Photographers plan to remove images from iStockphoto

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people protesting with megaphones

On February 2, 2013 a protest will be held by many iStockphoto contributors. The day has been coined D-Day (Deactivation Day) in this thread on the microstock group. Contributors participating in the protest are set to deactivate many of their images which are currently on iStockphoto (Update Feb 4: New post on Deactivation Day). In fact many contributors are already in the process of removing their images.

So what lies behind this protest?

One of the best selling photographers on iStockphoto Sean Locke (Update February 12: Notice of termination of his iStockphoto account was given to him by Getty on February 8, 2013) discovered recently that Google had acquired 5,000 images for use in Google Drive. Getty Images, the parent company of iStockphoto negotiated the deal with Google, which allows these images to be distributed to Google Drive users, who can then use them for commercial purposes. The one time payment to iStock contributors who have their images included in the deal is $12. This deal has outraged many of iStock’s contributors, as any Google Drive user both current and future ones can use these images without further compensating the authors of the images. Many contributors are stating that this is a violation of their copyright. The images are also not attributed to their authors and any copyright information originally entered into the metadata by the authors are not shown, so not only can Google Drive users use the images for free, they would find it difficult to find the creators of the work should they wish to.

One experienced microstock contributor says in the D-Day thread, “My plan is to only leave the worst images I have. All the ones that have made money are going.”

Another contributor Lisa F. Young (Lisafx) says, “I am still hoping Getty will be forced to come to their senses and start paying us fairly for our intellectual property, but if not, I see no choice but to eventually withdraw from iStock even though I am dependent on the income I make there.”

(The quotes above are published here with permission from their authors).

Just how many images in total will be removed by contributors on and by February 2 is of course unknown. It may just be 10s of thousands, which is a small percentage of iStock’s total collection. However, the fact that at least a certain amount of contributors are acting collectively by taking images off an online marketplace, which makes both them and the agency money is testament to how strongly they feel about the actions of Getty Images and iStockphoto.

Microstock’s origins and success firmly lie in the crowdsourcing model. Microstock agencies owe their success to the tens of thousands of professional and amateur photographers, vector artists and illustrators, who over the years have sent millions of images so that anyone can license them for commercial and editorial purposes. What happens though when the crowd that was so integral to the success of an agency like iStockphoto begins to turn against it?

Maybe we are about to find out.

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Show 11 Comments


  • Smith
    January 16, 2013 Reply

    About time someone takes a stand against Getty.

  • Leslie M
    January 16, 2013 Reply

    That is shameful and everyone should leave right now. IStock is horrible but Google is scary.

  • Frank S
    January 16, 2013 Reply

    It's about time we stand up against these Bullies with a united force, and remove our images and show them who really owns the images. I'll be de-activating images on Feb 2... Might even close my account all together. I'd rather get nothing than let them have them for free and make Billions off of us!!!

  • Dave B
    January 17, 2013 Reply

    Sounds like the same comments I heard a few years ago when microstock started infringing on rights managed agencies.

  • Bobby G
    January 17, 2013 Reply

    It'll probably be 10s rather than 10s of 000s

    • tyler olson
      January 17, 2013 Reply

      I think it'll easily reach 10,000 images removed. I for one will be removing at least 1000.. so that's already 10%. If you read the thread on MicrostockGroup you'll see quite a few other members promising they plan to delete similar numbers.

  • Victor Torres
    January 18, 2013 Reply

    In my humble opinion, iStock couldn't be doing worse...

  • Jay
    January 18, 2013 Reply

    Yay 10.000 less competitor images - Thanks guys!

    • Microstock Posts
      January 18, 2013 Reply

      For the ever changing string pullers, receiving fast and short term gain from iStock has been evident for a few years now. They always seem to be prepared for iStock to ride out bad publicity from moves they know (or should know) will be incredibly unpopular. I don't believe there is any long term plan for iStock, it's about investors cashing in and then a profitable exit strategy. Long term this is terrible news for iStock contributors, especially exclusives. So if you are happy that you will face less competitors by contributors removing their images from your agency, I think your long term vision could be seen as on a par with those pulling the strings of your agency.

  • Semmick Photo
    January 18, 2013 Reply

    I just blogged about this. I think its really crap for the photographers affected by this.

  • george
    January 21, 2013 Reply

    In forums of spain and other latin countries people are saying that they´ll support the D-day. We are talking about dozens, maybe hundreds of contributors.

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