Photographers who use 500px to distribute their work are now adjusting to two big changes. First, the platform is removing the option to upload or download photos with a Creative Commons license. On Saturday, it also shut down its stock photo platform 500px Marketplace, and replaced it with distribution partnerships with Visual China Group, which acquired 500px earlier this year, for users in China and Getty Images for the rest of the world.
The decision to close Marketplace was first announced at the end of May.
On its site, the company said that photographer’s royalty rates will stay the same and that the closure of Marketplace will “enable 500px to serve the needs of a broader cohort of visual media customers.” In its FAQ, however, 500px also admitted that “Marketplace hasn’t performed as well in the stock photography space as hoped. As a result, we had to choose between investing resources in building on and further promoting 500px Marketplace, or considering a distribution-only model for 500px, a revenue model that has been growing in recent years.”
Two weeks ago, 500px’s former vice president of strategic development, Aneta Filiciak, took the helms as chief executive officer for the platform, which claims 13 million members, with the goal of making changes to the platform to increase the revenue of its photographers. Founded in 2009, 500px and rival Flickr were originally positioned as alternatives to established photography distribution channels like Getty, but both platforms suffered as Instagram and Imgur lured away users. 500px’s acquisition by Visual China Group in February was reportedly a fire sale for $17 million. Also known as VCG, Visual China Group is one of the country’s largest stock photo distributors and also an investor in Getty Images.
A 500px spokesperson told The Verge that it decided to stop its Creative Commons program because of lack of activity, but said it may be re-added in the future depending on user response. The decision is a loss for many organizations, including non-profits, that rely on Creative Commons-licensed images for their sites. Critics include 500px co-founder Evgeny Tchebotarev, who left company in 2016. He said on Twitter that “Creative Commons is critical to the growth and support of the open web,” adding in another tweet that 500px’s “decisions of the last few years perplex me greatly.”
500px said in its FAQ that it does not plan to offer another public copyright licensing option, but that photographers can chose to upload their work with a royalty-free 500px license for distribution through Getty or VCG. The company also said it is not providing a migration path for existing contributors who submit Creative Commons images, which left some web historians and Internet archivists scrambling. For example, Jason Scott, who works with Internet Archive, tweeted that “dozens of volunteers” spend the weekend using the Wayback Machine to back up photos.
TechCrunch has contacted 500px for additional comment.
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