I recently posted about the new relationship that Squarespace has established with Unsplash, the online, free stock image company. Well, since that time, boy has the outrage exploded on the Internet! Go look at the responses to Squarespace’s announcement on Twitter, and you’ll see a lot of angry photographers chiming in. It’ll be interesting to see how Squarespace now responds, as they haven’t really yet; at least not publicly.
From a general (non-photographer) user standpoint, I can still see both sides of this. From a photographer standpoint, though, I’ve since learned about some real concerns with the Unsplash platform. One of the big concerns is that of model releases for any images involving people (or property releases if shots were taken of/on a private property) if the image is used for commercial use. Lack of proper releases could result in huge liability issues for the photographers.
For example, take the image at the top of this post, which I pulled from Unsplash. If I used this photo for commercial purposes, and the person came to me ready to sue because she hadn’t authorized such use of her image, I could just go back to the photographer and say, “Hey, where’s the model release? Cough it up, or this lawsuit is coming your way.” Any responsible, experienced, professional photographer would hopefully have such a release in pocket to provide. However, the problem is that many of the photographers providing images to Unsplash aren’t professional photographers and often don’t even know about the need for such releases, so had never secured them from their subjects in the first place. Because of that, they’re now open to being sued.
As a business owner and/or website creator, I leave it to you to decide if the use of such service is valuable. If you’re a photographer, though, I’d caution against uploading your images to this service, as it sounds like they have everything setup to pass through all liability issues back to the photographers. I invite you to watch/listen to the interview that noted commercial photographer, Zack Arias, conducted with one of Unsplash’s founders back in January, which you can find here. He goes into great detail over a lot of these concerns with the founder. It’s an interesting conversation, and definitely leaves me a little more wary of the whole thing.