Random Thoughts 141

Posted on 6/11/2007 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

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RANDOM THOUGHTS 141

June 11, 2007

Photographer Sees Big Profits With Microstock

Lise Gagné, a Canadian microstock photographer, just reached 500,000 image downloads through iStockphoto. A registered member since 2003, Gagné was the first to become a full-time, exclusive iStock photographer. The nearly 5,000 pieces of Gagné's work represented by iStock have each been downloaded an average of 100 times, earning her a six-figure income -- enough to not just rent but own studio space.

A former Web and multimedia designer, Gagné was fired from her design agency job "for spending too much time on iStock. I fell in love with iStock right away, but never would have dreamt that someday, it would be my career," she says.

Today, she is an iStock legend. iStock CEO and microstock pioneer Bruce Livingstone believes that Gagné will be the first of many to reach the 500,000 sale milestone. "We have just barely scratched the surface of the worldwide appetite for imagery."

At the moment, however, few microstock photographers make anywhere near six figures. According to the recent PDN Stock Income Survey, the average annual earnings of a microstock photographer are under $4,000. Nearly 60% of the 865 microstock photographers participating in the survey reported earning less than $1,000 per year.

Lee Torrens is an amateur photographer who has put a significant effort into microstock and documents his endeavors in the Microstock Diaries. Torrens runs a two-person Web and graphic-design business with his wife. The pair contributes to nine microstock agencies and reports earning just under $500 in May 2007. iStockphoto and ShutterStock are the top earners, each representing close to 600 images.

While Gagné's success seems to be distinct, it can be attributed to several factors. First is her full-time commitment: Not only does she specialize in shooting stock she hasn't taken a vacation in years. All her travel is for photography-related events. Second, she is exclusive to iStock; she earns 40% of individual image sales, double that of nonexclusive photographers. Third, she is extraordinarily prolific. Fourth, iStock deserves credit for bringing Gagné's work to the consumer via a Getty Images-funded marketing machine that has made the microstock provider the global volume leader for stock-photography sales. And finally, and perhaps most importantly, there is the quality of Gagné's work.

Jupitermedia Buys 2 Web Sites

By: Julia Dudnik Stern

Jupitermedia announced the acquisition of AdsOfTheWorld.com and CreativeBits.org, user-generated content sites catering to the creative and design communities. AdsOfTheWorld.com archives advertising from around the world. CreativeBits.org is a tips-and-tricks exchange forum for designers using Mac OS X. Combined, the sites have more than 1 million unique monthly visitors. "This acquisition provides us with the opportunity to cross-promote our Jupiterimages offerings," said CEO Alan Meckler.

Image Source Hires Creative Exec

By: Julia Dudnik Stern

U.K. royalty-free stock photo brand Image Source has hired Christian Schmidt as its new creative communications manager. Schmidt won several creative awards in his previous role as Masterfile's design manager for Europe. He will draw on his marketing, design, sales and IT experience to develop a new communications plan for Image Source's marketing channels and offices.

Microstock Sites Go Mobile

By: Julia Dudnik Stern

Two microstock companies have signed deals to license images for use on mobile phones.

iStockphoto partnered with AMUSE Entertainment Group to offer images for use as wallpaper to subscribers of six mobile networks in the U.K. The pilot phase involves 5,000 images iStock images.

Dreamstime partnered with Boom Bucket Mobile, a 1-year-old company whose distribution includes North America and Europe. Boom Bucket offers on-demand access to wholly owned, royalty-free mobile wallpaper, animation, ringtones and video. The partnership with Dreamstime increases the Boom Bucket mobile-content inventory to more than 1 million available images.

Both companies cite overwhelming demand for personalized mobile images. "People want their gadgets to feel uniquely theirs, including their mobile phones," said Garth Johnson, vice president of business development at iStockphoto.


Pending Court Case May Set Image Licensing Precedent

By: Julia Dudnik Stern

The logo image of PerezHilton.com, a popular, albeit vicious celebrity-gossip blog, just changed from a photo to an illustration following the receipt of a cease-and-desist letter from Creative Age Publications. The May 21 letter, published by TMZ.com, asserts copyright ownership of the image, demands that its unauthorized use be discontinued and promises a $150,000 lawsuit if the order is denied.

This amount is minuscule compared to lawsuits currently pending against Perez Hilton, who uses the pseudonym in place of his real name, Mario Lavandeira. In November 2006, celebrity photo agency X17Online filed a copyright-infringement suit seeking more than $7 million in damages for Lavandeira's use of 51 X17 photographs without authorization, payment or credit. Company executives say they made numerous attempts at a more amicable resolution.

Multiple other news agencies, photographers and even journalists have accused Lavandeira of lifting copyrighted content. Image owners have been most proactive in pursing the matter. In April, five international news agencies - Bauer-Griffin, Flynet, INF, London Entertainment Pictures and Splash News - filed a joint multimillion dollar lawsuit in California, while Australia's PhotoNews served papers seeking several thousand dollars for one instance of infringement.

Lavandeira admits to using the images, but describes it as fair use. Yet the fair use exception to the Copyright Act was instituted primarily to allow socially beneficial, educational and non-commercial endeavors, whereas Lavandeira earns a living from his blog. The primary claim of copyright owners suing Lavandeira is unfair competition, specifically addressed by the fair use exception that considers the effect on the potential market and the value of the copyrighted work. The plaintiffs argue that Lavandeira profits from the labors of others and devalues the work in the process.

In March, a judge in the X17 suit allowed Lavandeira to continue operating PerezHilton.com pending a final decision. The outcome of this case can have profound implications on the editorial photography market, since celebrity imagery is among the most valuable commodities.


Copyright © 2007 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

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