[UPDATED] "Wedding Chicks" Blog Breaks Terms of Service to Make More Money

[UPDATED] "Wedding Chicks" Blog Breaks Terms of Service to Make More Money

Wedding Chicks has responded (located at bottom of article).

Advertising utilizing social media has been an uphill trend for those of us in the photography profession, but when does it become unscrupulous for a company to charge photographers for more exposure using their social media sites? When the social media sites say it's against their terms of service, apparently. Wedding Chicks, a popular wedding blog, is doing just that to wedding photographers on Pinterest and other social media sites.

I was going through our Fstoppers Facebook group when I noticed a very irate post about the wedding photography blog charging photographers money to post their photos and information on their social media sites. The poster was Dina Douglass of Andrena Photography, a very influential wedding photographer based out of Los Angeles, who was named one of the top wedding photographers in the world by American Photo Magazine in 2011. So, of course this caught my attention right away.

 

fstoppers_wedding_chicks_dina_facebook_post

 

Her complaint was the fact that Wedding Chicks is charging photographers to have their content posted onto their social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. For their Pinterest social media account they are charging photographers $100 to pin three photos onto their account and $150 to pin five images, as shown on their advertisement below.

 

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"When I discovered that Wedding Chicks was offering to pin images to their Pinterest page for a fee, I was disappointed as it reminded me of the slippery slope that we’ve been on as an industry. Generous photographer contributions are the foundation for wedding blog businesses. Pinning images for a fee seems to take advantage of photographer generosity. I have to wonder where this is going to end." -Dina Douglass

It's not just Pinterest that they're charging money for though. If you want to be featured on their Facebook page without buying any actual space on their blog, that will cost you too. For example if you want a simple social media package it will cost you $200 for two pins on their Pinterest account, one Facebook post on their Facebook page and one tweet on their Twitter timeline. The prices go up with the more social interaction you request. You can see their social media packages on their media kit.

 

fstoppers_wedding_chicks_media_kit

 

Now you might be wondering why this is news at all. You see it across social media platforms everyday. Companies that charge advertisers to have their content on their social media sites is nothing new. The reason this is causing such an uproar in the wedding photography community is because of two issues. First and most importantly it is against Pinterest's and Facebook's Terms of Service (Facebook) or Acceptable Use Policy (Pinterest) for any persons or companies to charge for third party advertisements. Twitter seems to be vague when it comes to their position on third party advertising. Second because blogs like Wedding Chicks have been built on photographer content. So to say that they are now charging you to give them content to post on their social media is absurd.

I reached out to Pinterest about their Acceptable Use Policy and how it deals with situations like the one with Wedding Chicks. I asked them, "If a blog charges a photographer $150 to have 5 of their (the photographer's) photos pinned onto the blog's Pinterest account/board is that a breach of your ToS?" Annie Ta from Pinterest responded quickly, "It's a violation of our AUP to pay [charge] directly for Pins as per this section: http://about.pinterest.com/use/#compensates-pinning."

So, the argument on whether it's okay for Wedding Chicks and blogs like them to charge people to post on their social media (Facebook and Pinterest) is a moot one. The answer is a simple "no." Nonetheless, the debate did reach to Facebook and Pinterest where photographers around the country shared their disgust for the blog's business practices.

 

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Wedding Chicks took to Twitter to defend their advertising model.

 

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It's one thing to charge someone for a sponsored post on your blog and then out of courtesy plug that sponsored post on Facebook or Pinterest, but you simply cannot charge directly for those posts or pins. Wedding Chicks is under the impression that it's providing a service to their vendors when in actuality they're performing a disservice to photographers. As blogs we thrive on content provided by photographers, especially wedding blogs that are built on the backs of the imagery that wedding photographers provide. So, to charge a photographer for content that the photographer under normal circumstances provides to them to help keep their blog fresh, engaging and read-worthy is beyond absurd, and in my opinion, an insult to photographers everywhere.

You as wedding photographers help keep wedding blogs in business. If it wasn't for your imagery on their sites, no one would bother to take a second glance at them. Now am I saying all advertising with them is wrong? Absolutely not. If you want to be featured on their blog (and not invited to be featured) then sure they can charge you for the exposure. There's no rule against that. If a company wants to put advertising space on a blog, there's nothing wrong with that either (although there are people who would argue that point). As a potential bride I don't know how much trust I can have with a wedding blog (not a directory like WeddingWire.com) that charges to have photographers featured on their website and does not just feature photographers based on talent alone.

"I'd like to see wedding blogs adopt a set of standard practices that ensure fair treatment for contributors. At a minimum, I strongly believe photographer credits should be posted directly on photographs. This practice would ensure that the creator's identification would stay with their work, even if the photos are re-shared on other web sites, blogs or social media. Most wedding blogs don't allow on-image credit and this practice does a huge disservice to photographers seeking to protect their work.

