Micro-Stock Photo Agency Prefers Converting Customers To Cracking Down On Infringers

from the sometimes-a-handshake-gets-better-results-than-a-savage-beating dept

In this bold era of copyright trolling, calmly (ir)rational takedown bots, baseless legal threats and ridiculous statutory damages, it's a true rarity to see a copyright holder deal with infringement, especially non-commercial infringement, with a reaction that's actually in line with the "crime" committed.

As photo sharing increases, thanks to platforms like Pinterest and Tumblr, the chances of infringement increase. Paidcontent has the details on a micro-stock agency that's treating infringers as potential customers, rather than criminals.
Unlike other image owners, Dreamstime does not sic lawyers on people who like its photos. Instead the company, which claims to have more than 5 million users, responds by sending them a notice to take the image down or else to buy a license at the going rate which can be as low as $8.

According to CEO Serban Enache, this approach actually leads to better business.

“We want to respond to copyrighted images but we want to do it in a different, non-heavy-handed way,” said Enache in a recent phone interview. “This is very successful way of turning unauthorized users into customers. Once they learn of the license, they often obtain larger licenses.”
When you give infringers a logical option (take down the photo or pay a fee), most will take down the photo. If you give them the chance to license the photo for a reasonable rate, you should be able to find a few takers. The most important part of this scenario is that Dreamstime gives infringers an option, something most copyright holders are unwilling to do. Compare Dreamstime's method to those of other copyright holders.
As photos spread across the internet, bands of lawyers are springing up who offer themselves as hired-gun enforcers to image owners. When they find a target, they squeeze them for thousands of dollars and take a cut of the loot.

Major image owners like Getty possess image recognition software that lets them quickly detect unauthorized use of their images. The legal settlements they collect have become a major source of revenue.
These copyright holders are willing to imagine that a hobby blog's use of an image is somehow depriving them of thousands of dollars. Because of this irrational (but self-interested) logic, the "problem" is treated with utmost severity, resulting in demands for prohibitively expensive licensing fees.

Not only does Dreamstime request reasonable license fees, but it doesn't waste time with the DMCA process. A DMCA takedown notice almost always results in the infringing content being removed, but does nothing to help the photographers earn any income. It's hard to earn money by shooting first and asking questions later. Instead, the infringer is approached directly and honestly, rather than threatened with the possibility of legal action and thousands of dollars in statutory damages. Perhaps if more copyright holders approached casual infringement this way, they might see an uptick in income, rather than alienating another set of potential customers.
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Filed Under: converting, copyright, customers, infringement, stock photos
Companies: dreamstime

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  1. icon
    Josef Anvil (profile), 20 Nov 2012 @ 2:00am

    Viable business model

    I'm actually surprised the phishers haven't figured this one out. Giving people a reasonably priced option will always generate revenue.

    So where are all the spam emails from Dewey, Cheetam, and Howe? We should be inundated with settlement letters that state they know we are infringing and there is a new statutory damages clause for non-commercial infringement. Pay a fine of $1 per infringement or $100, whichever is lower.

    btw I claim the patent on this business model.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. icon
    That One Guy (profile), 20 Nov 2012 @ 2:44am

    Re: Viable business model

    The reason most of them go with the 'nuke it from orbit' option is due to wanting big scores now, rather than having the patience to set up a stream of lots and lots of smaller payments over the long term.

    The fact that this money-grab only really works short term is apparently completely lost on them, as while you may be able to score a couple hundred out of a person with a pay-up or lawyer up threat, odds are they aren't going to want to have anything to do with you and those you represent in any way in the future.

    Compare that to the company talked about in the article, which I imagine will have plenty of repeat customers as people are offered a nice reasonable fee from the company, and are likely to want to do business with them in the future, making for an ever increasing customer base, and therefor better long term profits.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    haiku, 20 Nov 2012 @ 3:28am

    Seems as though Dreamstime has - as their business model - adults running the business.

    Doesn't that come under the market heading of playing dirty ? 8)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2012 @ 4:00am

    Damn a company that actually some some fucking sense. A 8$ picture that is still 8$ after it's infringed upon.

    Heh a DVD shoots from 18$ to 150,000$ which they use as a threat to get 5-10K the second it's copied.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2012 @ 4:38am

    To whom it may concern:

    I hate copyright. A lot. I would like to write for this blog. Can someone contact me about this? I believe that anything that can be digitized deserves to be mine. Thank you.

    Including the zeros and ones that make up your bank balance. ;)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Michael, 20 Nov 2012 @ 5:33am

    But what about the lawyers?

    This business model has completely left out the lawyers. Those pirates! Not hiring a lawyer to attack these infrigers is taking money directly out of the pockets of the lawyers - clearly stealing.

    This kind of activity must be stopped. It is already costing the US economy billions of dollars. Anyone who does not file lawsuits when they find copyright infringement should be stopped.

    Oh, and Google should be taxed for this activity.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2012 @ 7:25am

    This business model doesn't support the prolonged gravy train of current content holders. By enforcing this model you would be forcing content creators to create more than one piece of work that they can sponge off for the rest of theirs and their great grandchildrens life!

    How can you demand that these Artists should have to work so much!? It's like you're telling them they need to hold down a job or something...

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2012 @ 7:29am

    why is it that posts (and not just here) feel it is ok to talk about a site, but not have a damn link? /rant


    (funny, the link to the article lacks a link too)

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Marcel de Jong (profile), 20 Nov 2012 @ 8:35am

    Asking? It'll never work.

    You mean giving people a choice before sic-ing the lawyers onto them? Surely, you jest!

    You're serious? Hah, it will never work. If you treat people with respect you will get trod on, and be pissed all over your dead desecrated corpse by these people. A firm hand is what they need. Tough love with the iron fist. Like in the good old days.


    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. identicon
    Anonymous Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2012 @ 9:18am

    Length of Royalty?

    It occurs to me that it is really difficult to take things down off the net. Let's say that you use one of their photographs, and pay the fee when they contact you (or even if you are proactive and license it first and then use it). Then after paying the royalty for a few years, you take the picture down, and of course stop paying the fee.

    Now there are copies of your site on the wayback machine, and possible copies of that picture that were taken from your site. Do you continue to be responsible for payment?

    While this seems a better model than the extortion/lawsuit model contrasted, a better model still would be no copyright at all.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 20 Nov 2012 @ 9:19am

    My wife did a website for a small company several years ago. Last year, they were contacted by a photo agency saying the main image on the home page was not licensed and they wanted 30k in damages. The CEO immediately went on a warpath for the web designer calling my wife. Thankfully she still had the original contract that he himself signed stating the company was responsible for supplying her with all images and confirming they were licensed. As it turns out they had the front desk girl (who was long gone) be their main person responsible for the website and she apparently just grabbed whatever she thought was pretty.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. identicon
    DS, 20 Nov 2012 @ 9:30am


    How long did it take you to come up with that joke?

    However long it was, it wasn't long enough.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Russell Glenister, 21 Nov 2012 @ 1:43am

    This is a bit of nonsense - firstly they can't track illegal usage on RF images, even Getty don't do this. Secondly they sell images for as little as 30 cents so yes, it does seem stupid that they would use Lawyers (if indeed they track illegal use, which they don't) - once people know they are virtually free why not pay?

    Getty only track RM infringement and chase the offender for the amount they owe - that's the license they would have had to buy if they hadn't "borrowed it".

    Russell Glenister CEO Pocketstock

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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