iStockphoto Drops “Exclusive” Label

Boy, talk about timing.  Just yesterday, I mentioned the whole “exclusive not exclusive” issue they are having over at iStockphoto, which I’ll describe further.  Now, iStockphoto has pretty much removed any reference to the exclusive status of an artist, instead relying on statement that is quite often false, to try and lure the buyer in.  Thinking the content is only actually available on the iStockphoto site, they will not look elsewhere for pricing options.

First off, they’ve announced some interface updating in the search results.  You can see the gold crown by the images that are from exclusive contributors.  A hover over the gold crown would say “Exclusive” or something to that effect.


Here’s a result from today.  You can see that now they have removed the crown, and are displaying “Only From iStock”, which in three situations is a complete lie and meant to either confuse the buyer (see yesterday’s post on other ways to confuse buyers) or is due to administrative issues.


Case Number One

The first “exclusive not exclusive” applies to certain companies who are iStockphoto contributors, who are allowed to license the same imagery on iStockphoto and other sites not in the “Getty Family” of sites.  For example, Getty recently wooed (woo!) the iStockphoto independent contributor company “Yurilux” to become an exclusive contributing company.  As you can see below, the content from the company is all labeled “Only From iStock”, yet you can also see the content is still available elsewhere for licensing.



Can iStockphoto cut deals with whomever they like?  Sure.  However, it sure doesn’t and shouldn’t play fair with the rest of the exclusive community, and the statements above about “Only From iStock” are clearly false.  If it is some administrative issue they can’t resolve, then something needs to be done about it.

Case Number Two

Exclusive artists at iStockphoto can choose to have their exclusive content added to the “Partner Program”.  Through this option, Getty ports the content down to lower tier subscription plan sites and .  Content from Exclusive artists in the past was able to be part of the Agency and Vetta collections as well, and that was ported up to the upper tier site at GettyImages, and a few others.  Now, with the changes I discussed yesterday, they will be porting Vetta and Signature+ to GettyImages.

I’m not going to point out any examples here, as this has been practice for quite a while.  Contributors have always taken case with labeling of this content with the gold exclusive crown.  We thought the crown and the term “exclusive” should mean that content is only available on the main site.  It was a way to reassure buyers that they didn’t need to shop around – they weren’t going to find that content elsewhere.

To have content now say “Only From iStock”, when it is available on a wide variety of other sites (including some for free from Google!), is really “misleading”.  Unfortunately, they believe it is even clearer now:

In fact it’s more truthful as the content that is at Getty and elsewhere from iStock exclusive contributors is indeed only from iStock. It’s not from anywhere else.

This is obviously not more truthful.  It is intentionally misleading.  That’s like if Best Buy were a distribution center and X, Y and Z television companies only sold their wares through Best Buy.  However, Best Buy then also sent those TVs to Wal-mart and Macy’s.  Best Buy can’t advertise the equipment as “Only From Best Buy”.

Case Number Three

It works the opposite way as well, which also directly contradicts the explanation of “Only From iStock”.  As I mentioned yesterday, Getty Images is dumping thousands and thousands of images from Getty contributors onto iStockphoto.  Unlike Case Number Two, above, these companies were never iStockphoto contributors.  So, this content is not “Only From iStock”, and is, in fact, “Only From Getty”.  Sort of.  As Getty isn’t really the owner of that content, that’s misleading as well, in my opinion.

For example, here’s the (now 30,000!) all Vetta, all “Editor’s Pick” (that’s new too, lol) portfolio that I mentioned yesterday.  This portfolio is imported from Getty Images.  As such, it is clearly not “Only From iStock” in any sense of the word.




I’ll point out the obvious.  The new agency I’m licensing with, Stocksy, doesn’t play these games.  All the content on Stocksy is exclusive, only to be found on the site.  Artists, however, are free to distribute other non-similar content through other agencies or distributors.  The pricing is simple, the site works, and the photos are great.  I’m excited and inspired to be a part of such a group of image creators.

BTW, this post isn’t a dig at the Exclusive artist community at iStockphoto.  This is the kind of thing you can’t control as a contributor.

Give Stocksy a try next time you’re looking for content “Only From” one place.



5 thoughts on iStockphoto Drops “Exclusive” Label

  1. Exclusivity is overpriced today. It is important if a buyer can licence an image from an one agency only. If there are not lot of sub-agents and distributors. If all agencies over the world selling same images simultaneously then exclusivity is pointless. Nobody can control image history in reality. While there are so much images at agencies they can not control correctly everything. Missing releases, bad keywording and so on. Why we should think then that all agencies can control a business. I am talking about classical macrostock. Especially RF images. It is same in micro too.

    • Istock exclusivity has nothing to do with image history. All it is meant to indicate is that the image is not currently on sale elsewhere (though it might have sold a million times elsewhere in the days before the artist supplying it became an iStock “exclusive”.

      The only value of the exclusive tag ever had was that it said “don’t bother looking for this particular picture on a cheaper site because you won’t find it”. It said nothing about prior or current usage and it said nothing more about quality than the iStock brand as a whole said.

  2. It surprises me that nobody has instituted legal action against iStock over this. It looks like a violation of Canadian false advertising laws.

  3. Added: iStockphoto released a press release today that states:
    “iStockphoto is now the only site where the Arcurs Collection of photo, video, audio and vector elements can be found.”

    This is a fraudulent statement, as the company’s content can still be found, not only on the company’s personal stock selling site, but many others as well, including Masterfile and Dreamstime.

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