Update: PhotoBucket Responds

After several emails directly to PhotoBucket and a call to their parent company Fox Interactive, I have received a reply to my previous story about artists expressing concern over PhotoBucket’s practices.

At issue, specifically, is PhotoBucket allowing users to print the photos of strangers, including photos that were uploaded illegally, and the lack of a take down stay down system on the service.

PhotoBucket, through their PR agent responded by saying the following:

“Photobucket is committed to protecting and empowering content owners and creators. The site offers features that give users the ability to set private and public settings for their photos and videos. The company also strictly adheres to government DMCA guidelines to protect copyrights through the prompt removal of infringing material and action against repeat offenders.”

It seems unlikely that the response will do much to quell the concerns of the signatories of the petition, which is now over 5500 signatures, or address the issues raised.

I will report more on this as I get more responses and feedback.

25 Responses to Update: PhotoBucket Responds

  1. For all the verbosity, they might have simply stated the same in two words – “No Comments”. Classic no speak! I wonder if they are British!

  2. For all the verbosity, they might have simply stated the same in two words – “No Comments”. Classic no speak! I wonder if they are British!

  3. [...] responded to these issues saying that it is “committed to protecting and empowering content owners and creators” [...]

  4. Sandi Baker says:

    Hi Jonathan, So if I understand this correctly, they called you and gave the impression that they were willing to discuss the situation and then instead of doing so turned this over to their PR people who made the above statement? Do you think this may be mistake somewhere in the chain of command – or is this the official blow off?

    If this is the statement that they are standing by, then it tells us a lot about PB and just how much they care about obeying the law, and working with the Artist community.

    The petition mainly consists of Artists, many of which found their works being illegally displayed and sold on PB. Maybe it is time that the members of PB get to find out that their photos can be viewed by anyone and can quite easily be sold without their knowledge or compensation. Most everyone I have talked to that has a PB account just did not realize what rights they had signed away..that their photos were made public..and even for sale to anyone with PB and Qoop making the profits. I think they should know.

    Great article on the Blog Herald btw!!

  5. Sandi Baker says:

    Hi Jonathan, So if I understand this correctly, they called you and gave the impression that they were willing to discuss the situation and then instead of doing so turned this over to their PR people who made the above statement? Do you think this may be mistake somewhere in the chain of command – or is this the official blow off? If this is the statement that they are standing by, then it tells us a lot about PB and just how much they care about obeying the law, and working with the Artist community.The petition mainly consists of Artists, many of which found their works being illegally displayed and sold on PB. Maybe it is time that the members of PB get to find out that their photos can be viewed by anyone and can quite easily be sold without their knowledge or compensation. Most everyone I have talked to that has a PB account just did not realize what rights they had signed away..that their photos were made public..and even for sale to anyone with PB and Qoop making the profits. I think they should know.Great article on the Blog Herald btw!!

  6. Meredith says:

    This is disappointing. Many users do not know about the settings, or in the case that they’ve uploaded art not belonging to them aren’t likely to care. If art is taken down and doesn’t stay down, finding it after it’s been re uploaded with a different name is more difficult.

  7. Meredith says:

    This is disappointing. Many users do not know about the settings, or in the case that they’ve uploaded art not belonging to them aren’t likely to care. If art is taken down and doesn’t stay down, finding it after it’s been re uploaded with a different name is more difficult.

  8. RS: It is classic non-speak. I can tell it was written by the PR firm, not the people that actually run the site. It seems plausible to me that they didn't even receive the information.Sandi: It is hard to say really. I spoke first with a media rep from Fox and then with a PR rep that works with PhotoBucket then they emailed me the statement after confirming my email address. My wager, if I am entitled to bet on this, is that it went straight from Fox to their PR firm and bypassed the actual higher ups.That's just a guess though.I have to agree completely that we need to get the word out about this. I'm hoping that my article at the BH was a good start in that and it seems to be a popular piece, one of my better read ones on that site.There's more coming on this though, once things calm down for me a bit after Mardi Gras, there will be more on this issue!Meredith: Agreed, totally. My hope is that this is a screw up in the chain of commands as Sandi put it, but I have to admit that excuse is wearing thin quickly.I do have some backup plans though and will be writing more soon!

