By Jennifer Farley

Survey Shows Over A Third Of UK Creatives Illegally Use Internet Images

By Jennifer Farley

Caution Sign A recent survey by stock photo agency Polylooks has revealed that thirty seven per cent of UK PR, publishing and marketing professionals use images illegally. The survey conducted online in November 2009 by Deutsche Telekom’s online photo agency, questioned over 200 creative professionals on how they obtained and used images from the web.

Norbert Weber, product manager at Polylooks said:

There is still a great deal of confusion when it comes to using photos or illustrations that photographers and artists have made available for sale online. Many people who should be paying for the right to use images are not doing so due to a lack of understanding on industry rules and terminologies. Some 85 per cent of creative professionals are not familiar with the term ‘microstock.’

Microstock photography is an offshoot of traditional stock photography. The main differences being that microstock photography companies:

1. source their images almost exclusively via the Internet,

2. source images from “amateurs,” hobbyists and professionals, and

3. sell their images at a very low rate (anywhere from $.20 – $10) for a royalty-free image.

Examples of microstock agencies include the massive iStockphoto, Shutterstock and Fotolia.

The survey found that not only are images being used on the web without paying for the rights but there is also confusion between images that are “Royalty Free” and “Rights Managed.” The term Royalty Free means that once the content is licensed under a set of guidelines, the licensee is normally free to use as often as they like, for as long as they like without paying additional royalty charges. The term Rights Managed means that the seller of the license is specifically giving permission to the buyer to use the content in a certain way such as its location, size and for how long it can be used. A Right Managed license is generally more expensive, the more flexible the rights.

The survey unveiled that these creative professionals have control over image-buying budgets, despite their lack of knowledge of how to legally use them.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • 81.4 per cent of creative professionals that have used an image without paying for it did not feel guilty
  • 44 per cent legally download between one and five pictures each month, while seven per cent buy more than 11 stock images each month
  • Nearly half (48 per cent) do not have a microstock image budget but five per cent spend in excess of £100 each month on images

What do you think? Are you surprised by the finding of this survey? Have you ever sold or bought images through a microstock company and how was the experience?

  • I find this story to be quite suspect, seeing as how the research has been sponsored by a microstock photography seller and not a neutral third party. If this agency feels that creatives are not using their product properly – in other words, depriving them of revenues while incurring a legal risk – that means one of two things:

    1) Microstock agencies are not educating their customers enough; or
    2) Microstock agencies are not a sustainable business model.

  • php_penguin

    I’ve heard of problems with Shutterstock and the like demanding money for images used from people who have legally purchased them, attained them before they were licensed by the site, or similar situations.

    Shutterstock aren’t a “nice” company so it wouldn’t be a surprise to me if they took the lead of Fox news and skewed the poll.

  • I think this is a good story. I agree it may be a bit suspect but it is a reminder to tell clients about copyright laws. At my old day job, we built a website that was supposed to be used by the technical staff, whom we had trained and educated about copyrights. They ended up giving access to other personnel. A few months later, a lawyer from the client’s competitor called us demanding the site be taken down. We had no idea what the lawyer was talking about. I called the client and found out the salesmen had been posting copyrighted materials from their competitor’s website to their website. As professionals, we need to keep in accordance with copyrights ourselves and educate our clients about those copyrights.

  • Eric_HE

    a good story ,copyright always should be protected

  • muaysteve

    I have just recently started using stock image sights. I use the composites during the development stage, then once the client signs off on the images, I will buy the licenses from the stock site, insert the purchased image, and pass those charges onto the client (as per our agreement).

    On the flip side, I have, in the past taken (stolen) a piece from a .gif off a stock photo site, that I then manipulated into something else.

    So no, I am not surprised by the findings in the survey.

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