Imagewiki Wants To Help Photogs Get A Share Of Online Ad Revenue

Posted on 7/27/2015 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The interests of the multi-billion dollar social media sites and photographers may finally be coming together thanks to DMCA and imagewiki.

The safe harbor provision of the DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) says, “Online Service Providers (OSPs) cannot receive any financial benefit directly attributable to infringing activity.”  Thus OSPs cannot place ads on user generated content unless they can identify the image’s owner and use policy.

This impacts major social media platforms in two ways:

    First they are required to take down images when they receive a DMCA takedown notice. Doing this on a random basis is becoming a big, expensive problem.

    But the bigger issue for OSPs is the potential loss of advertising revenue.
In the digital landscape of 2015 more and more advertisers are utilizing “Native Ads” to better reach users. It has been shown that native ads are much more effective than banner or margin ads and they fit functionally into the main page content. They also work better on mobile devices.

A huge percentage of the images OSPs would like to place advertisements on are ones that social media users have found through Google searches, or on blogs, and other webpages. These social media users often grab these images and upload them to platforms without credit or link backs, and nearly 100% of the time without contacting the photographers to ask permission or paying a license fee.  

The easiest way for OSPs to quickly solve this problem and turn on more native advertising revenue is by implementing identification of image content. Imagewiki is a free, community-driven approach to cataloging and attributing ownership information to images.

Imagewiki’s goal is to help platforms become DMCA compliant by providing them with the capability of programmatically identifying content that is uploaded to their sites and making it possible for ad revenue to be generated directly off of the photos circulating their sites.

Imagewiki’s API allows social media sites to determine if files uploaded on their sites match those in the imagewiki database. If so then ownership information and instructions are automatically supplied. The site can then follow those instructions and serve ads where applicable. Ad revenue generated by this new system will be split between content holders, the platform, and Imagewiki.  Imagewiki expects 60% of said revenue to go to content holders.

Three Choices For Image Owners

Photographers who place images in the imagewiki database can specify one of three choices – Block, Track (allowing use, but with attribution) or Monetize - for how their images will be handled when they are found on a social media site by an advertiser who wants to place an ad in the image.
    Block (Restrict) would prevent the images from being uploaded and shared at all. If an OSP finds an image that has been uploaded by one of their users and is marked “Blocked” they will remove that image.

    One might think that sites like Facebook and Pinterest might resist removing images given the impact it might have on their users experience.

    Alex Stone, co-founder and CEO of Imagewiki says, “Imagewiki will not be searching social sites as an exterior crawler, but working directly with the social media companies to reduce their DMCA risk and allow them to add a DMCA compliant ad component to their business.  Any image that is not taken down after a takedown request is a huge liability for those companies.  Being able to avoid those risks proactively in the future is extremely valuable as it offsets their financial liabilities.  In terms of how many images will be set to block, in our experience, content owners really want control over and knowledge of the use of their content on social sites more than they want to block. Overall, the user experience on social sites shouldn’t be greatly impacted.”

    (Photographers who place their images on social media sites would probably want to list their images in the Imagewiki database as Track or Monetize and not use the Block option.)

    Track (Permit) means that no ads would be placed on the image, but the photographer would be provided with information about when and where their image is being shared and the photographer’s name would be placed beside the image.

    would mean that ads can be sold on the photographer’s image and the photographer could participate in the ad revenue generated from their images.
Photographers will be able to later change any rules they set on a particular image or set of images. The account section of the website also allows users to edit photo information by selecting images to which they want to apply changes or by selecting all.

Reverse Image Search

Imagewiki also provides reverse image search. Image users or anyone else can look up the underlying ownership of any image in the Imagewiki database by going to the home page and drag and drop a copy of the image they are considering in the reverse search tool. They would then be provided with the name and contact information of the image creator. Creators who don’t want to reveal their contact information to the world can make arrangements with a distributor to be the point of contact.

This could be a critical component to solving the Orphan Works problem.

How Photographers Can Participate

Photographers or stock agencies send a small digital file – maximum file size of 500kb or approximately 1000x1000px at 72dpi with jpeg compression -- of each image they own or represent to imagewiki. They would also supply the photographer’s name and email, phone and website information for the individual or the party with a controlling interest. Imagewiki generates a unique fingerprint for each image and creates a database of all images submitted. This service is FREE.

If both a photographer and a stock agency representing the photographer submit the same image separately both parties would be notified and they would need to agree as to who would receive payment in the event revenue is generated. All revenue received from advertising placed on a single image would be paid to one particular party.

Currently imagewiki has more than 100 million images in its database.  So far, 90% of images have been submitted by agencies. The site is designed to accept a single image upload at a time, but arrangement can be made to deliver a large collection of images for batch uploading by contacting

Currently, there is no way for photographers to search the database for all the images with their name. Stone says, “That functionality is easily doable, however we don’t want users viewing Imagewiki as a place to find hosted images.  The wiki is a referential search registry.  If a sizable amount of our photographers/companies request this type of product feature we will think about adding it.”

The following are a few additional questions I asked Alex Stone.

JP - It seems likely to me that an agency might upload an image first because the photographer was not aware of the option. Then the photographer comes along and uploads the same image and because he is the creator he wants any 60% to come directly to him. Is this left up to the photographer and agency to work out, or do you take sides?

AS - Yes it is up to the photographers and agencies to work out, we do not take sides.  Of course it helps everyone to know about the option, so publicizing the issue is very important so opportunities to participate are not missed by photographers.

JP - When do you expect the first platforms to be integrated?

AS - I’d rather not go into this publicly.  There are many moving parts to integrating and implementing fully and I wouldn’t want to sound as if I’m speaking on behalf of the social media companies.  I can say that we hope to integrate as soon as possible and are working to diligently to do so.      

JP - It seems to me that photographers might be well advised to upload their entire collections to see if someone else (agency or private citizen) has also uploaded the same image to imagewiki. If it is an agency that the photographer has authorized to represent them that’s one thing and the photographer will need to go through whatever process necessary to make sure that he/she is the “active administrator of the copyright.” But also we know that there are people out there who are grabbing images taken by someone else, representing that they are the owners and in some cases collecting revenue from licensing rights to images that others created. If lots of photographers decided to do this it could be a lot of work for you. Are you prepared to take on that burden?

AS - That’s a great question and an issue we take very seriously.  When a platform is live with monetization our system will offer users a DAM system to review their assets’ performance as well as manage any conflicts of ownership.  When there is a conflict of ownership on a given image, any monetization will be paused until the conflict is resolved.  Therefore, no-one gains from a confusion.  In this respect there may be advantages for photographers to use agencies on their behalf purely for their administrative resources.  Imagewiki won’t take an editorial role in these conflicts, however as the system will be dealing with financial information, it will not be anonymous and parties who continually put things in conflict may be red flagged as malicious.     

Those interested in this new opportunity might also want to take a look at Paul Melcher’s interview with Alex Stone here.

Copyright © 2015 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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