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Author Topic: Visible Download Numbers and Portfolio Protection  (Read 14650 times)

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« on: October 28, 2011, 05:04 »
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Hi everyone,

I would like to invite you to a discussion about the use and abuse of visible download numbers. I contribute to both istock and Getty and I am very grateful that Getty does not display my download numbers. In all the time I have been there I have never seen anyone trying to copy my files.

This year I didnt have much time to shoot, but next year, I will make a big push for Getty and fill any slots I have, because I really feel like my hard work is much better protected there.

istock has introduced the "fuzzy numbers" to help protect the new files. But because the number of sales have fallen with rising prices, any file that has more than 10 downloads in 6 months is still a very visible bestseller.

And the files with flames, well they just scream to be copied. When you do a best match search for xmas right now you can easily see the blue flames right next to the copies or "creatively inspired" ones. It also forces teh artist with bestsellers to continuosly reshoot them, otherwise all downloads go to the copy cats. This leads to endless duplications and I think is a reason why so many stock sites are boring and bland.

For the istock exclusives there is the additional problem that our bestsellers get copied by independents and are uploaded to other sites. Of course I know anyone active here would never do such a thing ;-). But the visible download numbers on exclusive files are fuelling the competition.

Now of course I do use download numbers when I do my market research on a new subject. Say, I want to create a series on pumpkin pie, with or without people. Of course I will look at the download numbers and analyse the style of the successful files. But I think I could be just as creative if I did a search without the download numbers.

In fact, if the download numbers were NOT visible I think it would then become interesting to shoot something that is different to what is already in the library. It encourages you to stand out and make something new.

Customers can still be offered a search by "popularity", but this doesnt tell them if the top images have been downloaded 100 or 10 000 times.
They are buying RF images at very low prices and they always have the risk that their competition chooses the same file.

It would be wonderful if istock gradually removed the DL numbers and works more like Getty. I think it is one of the reasons the Getty portfolio has so much unique and unusual content (I love their style).

No Download numbers - no incentive to copy.

So what do you think?

Is showing the numbers essential for success, learning or the customers?

Are copy cats a big problem for you and does it affect how you work? Do you have any strategies that help against them?

I would be interested in hearing opinions from all players - contributors, customers, agencies.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2011, 05:15 by cobalt »


« Reply #1 on: October 28, 2011, 06:16 »
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« Reply #2 on: October 28, 2011, 08:05 »
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Copycats are a real problem. Each time I've done an absolutely original concept and has been succesful, has been copied. Most (but not all) serial copycats are weak photographer's. All I can do is re-shoot and report.

« Reply #3 on: October 28, 2011, 08:11 »
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Quote
Customers can still be offered a search by "popularity", but this doesnt tell them if the top images have been downloaded 100 or 10 000 times.
They are buying RF images at very low prices and they always have the risk that their competition chooses the same file.

So if images can still be sorted by popularity, and copycats want to copy, which they are going to do, what difference does the exact number or fuzzy number make? Numbers or not, copycats, thieves and cheaters are going to find a way to do just that.

Quote
Now of course I do use download numbers when I do my market research on a new subject. Say, I want to create a series on pumpkin pie, with or without people. Of course I will look at the download numbers and analyse the style of the successful files. But I think I could be just as creative if I did a search without the download numbers.

As a buyer, that's exactly what I use it for too, therefore it is helpful to some buyers to have the numbers. I can't imagine that my buying habits are too much different than the rest of the buyers in the world.

Quote
For the istock exclusives there is the additional problem that our bestsellers get copied by independents and are uploaded to other sites. Of course I know anyone active here would never do such a thing ;-). But the visible download numbers on exclusive files are fuelling the competition.

Exclusives aren't the only creative geniuses in the world.  ;) Many times I have run across images that look very similar to mine and I think "hey that person copied me". I go check, they have uploaded before me. And I KNOW I don't copy anybody, exclusive or otherwise. I read a lot of magazines and internet articles. Images flood my everyday life. Inspiration can come from anywhere and I personally don't believe that I can come up with any idea (or any other photographer, for that matter) that hasn't already been done by someone in the world at least once.* Sometimes that's just going to happen and you either accept the whole crowdsourcing model or you move to RM (or Getty).

