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Making Terms of Service Easy and Friendly

Published by Evgeny Tchebotarev · August 23rd 2012

paper by Peter Simonides (simo) on
Paper by Peter Simonides

Everyone knows that the biggest lie on the Internet is ‘I have read and agree to the terms of service’. Nobody reads them. That’s why when we started 500px, we took a fresh look at the terms of service to make sure that they are easy to understand and serve well to photographers, like ourselves.

That’s exactly the reason our Terms of Service was picked up first on reddit, and quickly spread over the internet and captured the attention of TechCrunch.

We didn’t do it for fame, of course. We did it to make sure our users and customers can have a clear understanding of the terms. Hundreds of different web services have copied our terms since then.

There’s a new service called ToS;DR, which stands for “Terms of Service; Didn’t Read”, that launched a few weeks back. They have done a good job at putting different web services on the spot for their lengthy and often confusing Terms of Service.

As a result this has sparked a discussion with our users on what exactly our terms mean, so I wanted to shed a little bit of light on some of the items, mentioned by ToS;DR.


First and foremost, the photographer will always hold the copyright of their work that was there prior to uploading. The photographer is in control of his or her photos and content.

In our Terms of Service we use several fancy terms such as “non-exclusive, transferable, worldwide license, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display, etc". In order to host, promote and crop your photos into thumbnails for various means like sharing on Facebook, Twitter and other social medias, we need permission from you to do so. In our Terms of Service we describe this by stating “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”.

We only use your content in the way we, as photographers, would want our content to be used.

Change of Terms

If there’s a material change in terms, we will notify everyone about it well in advance on our blog, our social networks and via email. We want to maintain an honest relationship with all the users that have put in their time and uploaded their work onto 500px.

500px Store

Anyone on 500px can start selling his or her work. It’s free for everybody, and we take great pride in what we have created, a free and open marketplace for photo artists worldwide.

However, if some of the photos uploaded are against our policy, perhaps abusive or pornographic content, we will remove the content in question and give the user a warning. If the user continues to publically display such content we will disable their account. Our community is very active and helpful in monitoring all the content allowing us to keep our site beautiful for everyone to enjoy.

We will never remove any legal or appropriate content from the 500px Store.

Moral Rights

The issue of moral rights is widely discussed but less widely understood. I have a relevant story to share. I saw these beautiful geese floating in a downtown shopping mall here in Toronto. One Christmas, the mall committee decided to dress these geese in Christmas wear — red and white scarfs, little red and white hats. As a result the artist sued the shopping mall for moral rights, claiming that it diminished the value of his work.

To the Free North by Evgeny Tchebotarev (tchebotarev) on
To the Free North by Evgeny Tchebotarev

In a photographer’s case, moral rights would apply. Hence, if a photographer sold a photo that was hung in a buyer’s house that they didn’t like — they could not sue the homeowner for that. I know that is on the edge of ridiculous but that is why that simple clause is there — it doesn’t add value for the photographer and protects the buyer from.


The last point of concern is indemnity — it is the photographer’s obligation to make sure their photo does not infringe on a copyright. If any lawsuit or court order arises from a photo due to copyright infringement it will be the photographer’s responsibility. This is pretty standard, and all photo or content sharing sites use this, simply because they cannot control the content that is being uploaded. In our history, we have had only one case where the photographer was posting photos and did not have the model sign the release and that model, unsurprisingly, demanded that the photographer would remove the photos. Our support works really hard to make sure such rare cases are solved properly and to the best interests of all parties.

In Conclusion

We wrote these terms completely from scratch, working with lawyers for weeks to make sure we ended up with a copy that satisfied us, as a business and as photographers. Since lawyers often write using formal legal vocabulary we created a simplified version of the terms on the right.

Sites likes ToS;DR provide a great value to users to get a quick overview on where their service stands. Unfortunately, ToS;Dr is not a legal advice, and I think that every user who is planning to fully commit to a service for a long term, should go ahead and fully read the terms. In our case, we try to make it easy and friendly for everyone.

If you have any specific questions on our terms, just tweet @tchebotarev and I’ll be happy to answer them.


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Mark Wisecarver (inactive)  over 2 years ago
Awesome post! I had already noted this fact too:

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