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iStockphoto is going to accept digitally signed model releases

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Finally, the microstock photographers can forget about having multiple paper model releases in their bags. In the next few weeks iStockphoto will start accepting iPad/iPhone and Android signed model releases that were generated using an appropriate Apple or Android app. iStock recommends EasyRelease, but will also accept the releases signed with VMRelease.

The related iStock FAQ page is located here.

Breaking News: iStock Will Offer Editorial Stock Photos

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iStockphoto plans to offer editorial images in February yet. iStock decided to join Shutterstock, Fotolia and Dreamstime who already sell editorial images for years. Got fresh editorials? With iStock joining the microstock editorials club you have more options to sell them.

Sell photos with LightBurner.com – new FREE online microstock content distribution service

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I am glad to invite you to try LightBurner Beta, our new free microstock content distribution and analytical service.

LightBurner customers can submit images to the following pre-integrated microstock photography agencies:

Microstock Photography Agencies Supported by LightBurner

Microstock Photography Agencies Supported by LightBurner

Also you can define unlimited Custom FTP Channels, delivering your images wherever you want to, for instance your blog’ FTP server or your backup FTP site.

I plan to have at least 20-25 pre-integrated microstocks supported in December yet. Your suggestions for more destination are warmly welcome.

LightBurner Portfolio

LightBurner Portfolio

The famous keywords suggestions + translations, first introduced in ProStockMaster in 2006 (wow, 4 years ago – who can believe it), is now a part of LightBurner too.
Other interesting features include built-in search in your portfolio, Similar Media area, cataloging by Lightboxes, Folders and Categories, notes on images and sales balance for each channel. Of course, LightBurner reads IPTC for any uploaded JPEG, so you get your files with all the metadata – searchable and cataloged, at your fingertips.

Easy Multilingual Keywording With Auto-Suggestion

Easy Multilingual Keywording With Auto-Suggestion

The service is still far from being completed, however I believe that existing functions work quite well and have a great value to any microstock contributor. More agencies and more features will come in the next weeks. Without getting into the details, you can expect nice surprises in your LightBurner account.

How to get started

  • register for a free account. In a few moments you will get a Welcome email with your credentials, including SFTP access.
  • upload your files by SFTP (FileZilla will do)
  • login and go to My Account -> My Portfolio -> Channels/Edit and select your sales channels / agencies
  • select what files go where. Multiple options available, including “Assign” X files to Y channels, “Edit” of multiple files or simple drag-n-drop a file to a channel

Actually, that’s it. The distribution is automatic, so you do not have to do a thing.

Photos Sales Statistics

Photos Sales Statistics

Your files statuses are updated accordingly: red square (undistributed) is replaced by yellow (partially distributed) and then by green (fully distributed). You will have to hit Refresh from time to time to see these statuses changes.

A few notes:

  • All the original uploaded files are removed after 3 days
  • Shutterstock delivery is over FTP, stats / balance can not be displayed due to submitters accounts blocking with a captcha
  • At the moment LightBurner supports JPEGs only, no other formats and no model releases
  • Later on ProStockMaster will work directly with your LightBurner account, thus saving you traffic, costs and time by uploading media just once
  • The last but not the least: bugs happen. Please be patient, and report them! Contact: support(at)pixamba.com, david(at)pixamba.com or via LightBurner’ online form

iStockphoto License Infringement

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Swiss right wing party Schweizerische Volkspartei (SVP) misused images licensed from iStockphoto in their poster.

iStock License Infringement

iStock License Infringement

Microstock models are displayed here as criminals. Here is the original article on a Swiss web site “20 minutes online” (in German)

Here is what Stock licensing agreement says on that:

…For greater certainty, the following are “Prohibited Uses” and you may not:

[..]

7. use or display any Content that features a model or person in a manner (a) that would lead a reasonable person to think that such person uses or personally endorses any business, product, service, cause, association or other endeavour; or (b) except where accompanied by a statement that indicates that the Content is being used for illustrative purposes only and any person depicted in the Content is a model, that depicts such person in a potentially sensitive subject matter, including, but not limited to mental and physical health issues, social issues, sexual or implied sexual activity or preferences, substance abuse, crime, physical or mental abuse or ailments, or any other subject matter that would be reasonably likely to be offensive or unflattering to any person reflected in the Content, unless the Content itself clearly and undisputedly reflects the model or person in such potentially sensitive subject matter in which case the Content may be used or displayed in a manner that portrays the model or person in the same context and to the same degree depicted in the Content itself;

Source: iStockphoto

I always thought that only spam Internet robots can write such a long message in one sentence with no periods. Well, may be Tolstoy could too. So the well-paid iStock lawyers are in a good company.

Never mind, here is the relevant part of that:

accompanied by a statement that indicates that the Content is being used for illustrative purposes only

That’s all that the iStock laweyrs found to protect iStockphoto, their artists and models for such an abuse of their work!

With all due respect iStock licensing agreement is mumbling when it goes to deal with such a case.

