Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves

Sharing Photos

with 3 comments


Photo by Stephy Miehle on Unsplash location 3900 N Sheridan Rd, Chicago, United States

I had not heard of Unsplash until I read this post on Medium which recommends giving away your photos for free. According to the author, he not only gets lots of thanks but also “substantial monetary gifts from people showing their appreciation for letting them use my work.”

What I do is license my photos on flickr using a Creative Commons license. And apparently I should use a newer version, but I will get around to that discussion later.

Right now I have recently been introduced to Pixsy which is also free which can track just where on the web my flickr photos are being used. A significant number are indeed following the terms and conditions set out in the license. None so far has either thanked me or showed their appreciation in more tangible form.

A couple of commercial users have actually made payments for specific uses of my pictures. But they did that some time ago, asked nicely before they used the picture and then some time elapsed before payment arrived. None of this has anything to do with Pixsy. And by “a couple” I mean exactly that. Two in twelve years.

Pixsy does also offer to help with resolutions. I have had a few hosting sites write to me and tell me that the commercial uses of my pictures that Pixsy found have been removed. Some other sites have simply vanished altogether. But there are a number of ongoing cases – and more that will not be resolved. Here are some of the replies I have had.

Case Update: Not Accepted – Unsupported Country

Dear Stephen,

Thank you for your submission to Pixsy’s Case Resolution Services.

Our Case Management Team identified that the infringing site, in this case, is located outside of our current coverage area.

…[details of my picture and its use here]

As a reminder, pages located in Russia, Africa, Southeast Asia and other select countries are not suitable for Pixsy’s Resolution Services, as we do not anticipate expanding to these jurisdictions soon.

So much for that then.

I have also had a number of responses from site owners like this one

Thank you for your email; however the URL in question [URL appears here] , is not on the [specified] network.

So that goes back to Pixsy and gets a response like this

I’m sorry your Takedown Notice wasn’t initially successful. This can happen when image users move server infrastructure. In this case it looks like they were previously part of the [named] network but are now part of [another named network].
Please try forwarding the original email to [abuse (at) new network]

Some others are still in process and they did tell me how they are doing overall

As 2017 came to a close, we celebrated a number of milestones – including passing 20,000 user signups! We are so thrilled to be helping creators from 72 countries find and fight image theft. Since our launch in 2015, your reactions, support, and trust hascontinued to energize and reinforce our mission to support your creativity and protect your copyright.

Together the Pixsy community has achieved some impressive numbers: (… and counting)

  • 21,951 users from 72 countries

  • 25,342,934 images uploaded and #ProtectedbyPixsy

  • 162,924,315 matches found

  • 35,881 cases submitted to Pixsy for resolution

  • 26 partner law firms

  • 1 dedicated Pixsy team

  • 1 united mission to Find & Fight Image Theft

So that seems like a good reason to hope that we get a bit of result now and then – although the number of successfully completed cases (i.e. where the miscreants actually paid up or took down the image) is missing from the stats.

I did write to one of the offending commercial sites using the contact form on their web page. Within 24 hours I got this reply

“Thank you for bringing this to our attention, the image has been removed. ”

Which isn’t monetary reward but does acknowledge responsibility.

But what I want to know is if there is such a good source of free pictures as Unsplash why do people keep taking stuff which ought to be paid for?

Because I also got

Our Case Management Team identified the site you submitted as a spam or scraper site.

[image and URL details here]

“Scraper” sites aggregate pictures, articles and other copyrighted material from all over the web. Many of these sites do not host the images themselves–they hotlink from third parties– and are often operated by persons or entities outside Pixsy’s current coverage area. For these reasons, they are extremely difficult to track down and hold accountable.

Given the circumstances, the likelihood of obtaining a license fee payment in this situation is very low and we are unable to accept your case.

So when I started writing this I thought that it would help me straighten out my thinking and get me to a decision. You know, like the experience I often have of “I didn’t know what I thought about that until I heard what I was saying.” But I haven’t so I am hoping to see something useful in the comments.

By the way, I also wrote about this on my other blog but I really did not like the way Google’s Blogger handles my pictures – you just get the link not the image

Written by Stephen Rees

January 24, 2018 at 4:55 pm

Posted in photography

Tagged with , ,

3 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. i license all my photos as CC0 because i have the luxury of not caring 🙂 ! #ymmv


    January 24, 2018 at 5:26 pm

  2. Hi Stephen,

    Thanks for the credit! As someone who loves to travel, each city’s transit also becomes an interest of mine.

    I work as a designer and often need external photos for a client’s design. Many stock photos have a certain campy quality to them or seem too staged; I discovered Unsplash a few years ago and loved the styling and quality of the images I found. As I began using them in my own designs, I thought it appropriate to give back to the community with my own photos. None have had that front-page experience yet, but I’ve seen them used on sites large and small. The strangest was as a sample image for televisions on a Japanese site!

    Most people do not give credit (though more than a handful have). Instead, I’ve tracked down their use through services such as Tineye:

    For instance, here are all the places that have used my CTA image:

    A few are other free image sources (LibreStock, Pixabay), and as these are CC0, many of the rehosters don’t bother with credit. I’m in this casually and don’t mind, but I can see how that would be frustrating for someone making their name with photography.

    The way I see it, I am taking photos constantly regardless, and it costs me nothing but a few moments to share them with others. It makes me feel good to know that I can be helping that blog writer, designer, or developer out there looking for quality photos. Even without the credit, I still have a sense of community and a warm feeling whenever I see one of my photos pop up.

    No matter which platform you choose, I wish you well!

    Stephy Miehle

    January 24, 2018 at 5:47 pm

  3. Hey Stephen,

    Thanks for the back link to my article. I’m glad you found it. Hope you enjoyed my story! Unsplash is a great platform with an even greater community behind it. Worth looking into 🙂 I hope that more people discover your work in the future and you meet people that truly appreciate your art. That has very much happened for me through Unsplash and also helped me setup my own business and project which you can find at

    All the best!

    Joshua Earle

    January 26, 2018 at 2:54 am

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: