Stephen Rees's blog

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

The Pixsy Experience

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Lens cleaning cloth from Pixsy
Free gift of a lens cleaning cloth to celebrate getting paid!

As a PRO member of flickr (something I pay for) I get a complimentary subscription to Pixsy a service which matches pictures online. It is used to track copyright violations. Some people copyright everything they post online. Other use a Creative Commons license which attempts to restrict some of the uses pictures are put to.

At one time I was posting my pictures directly to this blog – now I try to post only links to my flickr photostream – as everything that is on this blog is covered by my copyright notice. But of course I also use plenty of illustrations from other people. I regret that I was not always as careful as I should have been over identifying the source of the images I used. So in using Pixsy I have discovered not just those pictures that others have used, but also pictures that I should have labelled.


In an attempt to speed up the effectiveness of my use of Pixsy I have now removed this blog as a match in the hopes of removing a lot of duplicates. It would also be nice if I could have got rid of a lot of old matches when I was not bothering dealing with on Pixsy. Unfortunately that still leaves me with a 2,363 matches – or which 2,266 “unseen” that need to marked ignore, approved use or not my image or followed up – send takedown or submit case.

Pixsy also identifies domains that are “not viable for commercial resolution” or those outside jurisdictions that they support . You can send them a takedown notice – which in my experience has been completely futile – although the number of those you can send through Pixsy is also limited. It is also pointless pursuing sites which are simply hotlinking back to another site which hosts the image. In that case you have to go after the not site but the host – which again usually means a takedown – but I have had some success with removing my images from such sites. Not so much in the way of reward for use of course. What is annoying is that it too often takes me time to fill in the necessary details, file a claim and then have it rejected because is in the wrong jurisdiction. It would be far better if their software detected that and did not waste so much of my time.

In fact so far in the course of three years, I have actually been paid three times. Not enormous sums, but worth some effort. Since I only get 1,000 images monitored on my free plan and on flickr alone I have 18,439 images I do want to get rid of the useless ones even if that does take a lot of time. Comparing what I would have to pay every month to upgrade with how much I have been paid in the last three years, I find it hard to justify an upgrade.

There are also many images on my photostream that are very similar to those of others. After most of the places I have visited are now highly accessible and – before COVID19 – everybody now travels and carries a camera or smartphone and often both. So lots of people post pictures that are remarkably similar. Good luck if you can actually demonstrate that your photo of the front elevation of Sacre Coeur is unique – and anyway France is one of those jurisdictions where Pixsy has given up altogether.

But the Good News there are sites which do indeed use my images but comply with the strictures of the Creative Commons license and get the Approved sticker!

POSTSCRIPT

I have also come across sites that go to great lengths to make sure they do not have to respond to DCMA takedown notices. Since these are commercial operations, that go to great efforts to avoid their responsibilities to people whose work they exploit, you have to wonder how they treat their customers. I would not want to spend my money on the services or products of those who have demonstrated such determination to avoid the consequences of their actions.

SECOND THOUGHTS

I strongly recommend you read this post by Cory Doctorow which has caused me to cancel my account with Pixsy

And, some time after I added the above paragraph Cory Doctorow’s issues with Pixsy continue

I also want to draw your attention to this BBC article from 2020

Written by Stephen Rees

April 23, 2020 at 6:21 pm

Posted in photography

Tagged with

6 Responses

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  1. I never realized these perks were just sitting there…so I tried Pixsy. Kinda neat, but with the free version just scanning 1,000 of 25,000 images, it’s a pretty narrow window. Still interesting to see which images of mine go ‘viral’ at least in terms of reblogging, etc. There were about 6, all used many times, all were CC licenced.

    I also ended up trying to make a Chatbooks (for $10 off), and might make another Blurb book again ($35 off a $70 order), I have a few book prototypes I need to mock up.

    Thx for the post!

    jmv

    April 24, 2020 at 1:06 pm

  2. I am happy to see the post was useful. It is also very satisfying to find a site that is not only complying with the license conditions but is also producing a useful service.

    Stephen Rees

    April 24, 2020 at 2:26 pm

  3. I found this article by searching about Pixsy after a pretty bad experience with the company. Like you, I run a blog and I use Creative Commons images. I’ve published hundreds of articles and I always try to give the correct attribution for images I use. Yet like you mention in this article, you occasionally make a mistake with this. In my case, I used a Creative Commons image, credited the photographer, but linked to the wrong page by accident.

    Well, Pixsy issued me with a demand for over $500 for that. No matter that it was an honest mistake. There was no opportunity to correct it, just a demand for the money and threats of legal action if I refused. It just about killed me mentally as I couldn’t afford that. Pixsy didn’t care and they were very clear that if I didn’t pay up I’d get taken to court and hit with a far larger fee in the end. All over what was effectively a typo.

    I’ve since learned that this is very common with Pixsy. It’s difficult to chase serious copyright claims so what they tend to do is just send out huge numbers of scary looking threats to everyone who makes a mistake with a Creative Commons image in the knowledge they can scare people like me into paying up. There’s now essentially an industry built around this where some photographers put up very large numbers of images under Creative Commons licences on the assumption that a certain percentage of users will make a mistake and they can then hit them for hundreds of dollars. This isn’t photography, it’s entrapment and Pixsy are the key link in the chain in allowing them to do that because they have no ethics whatsoever when it comes to who they try and seek payment from – charities, inexperienced bloggers that don’t know the rules, people who can’t afford to pay, all are fair game.

