PicScout Launches ImageExchange

Posted on 10/7/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

PicScout has announced a strategic shift from a single source product company focused on finding unauthorized image uses to a services company based upon the PicScout Image Index Registry Connection. One of its initial services will be a product called ImageExchange, which provides a connection between image users and licensors. ImageExchange makes it possible for potential users to easily identify the creator of an image and instantly connect with someone who is authorized to license rights to use it.

A major industry problem has been that when someone finds an image they would like to use, and it is anywhere other than on a site designed specifically to license images, it generally becomes a nightmare to try to determine who created the image and how to legally obtain rights to use it. The cost of legally licensing rights to an image is not the problem for most users; it is the cost of staff time in trying to track down a legitimate alternative that drives most people to make unauthorized uses and hope that they will not be caught.

ImageExchange solves this problem and works on the premise that most people are prepared to license rights to images rather than steal them, if licensing is quick and easy. There are three elements to how ImageExchange works.

Graphic designers, picture researchers or anyone interested in licensing rights to pictures will need to install a free Firefox add-on tool. As these users search for or casually encounter images online, a small, inconspicuous, but easily spotted icon—the international “I” symbol for information— will appear at the top right corner of any image that has been fingerprinted by PicScout. By pointing to the icon, the user reveals the image’s metadata, which can vary but will typically include ownership, license type and a link to purchase and/or use the image. The customer may then choose to be connected to the licensor with one click.

Eventually, if a customer finds an image in a printed book and wants to locate the owner, the customer will be able to scan that image, open it in Photoshop and determine if that image has ever been fingerprinted by PicScout. However, this feature is not part of the current beta version of the service. Another forthcoming feature is the customers’ ability to compare images on their desktops with the database of fingerprinted images.

For an agency to insure that ImageExchange will find its images, it must supply PicScout with thumbnails, metadata and the landing page address for each image. PicScout will then “fingerprint” each of the images free of charge. Initially, PicScout plans to work through agencies, but will probably expand the service to individual photographers.

Until now, neither the agency nor the customer paid anything for this service. Participating agencies will negotiate all their own sales. The agency will have an agreement with PicScout similar to other industry distributor agreements. In the event that the agency licenses rights to a customer who connected with the agency through ImageExchange, PicScout will collect a sales commission similar to other stock distributors.

It is unclear whether the sales commissions will be only for those sales where the customer makes contact with the agency through ImageExchange, or if, once an agency has identified a customer as a result of an ImageExchange sale, PicScout would be entitled to commissions on any future sales to that same customer, even if the customer contacts the agency directly and ImageExchange is not involved in future transactions.

In order to participate, images must exist on a searchable Web site. One of the issues that agencies need to work out is who gets to negotiate image rights in cases where more than one company represents an image. PicScout’s current default position is that the creator’s primary agency will be the one authorized to handle negotiations. If two agencies offer the same images for “fingerprinting,” PicScout will default to the primary agency, unless there is some agreement between the two agencies to the contrary. For this reason, it is in the best interest of all primary agencies to submit their images to PicScout as soon as possible and to be careful about signing any agreement that would transfer this negotiating right to someone else.

In the past, PicScout has only dealt with rights-managed images. Now, the company will be indexing rights-managed, rights-ready and royalty-free content, as well as some user-generated Creative Commons-licensed images. 

“We believe most people are prepared to do the right thing, especially when the right thing is quick and easy to do, as we’ve made possible with ImageExchange.  Users of the ImageExchange Firefox add-on will see icons associated with images anywhere online. Thus, PicScout makes sure that every image gets its credit, and makes buying and tracking images simple,” said PicScout CEO Offir Gutelzon. “If people can find the image they want, see how much it costs, and how to buy it, most people will proceed gladly to connect with buyers and transact with speed and efficiency. PicScout has created a way for everyone involved, from the creative professional, to the stock agency and photographer, to achieve full satisfaction.”

The new model transforms PicScout from its heritage of image copyright protection. According to PicScout vice president of marketing and business development Amy Love, the company’s ImageTracker—a product designed to locate unauthorized image uses online—has recaptured more then $50 million for the industry over the last few years.

The ImageExchange add-on will be made available by invitation. Creative professionals wishing to participate in the beta will be able to register to request participation at the PicScout Web site beginning October 14, 2009.

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:  


  • David Sanger Posted Oct 7, 2009
    Jim you suggest " if a customer finds an image in a printed book and wants to locate the owner, the customer will be able to scan that image, open it in Photoshop and determine if that image has ever been fingerprinted by PicScout."

    A much more likely scenario will be that the customer points his phone at the image and an iPhone app gives him the info (ala the Tineye and Shazam apps already.

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