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.

Vivozoom has warranted that it will defend its customers for damages and costs up to $25,000 in the event of “legitimate claims” from photographers, property owners and models. It is not clear what they will do about illegitimate claims, which many tend to become when cases get into court.

In principle, this sounds good, but how likely is it that anyone will be able to make such a claim to any microstock company? Their requirements—and particularly the requirements of iStock and Shutterstock—are that model and property releases be delivered when an image is submitted for consideration, and that photographers submitting images sign a contract. In fact, most microstock companies have release and contract requirements that are at least as stringent as Vivozoom’s purport to be.

The language of iStock’s warranty does say: “The content is ‘as is’, without representation, warranty or condition of any kind, either express or implied, including, but not limited to the implied representation, warranties or conditions of merchantability, or fitness for a particular purpose, iStockphoto does not represent or warrant that the content will meet your requirements or that its use will be uninterrupted or error free. The entire risk as to the quality and performance of the content is with you, should the content prove defective, you (and not iStockphoto) assume the entire risk and cost of all necessary corrections.”

However, this warranty primarily with the quality of a particular image file and its suitability to meet the unspecified needs of a particular customer, rather than the validity of photographer contracts or releases. iStock lawyers have chosen to deal with an issue that differs from the one singled out by Vivozoom, but it is not clear that there is any substantive difference in the way these two companies will deal with releases or claims from customers that receive something other than what they expect.

iStock COO Kelly Thompson says: “We are quite thankful that you realize how strict our process is and recognize the safety of our images and the steadfast reliability we have brought to customers for over nine years.

“We know our images are the safest in microstock, period. People have trusted us without question for nearly a decade and have not been disappointed. We have the best inspection process bar none, and an amazing compliance team that supports our portfolio of 5 million photo and video images with almost no issues.

“It is, however, also true that the microstock market is crowded, and there are many well-known sites out there that do an absolutely abysmal job inspecting imagery for legal usage, or keeping model and property releases with images, so we are pleased that another microstock company is showing from its inception that it takes image safety seriously.”

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 301-461-7627, 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:  


  • 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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