarily of a relationship between the Artist and the Service Provider (in this case 500px). It says little about the actions of Visitors (such as Abduzeedo) to the site, other than to say that 500px will not monitor, nor be held accountable, for what actions visitors may take.

    There have been precedents set in other media, mainly film and music, that the “Rights Holder” (“Artist”) holds rights not only over the original work, but all copies as well. Maybe that’s why it is called “copyright”? So with the exception of copies used by 500px, having been given up by agreeing to the TOS, the Rights Holder would be able to seek compensation for unauthorized distribution of their work. The Artist would be able go after visitors because they are not subject to any terms of service, or terms of use, as photos from this site can be shared without registration. Unless, of course, providing unlimited access to low quality reproductions is part of the services that this site provides.

    That being said, to use a service that focuses more on “Sharing” rather than “Selling” a piece of art, and then demand compensation for it…that is a douchebag move, and possibly without any legal backing.

  35. To create digital work in 2013 is to have one’s work displayed on multiple online networks. To believe otherwise is laughable. To charge fees for the inevitable “share” is surely not upholdable in court.

  36. The author of the art had all the rights to ask for the site ownera to take his art off the site, but iits almost certain that if they were judging it in the court, the site would win. If the author doesn’t want his art to be shared, as you said, don’t publish it in a social network thatbhas the primary oobjectie of sharing things – even better: don’t put it online in any way.

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