|Mon July 22 2013 15:46:58|
On eBay, Who Owns the Photos?
By: Brian Cohen
By now everyone is aware of eBay's new photo requirements. There is one part of the photo policy that I would like to cover which is photo ownership. eBay clearly states that under the new policy that "Watermarks are the only text that can be on your photo." Moreover it makes clear that watermarks are for the sole purpose of "ownership and attribution." See this eBay help page for the complete Watermarking Guidelines.
eBay should make it clear who owns a photo in a listing that does not have a watermark. To be more specific, it should be understood that this photo, whether or not it has a watermark, belongs to the seller.
However, I believe that once a listing closes with a successful buyer or bidder, that the photo from the auction (if not watermarked) should become fair game for the bidder/buyer to use as they see fit.
Now I suppose some of you might be wondering why doesn't the buyer simply take their own photograph? You might find yourself in a situation (as a buyer) where there is an immediate need to use this photo. A photo of a unique vintage item that could not be found anywhere else. By purchasing this item you are effectively granting yourself "permission" to use the photo immediately without having to wait for physical delivery of the item.
Conversely, once you have purchased this unique item, wouldn't it make you feel a bit uncomfortable if the seller continued to use the photo as they see fit? It also seems bizarre (redundant?) that you would have to ask the seller for permission to use the photo of an item that you just purchased.
To throw a monkeywrench into this discussion: ponder the services such as Worthpoint that include a watermark on eBay listing images that they are "Copyrighted work licensed by Worthpoint" and further states that "Items in the Worthopedia are obtained exclusively from licensors and partners solely for our members' research needs."
Click on this antique blowtorch, for example. So it appears (?) that eBay owns these photos and is licensing them out without our explicit consent.
I personally don't have a problem with this (although I'm sure some of you do) if eBay makes it known in advance that photos may be used in such a manner... Well, in lawyer-speak, they do... According to the eBay User Agreement:
"When providing us with content or posting content on eBay's sites, services, applications, and tools, you grant us a non-exclusive, worldwide, perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, sublicensable (through multiple tiers) right to exercise any and all copyright, trademark, publicity, and database rights you have in the content, in any media known now or in the future."
Perhaps the above can be promoted by eBay as a means to keep all listing insertions free and that listings are in part sponsored by third party data-collection services.
This also begs the question if eBay could monetize seller photos at a granular level. Could eBay act as a platform for sellers to make "royalties" on photos from closed auctions that have been watermarked? This value added optional service could compete with the likes of iStockPhoto and Shutterstock.
And in case you missed it, Bloomberg recently reported in "Shutterstock Creates First Silicon Alley Billionaire" that Jonathan Oringer, the founder of Shutterstock became a billionaire and further noted that, "Unlike Getty and Corbis, Shutterstock doesn't own its content. The site's contributors - photographers, illustrators and artists who so far have been paid more than $150 million, according to the company - retain ownership of their copyrights."
As a seller or a buyer on eBay, how do you feel about ownership of images after a listing closes? Would you like eBay to monetize Seller Photos similar to Shutterstock?
Take our poll on SurveyMonkey (we'll share the results with readers). And let us know what you think in the comments below!
About the Author
Brian Cohen has been an active member of the eBay community since May 1998, and he currently trades under the member name Bidofthis.com. His first AuctionBytes article was published in May 2002. Brian's reporting on Bitcoin in 2013 has been referenced in numerous publications including The Register, Tech Week Europe, TechCrunch and PC World. Brian can be contacted through his website at BidofThis.com where he always has a "little Bid of This and little Bid of That." (Note: The above post was submitted on July 21st.)