  9. RS: It is classic non-speak. I can tell it was written by the PR firm, not the people that actually run the site. It seems plausible to me that they didn't even receive the information.

    Sandi: It is hard to say really. I spoke first with a media rep from Fox and then with a PR rep that works with PhotoBucket then they emailed me the statement after confirming my email address. My wager, if I am entitled to bet on this, is that it went straight from Fox to their PR firm and bypassed the actual higher ups.

    That's just a guess though.

    I have to agree completely that we need to get the word out about this. I'm hoping that my article at the BH was a good start in that and it seems to be a popular piece, one of my better read ones on that site.

    There's more coming on this though, once things calm down for me a bit after Mardi Gras, there will be more on this issue!

    Meredith: Agreed, totally. My hope is that this is a screw up in the chain of commands as Sandi put it, but I have to admit that excuse is wearing thin quickly.

    I do have some backup plans though and will be writing more soon!

  10. RS: It is classic non-speak. I can tell it was written by the PR firm, not the people that actually run the site. It seems plausible to me that they didn't even receive the information.Sandi: It is hard to say really. I spoke first with a media rep from Fox and then with a PR rep that works with PhotoBucket then they emailed me the statement after confirming my email address. My wager, if I am entitled to bet on this, is that it went straight from Fox to their PR firm and bypassed the actual higher ups.That's just a guess though.I have to agree completely that we need to get the word out about this. I'm hoping that my article at the BH was a good start in that and it seems to be a popular piece, one of my better read ones on that site.There's more coming on this though, once things calm down for me a bit after Mardi Gras, there will be more on this issue!Meredith: Agreed, totally. My hope is that this is a screw up in the chain of commands as Sandi put it, but I have to admit that excuse is wearing thin quickly.I do have some backup plans though and will be writing more soon!

  11. Pariah says:

    In all honesty, that response does not surprise me at all. They are, after all, not hurting for the issue and that’s the real sticking point with companies- whether or not their pocketbooks will be affected if they don’t change something.

  12. Pariah says:

    In all honesty, that response does not surprise me at all. They are, after all, not hurting for the issue and that’s the real sticking point with companies- whether or not their pocketbooks will be affected if they don’t change something.

  13. Pariah: I don’t think the response is a surprise to anyone. Disappointing, but not surprising. I have to agree with you for the most part, but I think that enough bad publicity can start to seriously hurt a company’s bottom line. Let’s hope that starts to happen here and that they notice.

  14. Pariah: I don’t think the response is a surprise to anyone. Disappointing, but not surprising. I have to agree with you for the most part, but I think that enough bad publicity can start to seriously hurt a company’s bottom line. Let’s hope that starts to happen here and that they notice.

  15. Dawn says:

    What makes me wonder?Why are you bothering with an online petition? Anyone can fake the names on an online petition. A simple script can generate names and addresses. Companies for that reason don't pay a lot of attention to them.Basically the online petition is the option for people who want to feel like they're doing something without actually going out of the way to do anything, it's about as effective as the effort put into it.May I suggest a different tactic? Have people send letters, a post bag stuffed full of well written complaints to the company has a far bigger impact than some bytes on a screen.

  16. Dawn says:

    What makes me wonder?

    Why are you bothering with an online petition? Anyone can fake the names on an online petition. A simple script can generate names and addresses. Companies for that reason don't pay a lot of attention to them.

    Basically the online petition is the option for people who want to feel like they're doing something without actually going out of the way to do anything, it's about as effective as the effort put into it.

    May I suggest a different tactic? Have people send letters, a post bag stuffed full of well written complaints to the company has a far bigger impact than some bytes on a screen.

