500px and Google recently announced an agreement that will see a curated selection of the 500px photography collection available to Google Chromecast users for display on their HD TVs.
Here is how 500px describes the service:
As one of the first external Chromecast photography partners, 500px integration will bring our community into 20 million+ Chromecast users’ homes today, giving them the ability to display a curated collection of featured 500px photos on their high-definition TVs, and discover the photographers who took them through the attribution links.
However, there are two sides to this story.
On one hand, HD TVs are essentially just another digital screen (does anyone still actually watch “TV” on a TV?), so extending the 500px collection to TV screens is a powerful extension of the reach of the 500px community – from computer screens, to mobile devices to tablets to TVs.
On the other hand, Google is selling Chromecast hardware for $45 a pop and streaming copyrighted creative content to their users – with no monetary compensation for content creators.
To better explain the arrangement and what it means for photographers and 500px users, DIYPhotography.net presents the following exclusive interview with Nuno Silva the Director of Content and Marketplace at 500px:
1. What is Google Chromecast and how will it integrate with the 500px collection?
Chromecast is a streaming device. Chromecast devices allow you to stream media or your Chrome browser to your TV or speakers using your phone, tablet or laptop. 500px is integrating with Chromecast’s “Backdrop” setting. We’re giving Chromecast users the ability to display a collection of featured 500px photos on their high-definition TVs, and discover the photographers who took them through attribution and links back to the photographer’s 500px profile.
2. How will Google Chromecast users be able to find and select 500px images to add to their backdrop image stream?
Google has curated a feed of photos to give a “slideshow” type effect that can be called on demand. In essence, it’s a browsing experience of 500px suited to the big screen, that you can now access on your TV (before, 500px images were only available for PCs and/or mobile phones).
3. What is the projected reach of the Chromecast community?
Google announced this week that 20 million Chromecasts have been sold.
4. What is the benefit to individual 500px photographers if their work is distributed by Google?
Essentially, it’s the same benefit (and one of the great ones) of being part of the 500px community. It’s continued exposure to a wide audience. Photographers post their photos online to gain an audience, build a following, and find customers. We see the Chromecast Backdrop app as an extension of the 500px online browsing experience which is why 500px and Google included photographer attribution and links back to the photographer’s profile pages.
5. Does 500px receive monetary compensation from Google in exchange for access to the work of individual 500px photographers?
No, Google is not paying 500px. The relationship is valuable to 500px photographers because it gives them access to a huge, new audience. Chromecast enables us to put images on a new screen in 20 million homes. In the future, we will expand on this relationship to make the 500px app and Chomecast more compatible, offering expanded features and functionality to all of our users.
6. Will individual 500px photographers receive monetary compensation if their photography is streamed to Google Chromecast users? If not – why not?
This feature is the first part of a broadening expansion of our community to Chromecast users outside of the web and mobile experience.
Broadening the reach of the 500px platform increases the number of images licensed from 500px by getting 500px photographers and the 500px marketplace in front of millions of new potential customers. Since launching the marketplace a little over 18 months ago, 500px has paid millions in royalties back to our community. Growing our reach through partnerships like this is a great way to increase presence and increase the number of photos sold for commercial use.
7. Would it be possible for individual 500px photographers (the copyright holders) to pursue Google directly for monetary compensation in exchange for the distribution of their work?
Again, we look at this as adding a new platform for people to see the photos, just as they currently do on phones and PCs. With that, our terms of service with photographers is that we have permission to use the photos for promotional and display purposes as long as we give the Photographer attribution.
8. Are there concerns that Google may publish work that is not model or property released or restricted in other ways?
No, this would be considered portfolio or artistic public display and not commercial / advertising usage.
9. Can 500px users opt out of this agreement if they don’t want their work shared with Google Chromecast?
No. This partnership is an opportunity for 500px to expand it’s reach and audience beyond a computer screen and traditional web browser. We have mobile apps and now we have a TV app.
10. Is there anything else that you would like photographers to know about 500px and Google Chromecast?
While this isn’t a direct licensing or sales opportunity, we’ve continuously helped a lot of photographers get discovered and earn a fair royalty for the licensing of their content.
Everything we do has this motivation behind it (70% royalties, higher than typical RF license prices, etc.). We’re photographers too and have biased all profits towards our photographers – always. What we’re trying to do here is drive more traffic to 500px and diversify the audience of photo lovers who discover 500px and our photographers.
There are a few interesting themes here.
First, I am genuinely surprised that 500px itself is not being paid by Google for access to their user’s photography.
Google is selling Chromecast hardware for $45 per unit. With 20+ million sold already – that’s nearly a billion dollars in sales – surely Google can afford to actually pay for content.
But, it seems everyone, even the worlds “premier photography community” will work for credit these days if a big enough fish comes knocking.
While this explains why there is no direct monetary compensation to photographers, its doesn’t make me feel too great about the way creative content is valued by big data.
On a side note, I personally don’t see much point to Chromecast in the first place – except for using your phone as a remote (which seems like a giant pain in the ass) – a standard smart TV already does most of what Chromecast promises to do – apps, browser, Youtube, Netfix, content streaming etc…but that is another story…
From a copyright standpoint, I think the idea that “this would be considered portfolio or artistic public display and not commercial / advertising usage.” is a bit of a stretch.
From my research into drone regulation, the government considers pretty much everything to be commercial use as soon as a business is involved.
Google, 500px and many individual photographers are all commercial entities – and 500px is directly selling licenses to Google Chromecast photos via the 500px marketplace – so I’m not sure how this could possibly not be considered commercial use.
However, I am sure that Google and 500px have a sound legal opinion on this from people who know far more about copyright law than I do (although it still feels like a pretty sketchy loophole).
If you are a current contributor to 500px, it is also important to note that within the existing 500px terms of service, 500px has “permission to use the photos for promotional and display purposes as long as we give the Photographer attribution.”
And you can’t opt out of the Google Chromecast partnership.
(Of course this depends on the legal opinion that Google Chromecast streaming is not commercial use – see above).
Overall, I think the promise of getting your photography in front of 20+ million potential new viewers is a very positive expansion of the 500px platform – and 500px is right – a TV screen is no different than any other screen.
500px should be given full credit to their ongoing commitment to attribution and promotion of individual photographers – it is the only social media platform that genuinely seems to care about their users.
I know that exposure I have gained by posting photography to my 500px portfolio has directly let to commercial opportunities for me (some fairly lucrative ones too) – and the 500px marketplace is one of the best places to sell photography anywhere (high prices, 70% royalties), so I am personally optimistic that increased exposure through Google Chromecast will benefit photographers in the end.
I can see sales of $150 – $250 print ready royalty free licenses going through the roof (if it looks good on your TV, it would look great on your wall) – that’s 70% to the photographer for each sale!
However, I think the fact that Google is involved just makes me feel a little uneasy.
I suppose I would be a lot more enthusiastic and supportive if 500px had developed their own smart TV apps to work with existing smart TVs (Samsung, LG, Sony etc.) and launched something similar in house – but in reality that’s probably not very realistic, and its hard to argue with the reach of Google.
What Do You Think?
Are you excited that your 500px portfolio will now be available to millions of new Google Chromecast users?
Are you happy to let Google stream your work in exchange for an attribution link?
Do you think exposure through 500px and Google Chromecast will lead directly to paid photography jobs and increased 500px marketplace sales?
Leave a comment and let us know!
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