I'd also like to see wedding blogs adopt content ethics that are more in line with journalistic standards. To that end, I'd suggest that wedding blogs that employ pay-to-play marketing identify paid content as “paid” or “sponsored.” This kind of authentic transparency would do a great service to both their readership and their contributors. While many photographers enjoy the enhanced visibility that wedding blogs provide, the pendulum has swung so far in favor of the wedding blogs that many photographers feel they consistently end up with the short end of the stick."- Dina Douglass

As a blogger for Fstoppers I couldn't agree more with Dina. How do you feel about wedding blogs like Wedding Chicks breaking social media terms of service so that they can charge you to provide them with content?

Wedding Chicks' response to Rebecca Britt:

"Firstly, we wanted to let you know that any of our Valentine's Day promotional pin packages, that have been purchased alone and part of a larger advertising package, have been refunded and issued an apology.

We apologize breaking from the Pinterest Terms of Service. We had no intention on doing that and have tried to rectify the situation.

There also seems to be a confusion around submissions/features and advertising. Every wedding, styled shoot, bouquet recipe and diy project that you see on our homepage is featured at no cost. I see that you have our media kit, so you know what we do consider to be advertising. The above homepage features are not part of that."

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118 Comments

Previous comments

I'm no lawyer, but I don't think so. If there's a lawyer out there with expertise on copyright law, please chime in. Based on what I read below it looks a little hazy...

§ 107 . Limitations on exclusive rights: Fair use40

Notwithstanding the provisions of sections
106 and 106A, the fair use of a copyrighted
work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any
other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment,
news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship,
or research, is not an infringement of copyright. In determining whether the
use made of a work in any particular case is a fair use the factors to be
considered shall include—

(1) the purpose and character of the use, including whether
such use is of a commercial nature or is for nonprofit educational purposes;

(2) the nature of the copyrighted work;

(3) the amount and substantiality of the portion used
in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole; and

(4) the effect of the use upon the potential market for
or value of the copyrighted work.

The fact that a work is unpublished shall not itself
bar a finding of fair use if such finding is made upon consideration of all
the above factors.

It's right there in the first paragraph you posted.

"for purposes such as CRITICISM, COMMENT,
NEWS REPORTING, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship,
or research, is MOT AN INFRINGEMENT OF COPYRIGHT."

#4 is the hazy party for me. Again, I'm not a lawyer...

You don't have to meet ALL the criteria for it to be fair use. I wrote an article/blog post about the Paolo Pelegrin issue last year that used screen grabs from Magnums website of the images in question and while the use of the screen grabs did affect the images value (Magnum removed them from sale) the criticism, comment, and news reporting of those images superseded item 4.

You can read the post here:
http://blog.samuelcorum.com/?p=472

I stand corrected, then. Thank you for sharing your article. I found it interesting and well written. I still think there is a bit of hypocrisy here...as someone mentioned earlier, this site has stolen imagery from photographers before - apology or not. And while (again) I agree that Wedding Chicks was intending to do something unethical and wrong that I do not condone, I have trouble with the way the "facts" where presented in this article as well as with its source - given their own previous mistakes. I have trouble with mob mentalities, especially those loaded with hypocrisy.

Trevor Dayley's picture

@patriciapentecost:disqus I don't see the article as a call for a mob to go after anyone. It is just stating the situation. What people do with the info is entirely up to them.

Zach Sutton's picture

Screen grabs are considered public and fair use...

There is absolutely nothing wrong with screen grabbing an offering to put on display, whereas there are plenty of things wrong with extorting photographers to get their work displayed.

It's not that simple. If it were, then you'd be saying that screen grabbing photos from my website or blog without my consent is okay in some instances. That's not okay in ANY instance. BTW, I'm just saying that BOTH parties here (actually three) are wrong.

Zach Sutton's picture

Anything on Twitter or Facebook is considered public domain. So if you're referencing the screengrabs of those, I suggest you read the Terms and Service for both of those social media outlets. When you post something publicly on those websites, it is equivalent to posting it on a billboard. Nothing is stopping you from having others take photos of it.

Pinterest works the exact same way in that regard...they posted this special publicly, and now they're facing the consequences, due to title 17 of the Copyright and Fair Use laws.

While I agree with most of what you've posted earlier, grabbing someones items posted on FB or Twitter for financial gain is illegal. See the current lawsuit against Getty and AFP where the photographer won MILLIONS from AFP and Getty illegally grabbing Haiti photographs off Twitter and publishing and selling them without permission.

Zach Sutton's picture

I guess I fail to see where the financial gain is coming from. Sure, there are advertisers on the website, but they're not specific to this post, so this specific post does not have financial gain. Nor is this post charging people to read it, or being paid for by some third party.

Content drives traffic. Traffic drives revenue. It doesn't have to be a direct sale of the content in question.

Zach Sutton's picture

But not through direct sale. There is no spike in traffic because of this article in particular....so one could argue that this post isn't financially gaining anyone here.