  17. Dawn says:

    What makes me wonder?Why are you bothering with an online petition? Anyone can fake the names on an online petition. A simple script can generate names and addresses. Companies for that reason don't pay a lot of attention to them.Basically the online petition is the option for people who want to feel like they're doing something without actually going out of the way to do anything, it's about as effective as the effort put into it.May I suggest a different tactic? Have people send letters, a post bag stuffed full of well written complaints to the company has a far bigger impact than some bytes on a screen.

  18. Dawn: Why are we bothering with a petition? There are many reasons, the first is that it was something simple we could right then and there, but it also serves as a touchstone. Though it would be nice if it swayed PB to change, if it doesn't, we have the information and mandate needed to launch better-coordinated plans in the future. It was a first step to test people's interest in this matter and get them into tone place. From there, we can things far beyond the petition itself and in a much more coordinated manner than if we had just started a secondary campaign from the beginning.Noel: I agree that you should read the TOS and that users who sign up for PB without setting their accounts to private are probably without recourse. However, I sharply disagree with the idea that PB is in the clear from third party artists.The problem is that the TOS is an agreement between PB and the person who registers the account. A third party artist that is not a member is not a party to that agreement. Their arrangement with PB is governed by the law at large. The DMCA gives hosts safe harbor but one of the exceptions is if they profit directly from the infringement, as they do here.If PB were found liable for the infringement, they could then pursue the uploader for violating their TOS and work to reclaim those damages, but that would be a separate case.Simply put, an artist that has not signed up with PB can not be held accountable to their terms of service and the law is pretty clear about the liability of hosts in these cases. Standard caveats apply.

  19. Dawn: Why are we bothering with a petition? There are many reasons, the first is that it was something simple we could right then and there, but it also serves as a touchstone. Though it would be nice if it swayed PB to change, if it doesn't, we have the information and mandate needed to launch better-coordinated plans in the future. It was a first step to test people's interest in this matter and get them into tone place. From there, we can things far beyond the petition itself and in a much more coordinated manner than if we had just started a secondary campaign from the beginning.

    Noel: I agree that you should read the TOS and that users who sign up for PB without setting their accounts to private are probably without recourse. However, I sharply disagree with the idea that PB is in the clear from third party artists.

    The problem is that the TOS is an agreement between PB and the person who registers the account. A third party artist that is not a member is not a party to that agreement. Their arrangement with PB is governed by the law at large. The DMCA gives hosts safe harbor but one of the exceptions is if they profit directly from the infringement, as they do here.

    If PB were found liable for the infringement, they could then pursue the uploader for violating their TOS and work to reclaim those damages, but that would be a separate case.

    Simply put, an artist that has not signed up with PB can not be held accountable to their terms of service and the law is pretty clear about the liability of hosts in these cases.

    Standard caveats apply.

  20. Dawn: Why are we bothering with a petition? There are many reasons, the first is that it was something simple we could right then and there, but it also serves as a touchstone. Though it would be nice if it swayed PB to change, if it doesn't, we have the information and mandate needed to launch better-coordinated plans in the future. It was a first step to test people's interest in this matter and get them into tone place. From there, we can things far beyond the petition itself and in a much more coordinated manner than if we had just started a secondary campaign from the beginning.Noel: I agree that you should read the TOS and that users who sign up for PB without setting their accounts to private are probably without recourse. However, I sharply disagree with the idea that PB is in the clear from third party artists.The problem is that the TOS is an agreement between PB and the person who registers the account. A third party artist that is not a member is not a party to that agreement. Their arrangement with PB is governed by the law at large. The DMCA gives hosts safe harbor but one of the exceptions is if they profit directly from the infringement, as they do here.If PB were found liable for the infringement, they could then pursue the uploader for violating their TOS and work to reclaim those damages, but that would be a separate case.Simply put, an artist that has not signed up with PB can not be held accountable to their terms of service and the law is pretty clear about the liability of hosts in these cases. Standard caveats apply.

