Here I thought I had written my last blog post about 500px. I’ve written two in the past. First I outlined “9 Reasons I No Longer Use 500px” back in 2015 (would be 25 if I’d kept up with it) and then followed up with “500px Creates 500px.me – Hosts Photos in China” later that same year. Today it was announced that Visual China Group (VCG) bought 500px outright. People are now rightly concerned about their intellectual property. Honestly though – the warning signs were there years ago.
This reminds of something important that I think more photographers and creatives should be doing. If you give a damn about your art, your intellectual property rights/copyright etc… then you should look before you leap. Yesterday the frenzy over a new (3 year old) social network really rose to a fever pitch and invitations, discussions, and complaints were flying around the internet – especially among photographers. I’ve asked a few times if anyone had read the Terms of Service (TOS). “No, who does that?” was the most frequent response. Well – YOU should. If you care about your work – then don’t place it in the hands of anyone until you know what they say they can do with it. I’ve read the TOS for G+, Flickr, Twitter, IG, Facebook, Ello, 500px, and every other social network I’ve ever joined. I did not enjoy reading them – slogging through that language is not fun. Why read it then? So I can have at least some idea (not being a lawyer) if it is a safe place to upload my work. I’m uncomfortable with the TOS on Twitter and FB so I don’t directly upload my work there (but do use the networks extensively). So if you’ve signed up for a new social network in the past few days and haven’t read the TOS – why not? Likewise have you re-read the terms on sites you’ve been on for a long time? Are you sure they aren’t acting like another 500px and have changed their TOS along the way?
Deleting your Work on 500px
So rather than list another litany of 500px’s transgressions I’ll offer some suggestions to the photographers that have determined they don’t want their work any more. Deactivating your account won’t help you – your images will remain in the hands of… whoever. From my experience many years ago I would proceed to try to delete your work on 500px as follows:
- Determine the urls (direct to jpg) of a handful of photos you’ve uploaded on 500px. They likely start with “https://drscdn.500px.org/” or something similar.
- Manually, individually delete these images. I believe that is a 4 step process but I don’t have any images on there to test this for you.
- Check to see if that jpg is still on the site. Spoiler alert: it probably is (remember that part about allowing people to embed your image on websites around the world – the one in the TOS?).
- Contact support at 500px (which I’ve heard is just one employee at this point but hopefully there are more) and request your images be deleted for good. This might work, it might not. I’ve read it has for some, but not for others. In my case I know of four of my images still on their servers and no amount of requests, DMCA takedown notices (to their US based servers), and more emails/requests have removed those files. I do hope you have better luck.
- If the above works I’d do that for all of your photos on 500px. I realize now some of you are just now panicking about your photos going to China etc, but the process to remove your work from 500px may take some time. I encourage you to keep after them if that is what is required.
So what now?
No matter what networks you share your work to – having your own website and making it the center of your activity is a good idea. It is only on your own website that you can truly control your content. Buy a domain name if you don’t already have one. I host mine with Dreamhost.com, though there are a lot of other great hosts out there. Research them before you sign up – and get the level of hosting you require. I also host my Image Library on a site called Photoshelter. If you just have a few photos online at this point you could start with a some basic WordPress galleries and get some experience with that platform.