500Px In Hot Water For Creating A Chinese Sister Site

Oct 15, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

500Px In Hot Water For Creating A Chinese Sister Site

Oct 15, 2015

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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Users of the (recently rebranded) photo sharing site 500px, are gathering to protest that Chinese now have access to all of their photos on 500px in seems to be a 500px sister site.

500px user Anne Sorbes came out with an angry post titled “Publication without authorisation” to the community forums stating that she is extremely unhappy with her 500px photos published on Visual China Group‘s (VCG) site:

You allow you to publish my pictures on a Chinese site without my knowing. I confide to you my photos for sale but you do not have the right to publish on another website without my agreement. I have no desire to be part of your Chinese adventure and I want my pictures to be removed from the site before leaving for good

To get an idea, here is a side by side comparison of Anne’s 500px and VCG profiles:


This 3 liner post starter a snowball where users are realizing that they photos has been posted in full to VCG’s site, creating twin profiles for them.

Furthermore users are upset that they have no control over what content is being published to the Chinese site and that photos deleted on the international 500px, are not deleted on VCG. One user commented that even if they remove their profile entirely the photos remain on VCG, while others were complaining on the fact that the photos on 500px were of lesser quality than the ones on 500px, and other complained that they did not choose their cover photo. Others want an opt-in or opt-out option.


500px responded to Anne saying that the VCG link is an early version of what is soon to become a full fledged site: 500px.me.

Thank you for reaching out! It’s a really exciting time at 500px. This summer we received additional investment to continue to grow our creative community and provide even more exposure to our amazing contributors. Over the past few months, we have been working closely with one of our main investors, Visual China Group, the premier content provider in China, to honor the commitment of expanding our community and your visibility as a creator.

You have stumbled upon vcg.me, an early iteration of what will soon become 500px.me. 500px.me is a joint venture between 500px and Visual China Group (VCG). Through our partnership with VCG, we now have an exclusive relationship within China to get photographers great exposure in a region that is typically very tough to penetrate. It also gives the community access to users from China and their creativity and content. The full launch is expected later this year and our team is collaborating with VCG to make in an incredible experience. Stay tuned for more details and please let us know if you have any more questions!
Thank you,
Michael Cameron (500px)

I think that the major outrage is that the move was not fully transparent from 500px’s side. In July 500px shared their new funding round and among other things announced that (marking is mine):

This funding round will enable us to continue to support our rapidly growing community of photographers, be they professional or enthusiasts, with products for discovering, showcasing, and selling amazing content. This round will also open the door to the Greater China market by working with the market leader Visual China Group.

But they did not share that the site is being duplicated into a Chinese domain, and users accidently discovering this for the first time are getting upset.

I am sure that users are not happy with the amount of focus 500px gave their new logo, vs. not having any clear communications on the collaboration with VCG.

We approached 500px for a response and will share it as soon as it comes in.

UPDATE: 500ox shared with us that they have a post explaining the Chinese site. The core of it is that VCG is a beta site for an upconing 500px.me site which will be an inherent part of 500px and not a seperate entity. You can read the core points below, or head to 500px and read the entire message from the CEO:

500px.me is a Chinese localized version of 500px.com, not a separate entity. Through it, current 500px.com users will gain access to a massive new audience, while people living in China will be able to join the 500px community, share their photos, and interact with yours.

The site experience will for the most part mirror the experience you have on 500px.com, with a few changes to optimize 500px for the desktop experience people are accustomed to in China. However, it’s important to note that 500px.me is currently still in beta, and we are working around the clock with our partners at VCG to ensure your work is being shared in the best possible context and quality. The full launch will happen later this year, at which point you will have the opportunity to opt out, and anything you do not share on 500px.com will not appear on 500px.me

[Publication whithout autorisation, thanks for the heads up Mitch]

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Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh

Udi Tirosh is an entrepreneur, photography inventor, journalist, educator, and writer based in Israel. With over 25 years of experience in the photo-video industry, Udi has built and sold several photography-related brands. Udi has a double degree in mass media communications and computer science.

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23 responses to “500Px In Hot Water For Creating A Chinese Sister Site”

  1. neo Avatar

    Worst nightmare is happening. Publishing photo without your consent. I’m going to leave 500px. It lost its identity since Andy Young became the CEO.

    1. MPHOTO Avatar


      you posted to 500px….what would you consider consent if not that?!


      1. TerraPhoto Avatar

        Actually, the content in China is hosted on servers not owned or operated by 500px… they have essentially delivered our content to VSG to serve it up in China. Sorry if that doesn’t make me feel warm and fuzzy.

        1. Danielle Avatar

          Where are the details on this information, I did not notice in the article. Source?

