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

Custom design requests

I’m swamped and can’t take on anything new for a while. Apologies to anyone looking for custom work to be done, and especially anyone who contacted me recently and didn’t get a timely response. Especially John. Sorry, John.

EmberStock store temporarily shut down

in Business, Ember Updates, Stock 

Due to a number of technical issues and a general concern over how sales were being processed at emberstock.com, the site has been temporarily shut down. To be honest the solution being used to handle the store component of the site and process payments was never ideal, but it when the site worked it was adequate. Recently I ran into a bunch of other problems, though, that led me to put the brakes on things until all technical issue can be resolved or a better system can be put in place.

Just to be clear, I’m not going out of business and I am continuing to jam out new stock work constantly. That isn’t going to change.

What will change, however, is that direct sales through my websites won’t be possible for a while. As much as artist-direct sales are best all around, right now there isn’t a simple solution for handling the type of work I’m putting out and the volume of images. Maintaining my own store using the existing systems available has been more of a chore than it should be, often getting in the way of creating new work.

Long-term, there needs to be a solution to getting my work out to folks who want to use my designs without the need to go through agencies, and my goal is to still find that solution and make it work. In the meantime, there are two really good agencies I work with that I’d recommend you get Ember images from: CreativeMarket and Stockfresh.

leaf-tattoo

Leaf graphic tattoo

Here’s a first for me… Someone has a tattoo of one of my designs. So awesome.

Alternative currencies for stock images

in Design 

The stock image market is a global business. Image buyers and creators hail from all around the world, buying and selling creative content from a variety of countries using an equally diverse array of currencies. Being such a global industry, is it time for stock image agencies and sellers to embrace truly global alternative currencies like Bitcoin?

Ember Stock is working on Bitcoin payment processing integration for the site. While figuring out how to get that payment gateway up and running as an option for all transactions on Ember Stock at the point of purchase, if you would like to make a purchase using Bitcoin you can do so by contacting Ember Stock to arrange a custom purchase order.

Take off the suit

Artists and designers should never dress like lawyers. Someone walks through the door and they look like they’re ready to stand in front of a courtroom, that’s not the person you really want to be asking to design, illustrate, photograph, paint, or otherwise do something artistic for you. Just saying…

Stock break

Taking some much needed time away from stock production to focus on new client work. Lots of cool things in the works with cool people. Unfortunately not anything that can be shared yet. Maybe soon…

A stock icon vs. a million-dollar logo

in Business, Design, Stock 

The state of Colorado unveiled their new logo and slogan┬árecently, both part of a year-long re-branding initiative that has left most Coloradoans (as well as folks across the country) scratching their heads. I’ve been looking at this issue from a somewhat unusual perspective, one of someone who happened to have designed a stock icon last year that looks strikingly similar to the new Colorado logo, and wondering where the line gets drawn between a useful icon and a reviled logo.

colorado-logo-smThe two designs are similar enough to say that each could be swapped with the other and still do the job. Neither really present anything new in the whole “how to graphically depict a snow-capped mountain” conversation. They are both obvious solutions, and maybe that is the problem for Colorado. As a simple icon to stick on a website or in a brochure, the stock icon works. Try using it as a logo, one to represent an entire state no less, and suddenly the design becomes dull, predictable, and so absolutely simple that it quickly gets compared to numerous other logos, icons, signs, and various graphics.

So where is the line? When does the simple icon become a successful logo and when does it fail? And if it fails, why?

If the Colorado case is any indication of where we draw that line, it seems to be at the point where the audience stopped being a consideration. The most common criticism of the new logo is that it doesn’t represent the colorful culture of the state, and reduces the image to a very simple and common depiction of what Colorado appears to be, even on the state license plates; green, snow-capped mountains. But ask any┬áColoradoan and they will tell you there is far more to it than that. Even purely visually, the consensus seems to be that a more colorful logo would better represent the state.

As a logo for a small business or a little-known manufacturing company, the new logo might work. But “simple” is rarely going to cut it when you are talking about the image that will represent so many people and so much heritage. And I’m not saying that this needed to be a complex, intricate design, just that it should have more seriously taken into consideration exactly what it was meant to represent. Visually, a simple logo can work. Conceptually, a simple logo intended to brand an entire state lacks the requisite depth and meaning necessary to win over the people who are to be expected to proudly wear that logo.

I often receive emails asking about use of my stock images as logos. The response I often send is this: Can you use a stock image as a logo? Yes and no (license terms prohibit it, but I’m not going to give anyone a hard time if they do it anyway, as long as they don’t try to trademark the design). The real question is, does a stock image adequately represent your business? In some cases, the answer will be “yes”. In most, though, if you are really being honest with yourself, the answer will be a resounding “no”. Because a general-use image that only offers an obvious and expected view of your business and doesn’t speak to the core values of what that brand stands for.

For Colorado, I doubt there will be any changes made. There is too much time (supposedly) and money invested in the process, and the folks behind the new logo have been hard at work trying to explain and justify the results of that process ever since the new logo was unveiled. Unfortunately, negative reactions to bad design rarely result in any change, and the folks affected by this will have to just learn to live with it. Alumni of The College of New Jersey, my alma mater, have been living with a similarly unfortunate logo redesign that took place while I was a student there, one in which a comparatively obscene amount of money was spent on a terrible logo that few people liked. It has taken over a decade for that logo to finally be phased out of use, currently relegated to the footer of the website.

Coloradoans may see this logo phased out eventually as well, but probably not before they have to live with it for several years to justify the expense.