    I noticed from your blog that even though you accept you’ve done the same thing I did (i.e. make an honest mistake with an image you used on your site) that you still think the company is providing a positive service. I wonder if you’d stand by that if like me you’d been on the end of demands for hundreds of dollars for an honest mistake.

    David

    November 23, 2021 at 1:04 pm

  4. My current stats on Pixsy

    There are 274 cases, of which 11 are still open, 22 closed and 231 “archived” which actually means “not accepted” or – more frequently – “discontinued”.

    Pixsy does not proceed with a case until the photographer asks them to. That means made a legally binding statement that there has been a breach of conditions, and it occurred where there is some expectation of redress. The EU has a very different idea about copyright than the US. Before I proceed with a complaint I make sure I am dealing with a commercial enterprise – someone who is expecting to make money from my picture but has no intention of giving me credit let alone recompense. For every “honest mistake” there are a hundred cases of greed and outright dishonesty. Very few people have ever asked if they can use one of my images. Most vanish as soon as I ask for a fee.

    The discontinued cases are those where Pixsy has given up. Where the miscreant simply ignores all communications. Not that I am recommending that. But that is the reality.

    Stephen Rees

    November 23, 2021 at 5:33 pm

  5. I appreciate the response you’ve provided here as I feel when I’ve had discussions about this in the past that people often get defensive. I will say though that the response I usually get is to say that Pixsy isn’t the problem as it’s up to photographers whether to pursue a claim or not.

    There are two main issues with that. The first is that Pixsy actively encourages people to pursue cases in the way I’ve described. An obvious example of this is advice on their website that encourages photographers to use outdated CC BY 2.0 licenses when they upload images online. They do this because the more recent CC BY 4.0 license gives web editors 30 days to correct mistakes in attributions before they can be issued with license fee demands. This was a simple change to the CC license that was designed to separate the honest mistakes from active theft, but if everyone used CC BY 4.0 licenses then Pixsy would be deprived of a sizeable percentage of its revenue so it’s taken a stance against it. And that’s because Pixsy isn’t a benign actor, it’s a company that makes a large amount of money out of hitting unsuspecting web editors with bills for hundreds of dollars for making trivial mistakes.

    The second problem is that you have a basic responsibility when you create a tool like the one Pixsy have created to ensure it isn’t being misused. As it stands, Pixsy have no clearly defined ethical rules at all about cases they will and will not pursue, the only criteria they mention on their website is whether there is a viable chance of getting a financial payment from it. They’ve also helped facilitate what are essentially organized entrapment scams by people like Marco Verch (Google this name if you’re unfamiliar) which are done on an industrial scale with the full knowledge of Pixsy. Offloading all of the blame for this onto users really isn’t a defense.

    And let’s be clear, what Pixsy does is absolutely unethical. They’re hitting ordinary people who are often guilty of little more than a typo with demands for hundreds of dollars, including charities and financially vulnerable individuals. Creative Commons licenses were never intended to be abused in this way – indeed that’s precisely why they changed the CC BY 4.0 license in the way I’ve described. I think anyone who chooses to use Pixsy’s service should be aware of these issues, even if they personally try to use the service in an ethical way. It’s a personal choice, but my experience is that most people don’t have any idea Pixsy operates in the way it does. They tend to think from the company’s marketing that it’s some wholesome enterprise aimed solely at protecting photographers from image theft. The reality couldn’t be further from the truth.

    Dave

    December 10, 2021 at 8:45 am

  6. You are of course entitled to your opinion. I was not aware of CC BY 4.0 but that is because it is not an option on Flickr.
    See the discussion threads here about that https://www.flickr.com/search/forum/?lang=en-us&q=CC+4.0

    Below is the text of the message I get when Pixsy decides not to proceed – which these days seems to happen more often than not
    ====================================
    Case Update: Not Accepted – License May Exist
    Dear Stephen,

    Thank you for your submission to Pixsy’s Case Resolution Service (Case #XXX-XXXX).

    In reviewing your case, our case management team identified that this use could classify as fair use, or the image user may have a license to use the work.

    Copyright law in many countries allows for limited use (“fair use”) of a work without permission of the rights holder in certain situations. Although we cannot definitely conclude if publication is fair use or not, the following common examples can indicate fair use:

    The image appears as a small thumbnail under 125-by-125 pixels
    Only a small portion of the image is used in a larger derivative work
    The work is used in a student project or lecture
    The image is used to report immediate news stories
    The use is transformative in nature
    You may also receive this email if the photo you submitted is available under Creative Commons, and the image user appears to have complied with the license terms or made a substantial good faith effort to do so.
    =======================

    That last line does seem to cover cases like yours.

    You should also be aware of the new Statement of Enforcement from CC

    https://creativecommons.org/license-enforcement/enforcement-principles/

    Stephen Rees

    December 10, 2021 at 9:10 am


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