          1. TerraPhoto Avatar

            It has been reported on other sites. But, the gist is that VSG is a Chinese company that gave 500px $13 million dollars in funding this past summer. For 500px to be available in China, it must be hosted on a server in China, which requires non-Chinese companies to partner with a Chinese company to do this (this is essentially so that the government can have censorship control over any site). VSG owns and operates these servers.

          2. Danielle Avatar

            This still doesn’t sound like it is breaking any T&C like people seem to be implying, as the companies are in a partnership and working on expanding a single service. Google has data centers in almost every continent.

          3. TerraPhoto Avatar

            You are correct, it doesn’t actually violate the T&C, but most people are pretty ignorant of that. The real issue here is that they have started serving up our intellectual propriety on servers they do not control in a country where hacking and copyright infringement is rampant without at least telling us beforehand and giving us an opportunity to not participate. They only told the users after people started discovering their content on a site that appeared to be a ripoff of the 500px site. Beyond all that as well is the fact that doing this is so that they play nice with the Chinese government and essentially allow censorship of the 500px content in China.

          4. Kelvin Avatar

            Chinese can just go to 500px.com and “rampantly hack and pirate” your pictures now if they choose to.

          5. TerraPhoto Avatar

            Actually, do to government censorship, 500px is blocked in China so most of China can not see the site. A feature in my book.

          6. Kelvin Avatar

            Actually, have you lived or been to China and tried it? Seems to work fine.

          7. David Barber Avatar
            David Barber

            It works fine here. People should realise there’s a lot of professional and upcoming artists in China. Of course there are people who ‘steal’, but people do get paid for artwork and this agency may be a good start on the road to a more developed China.

  2. TByte Avatar

    If the chinese want access to photos on 500px, then they can allow their people access to 500px.
    This is obviously the bending of the knee towards Chinese censorship. No way I would participate in this. No way I will be signing up for 500px now.

    1. Peter Stewart Avatar
      Peter Stewart

      can already access 500px website from within Mainland China btw.

      1. TByte Avatar

        I have to guess this is a proactive move from 500px to deal with anticipated Chinese censorship. Else, why create a new site?

        1. MPHOTO Avatar

          no its not. Visual China are a huge distributor in china, equivalent to Getty, so its like 500px have sold licensing rights to the company with the largest outreach and ability to sell said images in their region.

          Previously, we would have to go through 500px offices in the US in order to licence images, which with time difference is unpractical for sustaining business and growing. So they have effectively gained an office in China that can deal directly with clients and sell via them on the same time zone.

          1. TerraPhoto Avatar

            People in China actually license intellectual property? Must be a minority from what I understand to be the country with the biggest disregard for copyright on the planet.

  3. Snuffles Avatar

    just deleted my account

  4. Danielle Avatar

    People seem to lack understanding on the web development process and are raging unreasonably hard.

    They are describing that they created a beta site where they are working on their code; likely using real databases where they query for low-quality picture versions to use as their test data. The one thing they possibly did wrong: forgot robots.txt to avoid search engine indexing to keep their test work hidden, but there’s no mention on how the site was found. DEV / Beta work isn’t publishing, it’s meant for software / web app development and testing purposes.

  5. tom rose Avatar
    tom rose

    I guess it is the high-handed manner of 500px’s action, rather than any actual harm, that so upsets people, but it is what we have come to expect from big companies on the Internet. You have other options. Check your Ts&Cs. If it does not allow 500px to publish your photos elsewhere then send them a bill for the right to publish in China. You could also send a “cease and desist notice” requiring the removal of material of which you are the copyright owner.

  6. Arcmor Avatar

    If I had a 500px account, I would want to make sure I understand what copyright laws are in China – they obviously have different standards than certainly US in how it protects intellectual properties. Beware!

    500px folks in the least should at least allow people to opt out of whether one wants to be on the Chinese site or not.

  7. TerraPhoto Avatar

    User pressure prevails! 500px has taken down the beta site in China. According to a post in their forum where they were being raked over flaming hot coals, they admit they screwed up 1) launching the site without proper controls for the users in place, and 2) with horrid communication on the whole matter.

  8. Alistair Barclay Avatar
    Alistair Barclay

    Given all the other copyright infringements from that part of the world, i would be very doubtful if any good ever came to any photographer financially from his images being shown in in China no matter what site they’re on.

  9. mathew Avatar

    https://about.500px.com/terms/ says:
    “By posting Content to the Site you hereby grant to 500px a non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license (with the right to sublicense) to use, distribute, reproduce, modify, adapt, publicly perform and publicly display such Content in connection with the Services.”

    Key phrase: “worldwide license (with the right to sublicense)”.

    Next time maybe read the Terms of Service before agreeing to them and uploading your content.