Is Wirestock’s “Instant Pay Program” A Scam?

Posted on 12/15/2020 by Robert Kneschke | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Editor's Note: If you use Wirestock to aid you in the process of filling out descriptions, titles, keywords and other required fields, and submitting images to stock agencies you need to read this story by Robert Kneschke (first published in German) and consider taking action before December 19, 2020 if you hope to earn much from your images in the future. Wirestock’s “Instant Pay Program” could be a way to help the middleman make more while the image creator earns less for the images he or she has produced.

By: Robert Kneschke

For a few months now, more and more pictures of Wirestock can be seen at Freepik. For all those who are not that deep into the matter, briefly to explain what Wirestock and Freepik do:

Wirestock is a kind of "upload helper" where people can upload their pictures, tag them and distribute them to various microstock agencies. For this, the platform takes 15% commission on the photographer's share.

Freepik is a site that offers free images "for personal and commercial use with attribution". If you want to avoid attribution, you have to book a premium account for around USD 5–10 per month.

For some time now, more and more Wirestock images can be found free of charge at Freepik, which naturally, because of Wirestock's role as a distribution platform, can also be found at paid microstock agencies.

There are currently around 25,000 Wirestock images on Freepik, which have been downloaded around 2 million times. That makes about 80 downloads per image on average (see screenshot above).

After I wrote this article for almost an hour and a half on Sunday, December 13th, 2020, the number of Wirestock images at Freepik increased by around 70 images to 25,070 images and the number of downloads by 130,000 to 2.13 million downloads. This means that even on a Sunday, each of the free images is downloaded around 3.5 times an hour on average.

But where do these pictures come from? Wirestock only advertises on their website with delivering images to seven stock photo agencies: Shutterstock, Adobe Stock, Depositphotos, Alamy, Dreamstime, 123RF and Pond5.

The answer: The "Instant Pay Program".

Wirestock has been asking photographers automatically for a few weeks with emails like this whether they want to give away their photos for a small one-time payment:
    Dear ______________,

    We are happy to inform you that your portfolio has been selected for the Instant Pay Program.

    You have 12 photos that have been listed for more than 2 months and have not generated any earnings. We would like to improve this and include these photos in our Instant Pay Program. The program allows contributors to receive advance payments from our new partners – Freepik, as well as other Instant Pay partner marketplaces.

    You will receive a one-time advance payment of $4–5/image from each agency that selects your images. This means that you can potentially earn $40.8 (12*$3.40) and even more if multiple agencies select your images. Please note that the images may be listed for free download on the agencies that select them. Periodically, we will review your portfolio and send more photos with low sales for Instant Pay.

    If you wish to opt out of the Instant Pay Program, please email us by /19 December 2020/.

    Wirestock Team“
The “Instant Pay Program” deal in short: In return for a one-off payment of USD 4-5 per image, Wirestock can offer the image to other image agencies who do not have to pay license fees and can also offer the images free of charge. So far only Freepik has been mentioned by name, but other platforms are also in prospect. Payment is due per agency that accepts the image.

Wirestock provides the images that have been online for at least two months and have not yet been sold for selection. In addition, photographers must actively decide against it if they do not want to see their pictures given away.

The full-length "Instant Pay" deal can be found in Wirestock's Terms of Use with fewer details but a spicy footnote:

"Instant Pay Program"

Certain content marketplaces pay an advanced fix rate per image rather than paying per download (“Advanced Rate”).

Wirestock refers to this as "Instant Pay" or the "Instant Pay Program."

Wirestock negotiates the advanced rate with each content marketplace that participates in the Instant Pay Program. When you agree to upload your content for instant pay, none of your rights change - you still own your content and it is still distributed through the content marketplaces.

For each of your content for which Wirestock receives payment from content marketplaces that pay an Advanced Rate (the “Advanced Rate Payout”), you agree that Wirestock will pay you 85% of the Advanced Rate Payout, but will keep 15% of the Advanced Rate Payout. "

The spicy detail? Another 15% will be deducted from the above-mentioned USD 4-5 before the money goes to the photographer. That leaves about $ 3.60-4.25.

The possible consequences of the Wirestock-Freepik alliance

First of all: Anyone who gets involved in such a deal as a stock photographer is stupid for several reasons.
    1. Two months are not a period of time in which a realistic assessment can be made of whether a picture is for sale. Just think of the seasonal theme images for Christmas, Easter or Halloween, which experience shows that they only sell a few weeks a year.

    2. If we convert the download figures from Freepik determined above to the total revenue achieved for an image of USD 3.60–4.25, this would currently only be 4.5 to 5.31 cents per download. The longer the images are online, the further this fictitious amount will decrease because the proceeds are a one-off payment. That is significantly less than the already low microstock fees.

    3. The potential for abuse is very high, because pictures from the legal free platforms often end up quickly on illegal free platforms, where nobody adheres to even the minimal restrictions. And even the existing restrictions are taken less seriously on free platforms because the images are available to everyone without registering by name. So,if you have pictures of people in your portfolio, you should be particularly careful.

    4. There is a great risk that the microstock top dogs Adobe Stock and Shutterstock will not want to watch for long as Freepik gives away thousands of pictures that they want to sell. For photographers, there is a real risk of being blocked from the payment agencies if you are supplying free agencies at the same time.

    5. The 3–4 euros per image are amounts that usually come back several times over the long life of a stock photo. I already had pictures that had been unsold on the digital shelves of many picture agencies for years, until suddenly a double-digit sale came in.

    6. The sample calculations in the Wirestock email only relate to the ideal case that Freepik accepts all of the images offered. But first of all, the photographers are not told in advance which pictures are exactly and, secondly, Freepik will only pick the cherry on top.
For Wirestock as a distribution platform, there is also the risk that other agencies no longer want to be supplied with images that will be available elsewhere for free in a few weeks. As soon as only one of the two big microstock agencies like Shutterstock or Adobe Stock blocks the cooperation, the future looks more than bleak for Wirestock.

It also has a destabilizing effect for the stock photography industry as a whole if identical images are offered both free of charge and against payment.

My clear recommendation to all Wirestock photographers:

Make use of the short opt-out period (December 19th, 2020!) And object to the “Instant Pay” program if you do not want to cut yourself off from your source of income in the long term.

Copyright © 2020 Robert Kneschke. 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


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