Always read the small print

Such is my concern with stock photo companies that I have left my 18-month old Getty account empty while I check, double-check then re-check all implications of using the service.  While there are countless thousands of happy customers and clients, there are always concerns, with one example being flagged up by a Shutterstock user:

Michael Stemm, a New Brunswick-based photographer, captured a scene in December 2017 that he shared on social media, below, and sold both as prints and cards.

In February 2018, he decided that he would try to generate more money from the image by uploading it to the stock photo service Shutterstock.  Critically, he failed to read the T&Cs and thought nothing more of it until a friend pointed out that his image was being used by Walmart.  Stemm visited his local store and was shocked to find his photograph being used on greetings cards, calendars and throws.  He felt that he had been “exploited by big companies”.


Michael Stemm (2018) Walmart

His Shutterstock account revealed that he had been paid $1.88 by Islandwide Distributers (IWD), a Newfoundland-based company, which had licensed Stemm’s photograph royalty-free from Shutterstock.  The company has produced at least 500,000 units of products featuring the image.

To add insult to injury, Stemm is not even able to withdraw the $1.88 earned from this transaction, as his account needs to reach a balance of $50 before he can see the funds.

Sadly there seems to be nothing unlawful about this practice, so Stemm has posted a video on his Facebook account warning others of the situation.  Viewed more that 75,000 times, there may be something of a positive outcome, as Walmart Canada has apologised and requested a private message.

This so clearly highlights the importance of not jumping into anything without being fully aware of all of the ramifications.  I maintain my reservations at being required by this course to produce an Instagram account promoting my work, being given little chance to look properly at the implications of such actions.  Caution should be taken at every step when making the first tentative moves into any web-based presence.

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