Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Getty Images Extracts Revenge

In a move that shocked many in the Microstock community, one of iStockphoto’s top contributors, Sean Locke announced on his web site Monday that Getty Images had given him his 30-day notice on February 8.  Locke, one of the sellers with over 12,000 files in his portfolio, and nearly million sold licenses was essentially booted off the site.  Why?

As I reported in January (link), it was Sean Locke that posted on the iStockphoto forums his discovery of a deal between Getty/iStock to place images on the Google Drive service.  This deal was never announced to iStock image makers.  As soon as Locke posted Google deal all hell broke loose.  It raised a myriad questions regarding copyrights, license agreements, and fairness since these files were coming from iStock and not Getty photographers.

So angry were contributors that a movement arose to delete portfolios slated for February 2.  One thing that made this easier was a file deletion screen created by Locke.  It is unknown how much damaged this did but apparently somebody in  Getty management took notice.

As Locke points out on his blog he suddenly started getting emails Getty, one in which demanded to know what his goals at iStock were.  Locke stated that he was asked if he was trying to “distract key resources away from improving the business...and...undermine customer faith,” or “create a constructive dialogue.”  An odd thing to ask somebody who has helped generate over a million dollars in sales for them.  After some back and forth, he was told they didn’t like how he handled Google Drive, which was basically to report what they didn’t want to tell the contributors–that Getty had made what amounts to a shady deal with Google involving ambiguous issues of copyrights, user agreement violations, and the whole thing has never been properly explained.  Getty shows how little respect they have for the very people that create sales at iStock

Getty Goes Fishing
Eventually, Getty came up with other issues to use against Locke.  One was an alleged violation of his exclusivity but signing up with another stock site, Stocksy, that is still in beta and not fully functional.  Locke says he hasn’t sold anything through them and was just posting a few files for testing and research purposes on the site and did not view this as a violation of any agreement.  There is no way to currently sell anything through the site and it is currently only available via invitation.  Only a landing page is available so sales are obviously impossible.

Secondly, Locke says Getty accused him of being a ring leader for the February 2nd file deactivation day.  As Locke says in his defense, “I didn’t start it, never said I was going to participate it, and never actively encouraged anyone to participate in it, although I did encourage everyone to study the available  facts and make a decision on what they felt was appropriate action.  In fact, I sent several emails the week prior to iStockphoto/Getty managers to initiate a phone conversation, thinking I could provide suggestions on how to defuse the situation.”

The Shock of the New
Corporations have been known to play hardball in the past.  Just check out the historical rise of American industry at the start of the last century and check these guys out, Rockefeller, Carnegie, Morgan, and so forth.  They played some serious hardball.

With Getty in this episode, to sack Sean Locke, a top image seller, using what amounts to trumped up charges, a person greatly admired by others, someone that was known as a positive influence and an authority on many subjects, it all takes on a Machiavellian overtone. It’s one thing to be this thuggish but here we have on display a company that has no honor.  Plain and simple, this act was done for revenge.  They couldn’t handle Locke uncovering their machinations behind everybody's back.  While it is true he continually criticized management of this issue in the iStock forums, he also asked a lot of questions that went unanswered.  That they didn’t want to answer about this tawdry deal.  It shows what lengths a company will precede to go after somebody.  If they can do this to him, which for a while ruins his livelihood, they can do it to you as well.

It’s a reckless move as well on many different levels.  It damages contributor relations, morale, and trust.  (Not that they care about that.) And buyers, why would you want to buy images from such an outfit?  And being exclusive?  Why bother putting your eggs in their basket?  If you run afoul of them they’ll toss you out in the street.

Addendum 2/16/13
An article about his mess is published HERE at Cnet by Stephen Shankland.  He stated in the piece that Sean Locke was not “immediately” available for comment.  However, Locke stated on the Microstock Forum site that he was never contacted by Shankland or anybody associated with Cnet.  Shankland also said that Bruce Livingston, co-founder of iStock and currently working on a new stock site, Stocksy, was not available for comment either.  I wonder if Livingston would have a similar statement as well?   Welcome to lazy journalism in the 21st century...

UPDATE (3/2/13) - Sean Locke has reported that the Stephen Shankland did attempt contact but only via Twitter, something that Locke says he rarely uses.  Odd as his email adress is available on his web site.  He's not hard to find.