Vivozoom: Do Image Warranty Claims Have Merit?

Posted on 8/5/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

Launched in May 2009, microstock business Vivozoom is trying to attract customers by claiming that its image warranty is far superior to those of other microstock sites, specifically iStockphoto and Shutterstock. But is there a substantive difference in the way different microstocks deal with releases or claims from customers that receive something other than what they expect?

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  • Don Farrall Posted Aug 5, 2009
    It is my understanding that Vivozoom, which at least started out as a by-invitation collection, uses a higher level of discrimination with regard to their suppliers. By this I mean that they are more picky about whom they will represent as contributors; not necessarily about the quality of the images. By contrast, Istock and Shutterstock will sell photos from anyone, anywhere in the world, regardless of the ability of the agency to verify if this contributor is actually the author of the material that they are submitting. Both Istock and shutterstock represent “work” from contributors that are in countries that do not honor copyright ownership, and they (the agencies) hide behind the DMCA when it is determined that they have been distributing stolen images. In theory, Vivozoom is vetting it’s contributors, making it more unlikely that content has been stolen from another photographer. However the DMCA protects them as well, so I am not sure it makes that much difference to the end user. When a customer legitimately purchases an image from an agency they expect to be able to use it, and yet the possibility exists that the image was stolen before it was sent to the agency. When this happens, and it does, the customer is using an image that they do not have the legitimate right to use, and the liability for the use rests with the end user, (because the agency hides behind DMCA). The original owner of the image copyright, the true author of the image, can pursue the infringement use by the end user.

    The likely hood of this happening under the traditional agency model (Getty / Corbis etc. ) was not very great, due to the nature of the contributor / agency relationship. But with the open door of microstock we now have hundreds of thousands of contributors, very few who use their real names, operating from all corners of the world, (corners too difficult to prosecute in) who can easily submit work that is not their own. Readers here may be asking how do they get the “supposedly stolen images” in the first place? In high enough resolution to submit? From photo CD collections, and from previously purchased stock, don’t forget a lot of the contributors to microstock come from the “designer-community”.

    The thief that has repeatedly stolen my images resides in Belarus, and the images he stole and uploaded to Istock, Shutterstock, and Dreamstime were also accompanied by images stolen from other photographers from the US and Europe.

    Is it hard to get the images pulled? No. Is it difficult (impossible) to prosecute someone in Belarus? Yes. Will the agencies make any effort to recover the stolen images or the lost revenue? No.

    Will my images end up on Vivozoom, submitted from a thief? I hope not.

    Don Farrall

  • Posted Aug 7, 2009

    VIVOZOOM provides its customers with a warranty – which guarantees that the images are legally safe to use – and VIVOZOOM is prepared to stand behind this guarantee to the tune of $25,000. On the other hand iStock limits its own liability to the “fees actually paid”.

    One has to ask the question: why if iStock have “the best inspection process bar none” which produces “the safest” images are iStock so reluctant to stand behind the integrity of the images they license? Could it be that they actually recognise the seriousness of the risk they face ? Certainly we know many businesses that are only now starting to use microstock with VIVOZOOM because this risk is now properly addressed.

    I would highlight one particular clause from the iStock standard license agreement: “The Site acts as an exchange of Content between those who provide Content to the Site and those who wish to use such Content. iStockphoto grants no rights and makes no warranties regarding the use of names, people.....,” . Does this sound to you (the reader) like a term from a business that has confidence in its own procedures?

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