To compare, look how clearly Fotolia agreement deals with that:

Restrictions:

[…]

(n) use the Work in a way that places any person in the photo in a bad light or depicts them in a way that they may find offensive – this includes, but is not limited to:

(1) the use of Images in pornography;

(2) tobacco ads;

(3) ads for adult entertainment clubs or similar venues, or for escort, dating or similar services;

(4) political endorsements;

Source: Fotolia

Fotolia says all the right words in the right places and their licensing agreement looks understandable, clear, and protective for the microstock artists and their models.

According to CEPIC, “Sven Ole Schubert, iStock spokesman, announced intentions to approach the organizers after having finished examinations“.

iStockphoto keeps mumbling!

Do they actually have a choice? Can iStock proceed and sue SVP because they did not mention that the microstock models are not related to the SVP’ political campaign?

I wish they could, but iStock Licensing Agreement makes me feel so uncertain on that.

And even if iStock will go to the court this time, still –

When SVP or yet another political movement will do exactly the same next time, now putting a small notice under the abused image, would it be OK for you, iStock?

iStockphoto changes the commissions structure

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What the classical economy says?
If you have an over-supply and a constant demand you have to limit your supply adjusting it to the demand.
A microstock agency can do it in two ways:
1) carefully select only best images
2) reduce the suppliers’ commissions, allowing many contributors to leave and thus reducing the supply stream. It also regulates the load on inspectors, so an agency can save costs employing less inspectors. Both things increase the company’s margins and the final profit, if the revenues remain at the same level.

Economically thinking this is the right thing to do when you are absolutely sure that your customers will keep buying from you.
It looks like Kelly Thompson is sure they will, whatever iStock does.

I would not be so sure though, and here is why.
The TrendsMicro creative market marketing research clearly shows that an average stock photography buyer find and license imagery from 3-4 sources simultaneously. The competition is tight and content is similar if not the same in the leading agencies. On this saturated market differentiation is the key, however the last move of iStock is far of this understanding. Kelly Thompson thinks profit, and in the short term such a move can indeed increase iStock profit.
Did he think about the long term too?

I assumed that at least iStock will try to find the way to keep their best contributors happy. I expected that the top-selling microstock contributors will get some privileges in the new commissions structure, a reasonable “VIP” approach, which would make happy at least that 10% who make 80% of the agency’ revenues.

However, look at this:

“I have read carefully, and basically what I see is that the 5% bump I was expecting sometime in the next year when I finally hit Diamond is actually going to be a 5% pay cut starting January 1st”

dgilder, commenting on Thompson’s announcement at iStock forum.

You can keep reading the original forum post by iStockphoto CEO discovering other contributors’ reactions. I also recommend this post as a good intro to the long and unclear iStock statement in the forum post.

v1.9.1 fixes iStockphoto login, introduces Java 6 native

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The new ProStockMaster v1.9.1 fixes iStockphoto login and upload of stock photos to the microstock agency, following the latest “F5” changes on the iStock web. It is also the first version of our microstock software which was compiled with Java 6, both Mac and Windows. PSM v1.9.1 simply runs faster than older versions. If you got Windows 7 64-bit or Vista 64-bit I recommend you to download and install Java 64-bit. The latest ProStockMaster v1.9.1 will perfectly run with 64-bit Java, and you get even more performance benefits.

Note that if you upgrade to v1.9.1 from anything older than v1.9.0 you have to install the full version of ProStockMaster. Follow this instructions to do so.

Please do not panic if you see this error message when you run the new software:
Application failed: ProStockMaster.properties (Access Denied)

It’s OK, it just says that you are running Windows 7 or Vista 🙂
The 1-minute solution for that is described in question #3 in our FAQ

iStockphoto login and web chnages

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iStock have changed their web this week. We are aware of these changes and the ProStockMaster update is already completed. We still check various compatibility issues. The upgrade to v1.9.1 will be offered very soon. Note, that if you still run anything prior to v1.9.0 you have to upgrade to v1.9.0 first by installing the full version of ProStockMaster v1.9.0. Follow this instructions to upgrade to v1.9.0.

iStockphoto requires you to delete images in your portfolio. Otherwise…

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Here is the email I just have received from iStockphoto.com:

Dear David ([iStock-username]),

Standards at iStockphoto are always evolving. Our team of editors has been examining the collection and have decided that your image no longer meets our current standards. We understand that no one wants to lose an image from their portfolio, but we think that the rest of your work is much better.

You have two options. You may deactivate the image now. Or you may leave it in our Dollar Bin. The Dollar Bin is a collection of images with similar legacy quality issues. Every file in the Bin is available for one credit at any size. Images remain in the bin for four weeks after their last download, at which point they are automatically deactivated. It’s a way of giving the image a last chance before finally removing it.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please address them to [email protected]

Go here if you like to deactivate your image:
http://www.istockphoto.com//file_closeup.php?id=XXXXXX
http://www.istockphoto.com//file_closeup.php?id=YYYYYY

Best Regards,
iStockphoto.com

Let me read you what is written in this message.

