VCG’s Problems Continue

Posted on 4/16/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

As we reported last week Visual China Group (VCG) in China was forced to close down its website over the issue of offering the “Black Hole” photograph without giving “clear and visible” credit as required by the Creative Commons license.

VCG closed its website around 20:00, 11th April. China’s Cybersecurity Agency staff had talks with the VCG management team late at night and demanded that the staff explain why they were selling images tagged with “sensitive and harmful information.” The Cybersecurity Agency will be overseeing changes in VCG’s methods of operation. Four days later the site has not re-opened. It is unclear when that might happen.

Since the closing VCG has been changing its web addresses and email addresses on a very frequent basis. One photographer reports that he received two different change notices in a single day on the 15th. Such website closures often occur when the Chinese government is blocking a web address. At that point the organization finds it necessary to moves to a new web address in order to continue to function.

Most often this type of closure has seemed to occur when a foreign company is trying to do business in China and the Chinese wants to force the company to partner with a Chinese company. This kind of action has been taken against iStockphoto and Shutterstock in the past, but it is curious that it is happening to a Chinese entity.

On April 12th the search word ranked number 1 on Weibo (China main social media website) was “VCG.” There were more than 130 million reads of related posts. Not only individual social media, KOL accounts, but also government or official media (People's Daily, CCTV, etc.) discussed how VCG did its business and what is the right way to protect copyright.

According to sources in China it appears that both creators and customers are upset with the company.

Chinese photographers and stock photo agency groups appear to be concerned about non-attribution in general. Based on comments it appears that in certain cases VCG has “failed” to credit individuals that created certain pictures and then sold them as though they were VCG owned property. There were also questions about whether royalties were paid for such uses.

Customers also seemed to question VCG’s mode of operation. Many individual and social media enterprises indicated that VCG had contacted them in the past about illegal usage of images and then “forced” them to sign year based contracts. In such cases the price per-image-used would then be just several hundreds RMB rather than several thousands or tens of thousands RMB which would have been a normal per-image price. (1 RMB or Chinese yuan is worth about $0.15.)

The total prices for these annual contracts tended to be in the range of 100K to 1 million RMB ($15,000 to $150,000). It is unclear how many images the customers were allowed to download for these prices. Many customers seemed to hate this kind of extortion and saw an opportunity to attack VCG.

The share price of VCG fell 10 percent on the news.

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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff