Radio silence

in Business 

I’ve been lucky to do what I do and work from home at times like these. In 2010 when my son was born I was able to be at home as much as I wanted to be and spend lots of time with him. Almost 4 years later I am fortunate enough to be able to do it again with my daughter Ellery, who is now just 16 days old.

On the work front, though, the radio silence has been pretty obvious for the last couple of months on my website, in my portfolio, on the stock agency sites, etc. My wife and I have been scrambling to get things ready, try to finish up a bathroom renovation, and just generally get our lives in order in preparation for having another tiny human in the house.

Apologies for the lack of updates and new product releases, but look for some big updates soon as I start to get back to work with a fresh perspective, new ideas, and lots of new products planned.

The Joker

From my days as a parking valet just after college, the word “joker” meant someone trying to sneak into the valet lot without using the valet service in an effort to avoid paying, but also to avoid having to use the (slightly farther) free parking lot.

I’m repurposing the term for stock agencies. “Jokers” are agencies who try to sneak shady offers, discounts, or new subscription services into their systems in an effort to quietly cut artist royalties and increase their own profit per sale.

Texture Pack

Vector Texture Pack

A collection of 45 hand-made vector textures created using various wood, brush, spray paint, sketch, and random tool marks in ink. Includes file formats AICS4, EPS CS4, and individual PNG files (transparent backgrounds). Available exclusively at Creative Market. http://crtv.mk/cdnV

Did you know…

… that you can get stock images from Creative Market with file versions that retain the ability to easily edit text? Most other stock image sites prohibit artists from selling vector graphics with editable text. You can also get some of my stuff in PSD format (see item descriptions for specific formats provided for each product).

http://cottonbureau.com/products/adventure-camp

Adventure Camp t-shirt

$20 РAdventure Camp - http://cottonbureau.com/products/adventure-camp

vintage-labels

New work – Vintage labels

Set of vintage stock vector labels and graphics. https://www.flickr.com/photos/emberstudio/14107895479/

The Dollar Photo Club, and why my work isn’t there

in Business, Stock 

In the early 2000s, the stock image market was shaken up with the emergence of companies like iStock and Shutterstock and a new type of business model that became known as microstock. The concept was based on focusing on high-volume sales and “micro” payments rather than fewer sales and higher prices.

This new business model was highly disruptive. High-quality stock imagery was no longer just for ad agencies with big budgets. And it worked for artists who supplied images to these new microstock agencies for 2 reasons: 1. The high volume of sales made those micro payments add up, and 2.) the prices eventually settled at a reasonable level in which buyers were happy and productive artists could make a living.

In what could arguably be called a predictable turn of events, history seems to be repeating itself and a new model of stock image licensing has emerged from one of the existing microstock companies. Earlier this year, Fotolia launched their Dollar Photo Club, boasting $1 images under a subscription model in which the minimum buy-in is $10 per month.

dpc-homepage

In launching Dollar Photo Club, Fotolia has ventured into territory that everyone knew could one day exist but entrepreneurs and start-ups avoided because we all knew what this would mean for everyone, agencies and artists alike. Microstock prices are about as low as possible while still allowing artists to make enough money from image production to continue creating new work. At this new low price of $1 with a very low minimum buy-in, artists will begin to see diminishing returns on their investment in new work as customers move to this bargain buying option.

Worse yet, agencies that offer competitive prices will suffer as well, possibly being forced to choose between closing their doors or offering similarly low prices just to stay competitive. Without reputable agencies that uphold a certain minimum pricing, companies will just jockey for position as the cheapest in the business until no one can keep the lights on or the rent paid.

It is a declaration of war on the industry, one in which we’ve jumped to the endgame and Fotolia is showing a willingness to just nuke the battlefield and sacrifice their own microstock business in order to be the first into this new model, something we could call nanostock (nano being smaller than micro).

To their credit, Fotolia launched Dollar Photo Club in a pretty brilliant way. They knew that no artist would get on board with a $1 image agency, so they built Dollar Photo Club using all of the existing Fotolia content and quietly populated the DPC collection without notifying the content creators and artists that this was happening. They did what no one had been able to do before, setting up a disruptive new shop with over 20 million images seemingly overnight using the Fotolia collection to jumpstart the business.

Artists have responded in protest, many using the opt-out feature at Fotolia to request that their work not be included in Dollar Photo Club. But the impact hasn’t been significant enough to force much of a response from Fotolia. An increase in subscription royalties was offered at Fotolia, with an added increase bonus given to anyone who opted in to DPC, but it seems like an empty gesture. Fotolia is actively marketing DPC, sometimes even on their own Fotolia website and encouraging their own customers to move their business to DPC. It is sort of like an employer announcing raises for his entire staff but neglecting to mention that he also set the building on fire and no one will have jobs tomorrow.

Obviously I am not in favor of this move by Fotolia and I have taken advantage of the opt-out to remove my work from Dollar Photo Club. I also deleted the back half of my portfolio (the oldest work) from Fotolia, and I am absolutely prepared to completely close out my relationship with Fotolia if the DPC opt-out option is ever revoked. Which could happen. Some other agencies require participation in partner programs and sister products, and Fotolia could do the same with DPC.

This is a game-changer in the stock image business, and a pivotal moment for both stock image artists as well as stock image buyers in which we all need to decide where we want to see the industry in the next few years. Participation in Dollar Photo Club on any level is an endorsement of this new business model, one in which customers may be happy to find this new bargain buying option but which will also make it entirely unsustainable for many artists to remain in the business. If Dollar Photo Club is successful to the point that it begins to impact competitors who still offer fair prices along with fair royalties, no one will benefit in the long-term. Stock image collections will degrade in quality as the best artists leave the business, and buyers will find themselves stuck with a lackluster image selection that requires significant time and effort to sift through looking for those few good usable images.

Until now, the stock image business was headed in a more positive direction. Microstock was settling into its current form while more high-end collections were emerging in which the best work could be rewarded with higher prices and royalties. Dollar Photo Club is a step in the wrong direction, eroding over a decade of growth in the stock image business seemingly overnight and setting us all back to a point that we may never be able to recover from.

Fiverr looks the other way on illegal stock image gigs

in Business 

Despite frequent complaints from stock artists, as well as numerous efforts to report the increasingly large number of “gigs” posted to Fiverr in which stock images are illegally re-sold, Fiverr continues to largely ignore the problem while profiting from the practice of reselling stock images.

If you’re a photographer, designer, or illustrator working with Shutterstock or Thinkstock, your images are currently being offered up for sale in Fiverr gigs in bundles of typically 15-25 images, for the bargain price of $5. The folks who post these gigs purchase subscriptions to Shutterstock or Thinkstock, download images and sell them.

fiverr-stock-gigs

While these sellers operate under the guise of this all being a gray area or suggest that they’re doing artists a favor by helping them sell images, in reality they are robbing artists and scamming image buyers.

The entire practice of reselling stock content is illegal, violating the copyright that every stock artist retains over their own work. The notion that these Fiverr gigs help artists is nonsense. Sales royalties paid to the artist for any of these subscription downloads are one-time royalties (even if the person reselling the images resells the same image multiple times) and they are limited to subscription royalties, not allowing artists to benefit from other forms of licensing that would pay much higher royalties.

Fiverr, for the most part, seems uninterested in doing anything about this. Attempts to report these gigs and draw attention to the issue on the Fiverr forums and Facebook page were either buried or outright deleted. Community efforts from within the microstock business also seem to fall on deaf ears with Fiverr. Some reported gigs do get removed, while other blatant scam gigs that clearly state the images come from places like Shutterstock are allowed to remain active.

Contacting Shutterstock can initiate an infringement claim and investigation, sometimes progressing to their legal staff for review and possible action, but it is unclear if any of these reports go beyond the review stage.

Fiverr is able to hide behind the DMCA in their lack of action, telling artists that these gigs will be removed if DMCA takedown protocols are followed. But Fiverr knows as well as anyone that a DMCA request must be initiated by a copyright holder who can prove that their work is being infringed. In these gigs, the offers are just vague enough that often specific images can’t be identified, so no DMCA claim can be made.

What makes this more than just another case of stock image piracy is that, unlike typical piracy, this isn’t being enabled by some random untraceable website interested only in boosting site traffic for ad sales. This is from a known, established company, one that operates out in the open, has offices in New York, has employees, and for all intents and purposes looks like an upstanding operation. They even pride themselves on being a part of the creative community, fostering a marketplace where creatives can profit from their own hard work.

Behind that image of being a friend of artists, though, Fiverr seems content to ignore the damage they are doing to thousands of creatives who are also just trying to profit from their work through stock image licensing with companies like Shutterstock and Thinkstock. Fiverr is surely happy to take a cut of every gig posted to their service, but faced with appeals to stop allowing gigs that illegally resell creative content and they simply pretend it isn’t a big deal.

Worse still, a solution to the problem could be quite simple if Fiverr were inclined to put a stop to this. After reporting yet another gig on the Fiverr facebook page and upon being asked what I think they could do about this, I suggested that implementing gig filters that prevent anyone from starting a gig with a name of a stock image company in it (for what legit purpose would anyone need to mention Shutterstock in a gig?) would be a great start. Of course my suggestion was promptly deleted.

What font is that?

in Design, Stock 

Probably the #1 most common question I get on a daily basis is, “What font(s) did you use in… ?” And while I always try to reply and help out with font identifications, what you may not know is that there is an easy way to get a full list of the fonts used in any vector file in Adobe Illustrator.

Just open the file and ignore the missing font warnings, then go up to the menu and click on Type > Find Font. From that window you can find out what fonts you need or replace a missing font with the font of your choice.

I try to use only free fonts, especially in my more recent work, and most of the fonts I use come from fontsquirrel.com.

Flannel Freebie

in Design 
Flannel plaid background

Embrace your inner lumberjack. Grab a free tileable flannel red and black plaid pattern over at my flickr page, or you can get the free vector version below:

Free vector download: Flannel plaid pattern in red and black