David, we do not like your images anymore. We liked them sometime ago, but not any more, sorry.
iStockphoto is just too good for your images. You either remove them or you remove them. If you do not like this choice we will remove them on our own.

Now, please tell me who was the marketing genius behind this correspondence. I just want to shake his (her?) hand. I am sure that anyone who got such a message feels upset after reading it.

So, iStockphoto wants to keep their microstock collection ‘clean’, containing only brilliant images. I see. No doubt this is a good target iStock should aim to. I just wonder why this stock photography agency prefer to lose money instead of making it, sending messages like this one above to tens thousands microstock contributors. Any iStocker will be shocked reading this text exactly like I was.

How much did you guys cost to bring in a new contributor who generates some sales? Now take this cost and multiply it by the number of photographers that will leave you now – this is the cost of such a marketing communication. I will not be surprised if many microstock shooters will just stop submitting their stock photos to iStock, which appears to be too good for their artwork, preferring submitting stock images to other microstock agencies that treat their contributing stock photographers differently.
Bravo iStock! – good work, great marketing, refreshing approach to the customers relationship. Thumbs up!

I especially loved “You have two options.” quote. I see it this way:
One dark night you meet a robber. He points his gun on you and says:
You have two options. You either give me your money and then I kill you or I first kill you and then I take your money.”
Being a good iStockphoto marketing person, the robber continues: “Do not you worry, my friend. The choice is yours!”.
And being polite the robber adds what iStock completely missed: “Oh, and thank you for doing business with us!”.


UPDATE

In a short time after this post has been published I got a personal message from iStockphoto staff, saying that the email discussed in this post was sent out by a mistake and they apologize for the misunderstanding.

According to iStock, what should be sent out was this message:

Dear Name (username),

An image of yours has been moved to the iStockphoto Dollar Bin.

You have two options:
1. Deactivate the image
or
2. Leave it in the Dollar Bin

The Dollar Bin is a collection of images available to our clients from one to seven credits, depending on size. We feel the Dollar Bin provides another chance for the file to be downloaded… at a lower price.

If you have any questions regarding this matter, please address them to artists[email protected]

Click here to deactivate your image: http://www.istockphoto.com//file_closeup.php?id=xxxxxxx
Best Regards,
iStockphoto.com

Well, first I appreciate iStockphoto ability to react extremely fast. They understood their mistake and tried to fix it.

Obviously, this is a very different message to a contributor. There is no single word about image removals!

Mark Dennis, iStock commented out what happened with their Dollar Bin initiative at last: So the gremlins got into the auto email system again, and some people got an email saying that the files will be deleted after 30 days if they’re not selling.

Well, it seems that these gremlins, goblins and trolls were quite human and very intelligent, and really enjoyed what they did to the company, these cute little pets of iStockphoto.

I would suggest iStock to take the entire gremlins family out of the iStock email system once and forever. And please deduct the damages costs from the gremlins salary, just as a “lessons learned” action. Typically, it works at its best avoiding further similar communication with the customers. 😉

iStockphoto.com Security And The Latest Physhing Attack

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I guess most of you already saw this message when logged in to iStockphoto:

kkthompson
March 3, 2009 20:10
This afternoon a phishing attack was conducted in the forums and through sitemail. This attack created a fake istockphoto.com login screen, prompted the user for a username & password, saved them to a malicious server, then redirected the user back to the iStockphoto main page

The iStock forums post by the same author says:

It’s an interesting statement, where the first part is correct, while the second part is very confusing. No financial information to breach, oh yeah, really?

Just a week ago Dreamstime complained in this thread that “we had cases when contributors had their accounts accessed, password changed, payment requested”. Now the iStockphoto guys are brave enough to say us they have “no financial information to breach”?

We all know that iStockphoto, like any other stock photo agency has on file your PayPal / MoneyBookers accounts. They also collect funds that have to be transferred to contributors monthly. Should not this stuff be considered as a valuable financial information stored by iStock? And if it is not enough, add here you personal profile details like your home address, phones and your picture ID. And even your images portfolio is in danger since it can be first completely downloaded and stolen and then, just for fun, completely removed from the agency by a hacker who looks for an entertainment on the hacked site.

What happened to iStock on March 3 is not funny at all. And it is a much more serious issue than just a few hours of iStock down time, even if iStockphoto prefers to present it this way. The site stores financial information and digital goods that can be stolen, so their “no financial info stored” statement is very far from the reality.

Keyphrases handling by various stock photo agencies

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So here is the trick that Terry pointed me out a few months ago and Jorgen confirmed the same issue for some more agencies:
IPTC keyphrases interpreting differs between various stock agencies.

It means that if you index your image with a keyphrase like blue water, it will be retrieved OK from IPTC data on e.g. iStockphoto, but will become two keywords blue and water on e.g. Shutterstock. If you will try another trick by doble-qouting your keyphrase (note that PSM is a rare applications which allows you doing that without any problem) and your original keyphrase becomes to be “blue water”, Shutterstock will show it correctly as a blue water keyphrase, but iStockphoto will not show it at all (BTW, why is that iStockphoto.com?)

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