phiffer.org

Dan Phiffer Dan Phiffer builds websites, makes art, and teaches in NYC

Couchsurfing steals photosspeedbird.wordpress.com

Consider these happy users of couchsurfing.com, the old school zero-cost precursor to Airbnb.

Aww, they watched Thai soap operas together!
Aww, they watched Thai soap operas together!

From Adam Greenfield:

A few years ago, I would have had to wonder whether these images did in fact represent happy Couchsurfers; now, of course, we have Google Image Search. It only took me a few seconds’ clicking around to confirm what I had suspected — or actually, something even more troubling.

It’s not merely that are these not at all images of actual Couchsurfers; in itself, that might readily enough be forgiven. It’s that the images appear to have been downloaded, altered and used in a commercial context without their creators’ knowledge or consent — in one case, in fact, in direct contravention of the (very generous) terms of the license under which they were offered. Here, let’s take a look:

– The image labeled “Jason” is one of photographer David Weir’s 100 Strangers, originally labeled with a copyright notice;

– “Dang” is a crop of commercial photographer Anthony Mongiello’s headshot of actor Stanley Wong

This is not a huge deal, of course, but I’ve had my photos used this way, and it does irk me a bit. And I got curious, so I searched for the background image of Venice, Italy (why didn’t they use Bangkok?), and it looks like a legit stock photo.

I also contacted each of the photographers mentioned in Adam’s post, just to confirm that their work hadn’t been licensed from them somehow. So far I’ve heard back from Anthony Mongiello, and he was surprised to learn his photo was being used this way. It’s probably safe to assume the other “user” portraits are also stolen.

I was going to add a “see also” link at the bottom here, to Khoi Vinh and Matt Jacobs’s rights-cleared collection of user photos, but interestingly they’ve discontinued it:

We built Facebox in 2013 to make life easier for UI designers who needed quick access to high quality, royalty-free images of real people. In the time since, it’s been a blast to see Facebox photos show up all over the Internet.

Out of respect for our models, who were very generous with their likenesses, we’ve decided to discontinue sales of Facebox, before they get overexposed.

Perhaps the classless move by the Couchsurfing designers has been balanced out just a bit from Khoi and Matt’s thoughtful gesture.

Link