  21. Noel says:

    Not to offend anybody, but saying you accept the terms of service without reading them sort of negates your ability to rely on law to help you in your issue, and if users had read the terms of service, they’d be aware that they have the ability to make their albums private. It really isn’t Photobucket’s fault that their users ignored the rules and guidelines. Unfortunately for the artists concerned about what’s happening, Photobucket is completely in the clear, here. Their terms of service state that although it’s illegal to infringe upon copyrights, photobucket isn’t liable for anyone doing so.

  22. Noel says:

    Not to offend anybody, but saying you accept the terms of service without reading them sort of negates your ability to rely on law to help you in your issue, and if users had read the terms of service, they’d be aware that they have the ability to make their albums private. It really isn’t Photobucket’s fault that their users ignored the rules and guidelines. Unfortunately for the artists concerned about what’s happening, Photobucket is completely in the clear, here. Their terms of service state that although it’s illegal to infringe upon copyrights, photobucket isn’t liable for anyone doing so.

  23. herzleid says:

    As I see it, there are really two parts to this whole ordeal: 1. Normal users with public albums who are unaware of the fact that anyone can push the 'Buy print' button and produce prints of the user's family pictures, wedding album, holiday pics, original art.. you name it. Even with the 'scapegoat' of the "users signed the TOS" it shouldn't be impossible for PB to 1) more clearly express the implications of an open account on the site at sign up AND in the upload area and 2) make new accounts private by default (as suggested in the first article on the subject)2. Third party image rights holders whose images are uploaded to PB by users without rights to them. THIS is the real problem, but unfortunately the one that probably matters less to PB because the third party entity is of no interest to them. As long as they have the user, even uploading content they have no rights to, PB is happy and the TOS are in effect so PB has their back covered and artists have to waste valuable time on DMCA complaints.So.. there are basically two different target groups here. You have reached and continue to reach the second one well by word of mouth in the online artist community, through deviantART and similar sites. I'd say the first group needs to be targeted as well, because they will probably have larger impact (if their numbers are large enough) on PB since they are actually direct users.Considering the measures that production companies are taking against file sharing of music and movies, I'm surprised they're not more concerned about picture/photo content, that is not only being shared but sold for profit. The same legislation applies after all. Why not contact the production companies, they certainly have more leverage against PB, making them see things in a different light. I mean, Warner Bros wouldn't be happy to hear Fox is making money off their stuff now would they?

  24. herzleid says:

    As I see it, there are really two parts to this whole ordeal:

    1. Normal users with public albums who are unaware of the fact that anyone can push the ‘Buy print’ button and produce prints of the user’s family pictures, wedding album, holiday pics, original art.. you name it. Even with the ‘scapegoat’ of the “users signed the TOS” it shouldn’t be impossible for PB to 1) more clearly express the implications of an open account on the site at sign up AND in the upload area and 2) make new accounts private by default (as suggested in the first article on the subject)

    2. Third party image rights holders whose images are uploaded to PB by users without rights to them. THIS is the real problem, but unfortunately the one that probably matters less to PB because the third party entity is of no interest to them. As long as they have the user, even uploading content they have no rights to, PB is happy and the TOS are in effect so PB has their back covered and artists have to waste valuable time on DMCA complaints.

    So.. there are basically two different target groups here. You have reached and continue to reach the second one well by word of mouth in the online artist community, through deviantART and similar sites. I’d say the first group needs to be targeted as well, because they will probably have larger impact (if their numbers are large enough) on PB since they are actually direct users.

    Considering the measures that production companies are taking against file sharing of music and movies, I’m surprised they’re not more concerned about picture/photo content, that is not only being shared but sold for profit. The same legislation applies after all. Why not contact the production companies, they certainly have more leverage against PB, making them see things in a different light. I mean, Warner Bros wouldn’t be happy to hear Fox is making money off their stuff now would they?

  25. [...] for their part, did not respond favorably to this and I was unfortunately forced to drop the matter for a while as other projects came [...]

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