I'm a little confused by what you are defending. This post IS gaining a spike in traffic for the site posting it. That recorded traffic increases average views for the web page which in turn allows the site to charge a larger amount to advertisers to be able to advertise on the site. Use of the images has a direct connection to traffic coming here and reading and posting but the fact the images are the subject of the discussion and criticism they fall under Fair Use. If there were other wedding images used in the post that had no direct link to the situation being discussed then they would not fall under Fair Use and be in violation of copyright is permission was not obtained.

Zack, just stop talking. Everything you say is wrong on EVERY level.

Before spouting off ridiculous comments (this is aimed at Zach as well) like that you might want to do a bit of reading.

FStoppers used the images in an EDITORIAL way. They are speaking about THAT SPECIFIC AD.

Using a picture of a random wedding to talk about weddings in general ISN'T editorial use. Using a picture to talk about that picture IS!

Tam Nguyen's picture

Get permission to use screen grabs? Did you just learn how to use the interwebz yesterday?

Hah! What a joke! It seems that in the world we live in today, either our images are being stolen without consent or being extorted to get them displayed.

well pissing off people on the internet is the quickest way for you business or blog to go down the tubes......so wedding chicks, I think your days are numbered now. too bad you were so greedy.

After reading this, my impression was that Wedding Chicks was offering shop owners (for instance those who create jewelry, veils, wedding gowns, actual products, etc) the opportunity to gain exposure via their Pinterest page, not photographers.

Yes, exactly. This was never about photographers ... not in the least.

While I don't agree with them charging for exposure on Pinterest and sites other than their blogs, I see where it came from. For those of you who have never advertised on their site, I will inform, that their traffic is solid and real. When I advertised with them, Wedding Chicks' blog was my highest referral site from all over the world. They have the numbers to back up charging for their exposing the work.

No, they aren't talentless hacks. They are sweet, professional business people from what I've known from them. And I don't know them personally but professionally from my having done business with them.

For those of you who don't need to pay for exposure, fine. But to put the industry on a pedestal of being above this is premature. How many wedding photographers do you know who add wedding planning or coordinators to their packages? Why? They want the revenue. We are all in this business to make money. That is where this derives.

Again, I don't agree with the fees if the social media sites expressly disallow that practice. However, the ranting goes a bit far knowing other things that have been done by EVERY entity in our industry (venues, planners, entertainers, photographers, etc). Just say you don't want to pay for it and be done with it.

By the way, of the first to know about this practice, which of them picked up the phone and called Wedding Chicks and said, "Hey, this might not be a good idea. I think you should talk some photographers before you go full ahead." *waiting* You haven't done everything perfect in your business, I'm sure. Don't expect everyone else to have.

This service was never about promoting photographers, it was about promoting a business such as Etsy, or Nordstrom, or another big national brand that would benefit from their product being pinned and repinned and pinned again. Those companies can get a lot out of a huge following like Wedding Chicks has. For photographers to take this and destroy who it was meant to help makes me very sad.
As a wedding blogger, I do benefit from photographers submitting their work, but I benefit more from myself, my voice, the work I put into my blog. A photo without details or a beautiful wedding dress would not be interesting: it takes an entire team and then a talented photographer to make an image worth it ... worth pinning, worth blogging, worth sharing. The photographers who value being featured on blogs are the ones who submit and who see this for what it really is: a worthwhile relationship building outlet and a way for more brides to see their gorgeous work. The photographers who are saying things like "just stop submitting" "ban all blogs" are the ones who don't get it and probably aren't seeing much play for their images. Blunt but true.
I have amazing relationships with photographers from all over the world and they are not in here commenting on a post that was built off of a misunderstanding in the first place. Something to think about as you plan your next attack on these awesome ladies who have a right to make a living off of something they are clearly very good at.
XO

Well said, Heather

XO

I think you are missing a HUGE point...what they are doing IT'S ILLEGAL!!! Just a very small detail...

I am not arguing the legality of this. I am arguing what all these comments are so fired up about ... how even if this was legal, photographers wouldn't get anything out of it. Or how photographers should be paid for blogs to use their images. This entire thing has been bent to mean something entirely different and that is what I am commenting on.

Heather, i fully agree. You built your business on your voice, and your work, and us on our vision.
Tell you what.... you want to feature a wedding i just shot? country wedding in the middle of winter "outdoors". You can feature it exclusively on your blog. My rate is $1500 per photo for a year's use rights. I can give you a discount at 3 photos for $5000 per year. This is pretty standard for commercial photography work. Where can I send the bill?

You are a moron, anonymous 'guest.' Your feature will be on display for 3 million internet views a month. Are you not getting that? If you had a platform that gets you 3 million views a month, because you had worked your ass off to get to that point. I am suuuuure you'd gladly keep it free forever and ever out of kindness of your heart. Give me a break. You need their exposure more than they need your content. Get it straight.

greg tennyson's picture

Posting other peoples photos is working your ass off? They run a fucking Pinterest page.

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