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April 29th, 2011

Getty Acquires PicScout

Getty Images has announced its acquisition of PicScout, an Israel-based company that developed image identification and tracking technology that is widely used by stock photo distributors to prevent unauthorized use of images.

Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed, and the company declined to comment on a report that the deal was worth about $20 million.

Getty said in a statement announcing the deal that it will “leverage PicScout’s technology in developing new image identification tools for customers.”

The company says it will continue to make PicScout’s services available to its competitors. And Getty CEO Jonathan Klein says, “Getty Images does not plan to change pricing as a result of the transaction.”

Corbis, a PicScout customer and one of Getty’s largest competitors, said through a spokesperson, “We don’t really have a comment on this [acquisition of PicScout] as it was just announced.”

April 27th, 2011

Mother Claims Defamation Over Daughter’s Image on Billboard

The mother of a six-year-old New Jersey girl whose image appeared in controversial anti-abortion ads has sued the advertisers in New York Supreme Court in Manhattan for unauthorized commercial use of the girl’s likeness. The lawsuit calls the ads “offensive, defamatory, and racist.”

Tricia Fraser is suing an anti-abortion group based in Texas called Life Always and its ad agency, Heroic Media, on behalf of her daughter, Anissa Fraser. The claim is over the use of stock photos of Anissa–shot when she was four–that appeared on billboards near the entrance of the Holland Tunnel in Manhattan, and in Jacksonville, Florida. The billboards included text that said, “The most dangerous place for an African American is in the womb.” The billboards are intended to drive traffic to the defendants’ web sites, which solicit donations for their cause.

“While Life Always and Heroic Media certainly have the right to engage in such offensive speech, they do not have the right to exploit the likeness of an innocent child to do so,” Tricia Fraser says in her claim. She asserts that the campaign is “designed to shame African-American women from exercising their constitutional rights to reproductive freedom.”

Fraser and her daughter are African-American. The billboards in question provoked an angry reaction from some people, and drew widespread media coverage before they were finally taken down.

Fraser permitted her daughter to pose for stock photographs in 2009, and admits to signing a “take-it-or-leave-it” model release during the shoot. But Life Always and Heroic Media used her daughter’s likeness illegally, she maintains, because the model release she signed expressly excluded “defamatory use of any photos taken on the shoot.”

“Ms. Fraser was led to believe that the photo would be used by the photographer to publicize his own work. At no point was she told they might be used to illustrate a controversial message or as political propaganda,” the lawsuit says.

Life Always did not respond immediately to a request for comment.

The images were allegedly distributed by Getty subsidiary Image Source, and were shot by a photographer identified in the lawsuit as C. Camarena. Neither the agencies nor the photographer are named as defendants in the lawsuit.

According to Fraser’s claim, Getty informs its licensees in writing that they may not use licensed images “in connection with a subject that would be unflattering or unduly controversial to a reasonable person” and that the agency’s license agreement “strictly prohibits” defamatory or otherwise unlawful uses.”

Fraser is seeking an injunction to stop the defendants from using the image in question, and unspecified monetary damages.

March 31st, 2011

Adolfa Peeling Potatoes (and 59 other unusable stock photos)

©Marcel Steger

Stock agencies frequently boast about the size of their image collections. Just yesterday, in fact, a well-known agency announced that its collection had reached 23 million images. It’s impossible to know how many images make up the entire stock photo universe, but suffice it to say the number runs into the hundreds of millions, at least. And the laws of probability dictate that some bad images–and I mean, really bad–are going to slip past the gatekeepers. has compiled a gallery of some of the worst examples. It’s hard to imagine how many of these pictures were even conceived, much less approved by photo editors. In fact, some are so outlandish that it occurred to us they might be hoaxes. We can’t vouch for the authenticity of all the watermarks indicating where the images came from, but Corbis confirmed that the image at above is indeed from its collection. It was shot by photographer Marcel Steger, and a Corbis spokesperson sent a link to his portfolio, presumably to help mitigate the shock of this particular image by giving it some context.

The BuzzFeed gallery also includes a dozen or so images from Getty, including the one shown at left. Asked whether this and the other images with Getty watermarks are really from Getty, an agency spokesperson said she’d get back to us. We’ll update the post if we get more  information.

To see the rest of the gallery, click here at your own risk.

March 23rd, 2011

Sygma Archive Update: Kiss Those Images Goodbye

Several weeks ago, a trustee in charge of millions of old news images in the Sygma archive tamped down rumors that the archive would be destroyed. That quieted the general outrage, and may have left photographers who still have images in the archive with some hope that they might be able to reclaim the images.

But no. The trustee has told PDN (and various photographers who have also inquired) that it is too late to claim the images. The trustee is mum about what will become of the archive, though.

“I inform you that rights of photographers to make claims for their pictures and slides has expired,” a spokesman for the trustee, Stéphane Gorrias, told PDN in an e-mail last week.

The images have been under the control of Gorrias since Corbis, which bought Sygma in 1999, walked away from the collection in May, 2010. Corbis abandoned the collection because it was fed up with financial losses and lawsuits over missing images.

When rumors began circulating at the end of February that Gorrias had said he would destroy the images, photographers and their trade groups began circulating word on Twitter and elsewhere to encourage former Sygma photographers to claim their images.

But it is too late to do that, apparently, and Gorrias’s spokesperson informed us that the “pictures and slides will be simply archived.” She added, “Remaining at your disposal for further information.”

We certainly asked for further information: Who is paying to archive the images? And for how long? Surely there must be a plan to dispose of the archive somehow, because it makes no sense to archive the images indefinitely. So what is the plan?

