iStockphoto Exclusivity Explained

Posted on 1/30/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Many photographers found the language of the new 15-page iStockphoto Exclusive Artist's Supply Agreement difficult to comprehend. A big part of the confusion lies in the fact that an exclusive arrangement with iStock is photographer-exclusive for royalty-free content, unlike nearly all other exclusive arrangements in the industry, which are image-exclusive.

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Copyright © 2009 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-251-0720, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


  • Lee Torrens Posted Jan 30, 2009
    Just to clarify an often overlooked point...

    Not all exclusive iStock contributors are paid 40%.

    Only once an exclusive contributor has sold 25,000 licenses ("downloads") are they paid 40%.

    Exclusive royalties are:
    25% until 2,500 sales
    30% until 10,000 sales
    35% until 25,000 sales

    Royalty rates are here:
    "Canister levels" are here:


  • Jonathan Ross Posted Jan 31, 2009
    Hi Jim,

    Thank you for putting this so clearly. This is something I have been trying to share with the community for some time and people just don't believe it to be true. Limiting like we have never seen before in this business but I don't think the Micro players realize just what they are signing in the long run, just my opinion.
    The part I find peculiar from Getty's stand point is they are loading there collection with a small amount of exclusives and they are paying the exclusives more than than non-exclusives. This doesn't sound like smart business to me. If the photographers they were signing as exclusive were good enough to raise the bar at Istock I might start to see their point but I do not see any difference in the quality of their top shooters and their non-exclusives.
    Micro is not cutting edge photography and it's buyer base is not established around high end conceptual images so to say you have an exclusive image when there are so many that can produce this level of stock and place it on competitors sites makes me wonder what they are thinking.
    The other part I notice is they don't really add incentives for being exclusive it is more like they hold you back for being non-exclusive. There is a difference. I really have trouble trying to figure out what they see as their plan and how this will pay off in the long run. Can anyone add to help explain their thinking. It can't be just taking care of their stable of shooters and treating them better because they like them.

    Jonathan Ross

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