Some people have read that eBay will be putting all photos into a catalog of online images that is then accessible to all sellers to use in their own listings - this is incorrect. (See update, below.)
eBay is rolling out a new policy (announced last week) on its use of seller photographs that relates to its Product Catalog, a feature that many sellers are unaware of, leading to some confusion.
First of all, what is eBay's "Product Catalog"??
The catalog referred to in the policy is actually the catalog from which eBay displays Product Pages.
What's a Product Page?
A Product Page from eBay's "product catalog" is a page that shoppers see when searching for certain items that includes a generic description of the item they are looking for. (Think about how Amazon.com presents its listings - you see one page per item, not a list of listings.)
In eBay's words, "This product page is the page that appears when a buyer clicks on a Matching Products module in search results. The product page shows buyers common information about the product at the top, community reviews, and the items available for purchase."
For example, searching eBay for a specific model of an iPod might bring up a "Product Page" for that specific model. It would display a generic photo of the item and a description with model number and attributes. Included on that page are two ways to find actual seller listings for the item: a "Great Savings" box featuring listings from three PowerSellers (similar to Amazon.com's Buy Box), and underneath the generic description, a list of all the listings available from sellers.
eBay displays Product Pages in certain categories - currently, you'll find them predominantly in consumer electronics and media categories.
So what's the new policy?
Here it is in eBay's exact words found on this page.
Starting September 1, 2009, eBay will begin selecting sellers' photos for inclusion in the eBay product catalog. If your photo is chosen, an attribution including your user ID and a link to your profile page will be included on the product details page under your picture each time it's displayed. This attribution can give you significant additional exposure.
If you'd rather opt out of this program, please do so through My eBay as described here. To ensure your pictures are not considered for inclusion in the eBay product catalog starting September 1, you need to opt out by August 31, 2009 at 23:59:59 PT.
You can opt out any time after that as well, but any pictures we select starting September 1 during a time you are not opted out may continue to be used in the catalog at our discretion.
Can you explain what that means?
Unless you opt out, eBay may use your photos in their catalog product pages. This does not mean that your photos will appear in someone else's listings - it means your photo may appear on the generic description page shown to shoppers on eBay.
So what do I get out of it?
When we spoke to Todd Lutwak, eBay's Senior Director of Seller Development, last week, here's what he said: "We will be going through a process, looking for the best picture that is available to use on that product detail page. The sellers on eBay take great time and care taking their photos and we love and appreciate that, as do the buyers, and if we decide to use your photo as part of this, what we call community-generated images, we will you the attribution for use of your photo."
So theoretically, you'll get traffic if people click on the link under the photo - it will go to your My World page.
What if I use a watermark on my photos?
Mr. Lutwak said eBay would not be considering photos that have watermarks.
Am I the only one confused about this?
No, not at all. AuctionBytes conducted a survey about all of eBay's pending changes from its July 27th announcement last week, and this was one area that clearly had people confused. You can read more about what other sellers had to say about the new photo policy in this article.
So I do own exclusive content to my listings and photos, right?
Actually, no. Read eBay's User Agreement under Content:
When you give us content, you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise the copyright, trademark, publicity, and database rights (but no other rights) you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future.
Do you know if my listing descriptions and photos may appear outside of eBay?
Yes. Worthpoint licenses eBay data, and you can find some eBay sellers' photos, descriptions, date sold and pricing information on Worthpoint's database.
Update 8/9/09: According to eBay's Jim Griffith (Griff) on this discussion board thread: "If a seller opts in, their catalog photos will be available to other sellers of identical items to use in their listings. (not similar, identical. Unique, one of a kind items do not have catalog data, are not catalogable, and those photos will NOT be made available to other sellers)."
Actually, he must mean if a seller does not opt-out, but the point is that your photo may indeed appear in your competitors' listings. It's interesting that eBay doesn't make this clear on the description page, as this is a key factor in deciding whether to opt-out or not.
Update 8/11/09: Clarification from eBay in new blog post.