We received no answer to those questions. The images have apparently gone to picture purgatory, out of reach of the photographers who own them, and headed for some unknown fate. Will they be destroyed after all? Put out on the curb with the trash or recycling? Hocked at a pawn shop in Paris? Put into a cave where future generations can rediscover them, and marvel at them?

Only one man knows, and we await his call.


Did Twitter Just Save 10 Million Sygma Images?

March 22nd, 2011

Stock Photographers’ Advocacy Group SAA Shutting Down

The Stock Artists’ Alliance has informed its member photographers that it will be dissolving as a trade organization next month because “resources to keep [it] vital are diminishing.” SAA made the announcement today in a letter to members that was signed by former officers including Roy Hsu, David Sanger and Betsy Reid.

SAA blames competitive pressures in the stock photo industry for squeezing the organization’s resources. “We have seen a dramatic downturn in stock licensing revenue for most photographers and a steady decline in SAA membership,” the group told its members.

Over the past six months, SAA has been weighing its options for the future. SAA officers concluded that “the best choice is for photographers to consolidate their affiliations in support of larger, established organizations, which are in a better position to address a broader range of image licensing issues.”

The SAA formed in 2001 to advocate for Getty Images photographers, who were under pressure from the agency to accept less favorable contract terms. More generally, SAA’s mission was to protect the interests of photographers shooting traditional rights-managed stock photography.

At the time, the royalty-free stock photography model was driving down prices of rights managed stock. That reduced  profit margins for photographers and agencies alike. Getty used its clout to press photographers for contract concessions.

Microstock, a business model that drove stock photo prices down even more, made the rights-managed stock model even less sustainable. SAA moved its line of defense, eventually accepting royalty-free photographers as members in 2007. But by then even that business was eroding under the downward pricing pressures of microstock, forcing many stock producers out of the market.

In addition to advocating for photographers on contract issues, SAA says it helped photographers retrieve unpaid royalties, brought internet infringement to the industry’s attention, educated photographers, and helped them resolve disputes with distributors.

“We are proud of SAA’s accomplishments,” SAA officers said in their prepared statement. “It have proven that even a relatively small organization, driven by passionate and dedicated leaders and supported by members, can change the status quo.”

March 1st, 2011

Did Twitter Just Save 10 Million Sygma Images?

Rumors circulated on Twitter over the weekend that about 10 million archival images from the collection of the defunct French picture agency Sygma were about to be destroyed. The images have been under the control of a liquidation trustee since Corbis, which bought Sygma in 1999, finally got fed up last May with financial losses and lawsuits over missing images, and walked away.

Reports of the impending destruction of the images alarmed photographers and their trade groups, which have been eager to spread word that photographers with images in the collection should claim them. But Corbis spokesperson Dan Perlet says it was “a storm in a tea cup” swirling around a false rumor. “These things get started on a Friday afternoon when everyone is bored and on Twitter,” he says. Perlet says that Stéphane Gorrias, the liquidation trustee, “has always said to us that he had no intention of destroying [the images.]”

February 18th, 2011

Sponsored Post: Why WIN-Initiative is the Stock Agency to Watch

Click on the picture to watch the video!

So you’ve heard of WIN-Initiative, an alternative boutique stock agency, right?

If you haven’t, there’s no doubt that you will soon. WIN is becoming more and more visible on the photo industry radar.

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Can stock really be a fun way to make an additional stream of income? Yes, we want to show you a way that is “stock monster” free. We focus on artistic work so you can enjoy being creative again.


December 6th, 2010

Corbis Lands Syndication Contract with VII

©Lynsey Addario/VII Network/VII/Corbis--from the Korengal Valley, Kunar Province, Afghanistan, October, 2007.

Corbis announced today that it has struck a deal to syndicate the work of photojournalists represented by VII Photo Agency. Stephen Mayes, managing director of VII, says the deal is “co-exclusive,” also allowing VII to syndicate its images directly to clients. The contract is for three years, and replaces VII’s syndication deal with Associated Press.

“AP has been good to us. This doesn’t represent a failure on their part, but they are not able to offer the global depth of distribution that Corbis offers,” Mayes says.

VII considered several distribution partners, according to Mayes. The decision to select Corbis “wasn’t just about money,” he says, but about strategy, service, and mutual interests. “Corbis seemed to get the most out of it, and offer the most in return.”

VII represents more than 30 photographers who specialize in documenting social, environmental, and political issues and conflicts around the world.  The VII collection includes about 50,000 images from the 1990s to the present day.

“For the past decade, VII photographers have immersed themselves in the story and captured stunning images that have made an impact around the world,” said Anil Ramchand, Director of News, Sports and Entertainment at Corbis. “Our new agreement with VII underscores our commitment to providing Corbis clients with exceptional photography to tell inspired stories.”

December 1st, 2010

Corbis Inks Print-on-Demand Consumer Deal

Corbis and warehouse retailer Costco have announced a deal to offer print-on-demand photographs, posters, and giclée canvas prints through nearly 600 Costco stores around the world. Corbis has made more than 20,000 travel, nature, landscape and other images available for the program, which has alarmed some of its contributors.

Costco and Corbis expect customers to purchase images as decor for homes and small businesses, including restaurants and hotels.

Corbis described the deal as a “large new market opportunity for contributors” because Costco has “tens of millions of customers.” Spokesman Dan Perlet says Corbis has licensed images for posters in the past, but the Costco deal is the agency’s first print-on-demand deal. (more…)