Copyright Thief

Posted on 1/14/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

A reader called my attention to an article I wrote in 2010 where the “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce estimates that online rights infringements costs the U.S. economy roughly $58 billion in total output every year.” The reader wanted to know how much that might be today.

I suspect the Chamber was not just talking about photo thief, but referring to all types of intellectual property thief that the Chinese and other had been stealing. While the overall figure may be higher now, I suspect thief of photos represents a very small percentage of the total figure.

In addition, the declining value of paid uses of photos has probably done much more damage to the photo industry in the last 8 years than copyright thief. Consider. In 2006 the average price for a photo licensed from Getty Images was about $382 (counting both RM and RF) and they licensed a total of about 1.66 million images. In 2018 Getty probably licensed a little over 9 million photos at an average price of less that $30.

Industry wide in 2018, there were probably more than 260 million images licensed by all agencies. Gross revenue generated for Creative images (not counting Editorial stills or Video) may have been $1.6 billion. That means the average license fee to use an image was about $6.15. A 20% royalty of that would be $1.23.

Eight years ago when there was an unauthorized use of an image the image creator might have lost several hundred dollars. Now, on average, the creator loses about $1.23 when an image is stolen or used without permission.

One way to reduce the loss from infringement is to depreciate the value or creative work.

Copyright © 2019 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:  


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