*A great example, most recently...the apple logo with Steve Jobs silhouette on it. Turns out someone did that way before the version circulating after Jobs' death was a copy. Yet, IIRC, those two people lived in different parts of the world.
« Last Edit: October 28, 2011, 08:15 by cclapper »

fujiko

« Reply #4 on: October 28, 2011, 08:13 »
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For the istock exclusives there is the additional problem that our bestsellers get copied by independents and are uploaded to other sites. Of course I know anyone active here would never do such a thing ;-). But the visible download numbers on exclusive files are fuelling the competition.

What about popular independent photos and illustrations copied by istock exclusives?

SS popular images are copied in days and SS doesn't show DL numbers at all. Regardless of the downloads displayed or not, people always copy what is most popular. And the easy way to guess the amount of downloads is to look at the ID, older popular images have more downloads. There is another easy way, copy the popular contributors, their images have lots of downloads.

Do you want to remove popular sort of all agencies? Sure it would be much easier in many aspects if the search was random. And much better if there were no contributor names and image ID was also random.

« Reply #5 on: October 28, 2011, 08:20 »
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For the istock exclusives there is the additional problem that our bestsellers get copied by independents and are uploaded to other sites. Of course I know anyone active here would never do such a thing ;-). But the visible download numbers on exclusive files are fuelling the competition.

What about popular independent photos and illustrations copied by istock exclusives?

SS popular images are copied in days and SS doesn't show DL numbers at all. Regardless of the downloads displayed or not, people always copy what is most popular. And the easy way to guess the amount of downloads is to look at the ID, older popular images have more downloads. There is another easy way, copy the popular contributors, their images have lots of downloads.

Do you want to remove popular sort of all agencies? Sure it would be much easier in many aspects if the search was random. And much better if there were no contributor names and image ID was also random.

And while we're at it, maybe the crown icons should be removed, as well as download numbers. After all, that could lead a copycat to copy only exclusives work, using the rationale that you (cobalt) use...exclusives' photos must be better and must be the original.

Quote
SS popular images are copied in days and SS doesn't show DL numbers at all.

Exactly.

Maybe a question to istock should rather be...why are you not protecting exclusive's work from copycats and why are you allowing other contributors to upload copies of your work?
« Last Edit: October 28, 2011, 08:22 by cclapper »

« Reply #6 on: October 28, 2011, 08:40 »
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So if images can still be sorted by popularity, and copycats want to copy, which they are going to do, what difference does the exact number or fuzzy number make?

For example: you search for "apples" and get results sorted by popularoty. Then you search "oranges" and get results and sort them by popularity. If you have numbers visible you know what sells better, apples or oranges. If numbers aren't visible, you can only guess.

« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2011, 08:44 »
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Exclusives aren't the only creative geniuses in the world.  ;) Many times I have run across images that look very similar to mine and I think "hey that person copied me". I go check, they have uploaded before me. And I KNOW I don't copy anybody, exclusive or otherwise. I read a lot of magazines and internet articles. Images flood my everyday life. Inspiration can come from anywhere and I personally don't believe that I can come up with any idea (or any other photographer, for that matter) that hasn't already been done by someone in the world at least once.* Sometimes that's just going to happen and you either accept the whole crowdsourcing model or you move to RM (or Getty).

*A great example, most recently...the apple logo with Steve Jobs silhouette on it. Turns out someone did that way before the version circulating after Jobs' death was a copy. Yet, IIRC, those two people lived in different parts of the world.

It is called convergent evolution, and is common everywhere. Even the concept of evolution was discovered by two people at det same time.

« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2011, 09:14 »
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So if images can still be sorted by popularity, and copycats want to copy, which they are going to do, what difference does the exact number or fuzzy number make?

For example: you search for "apples" and get results sorted by popularoty. Then you search "oranges" and get results and sort them by popularity. If you have numbers visible you know what sells better, apples or oranges. If numbers aren't visible, you can only guess.

Good point. But frankly, I think it's moot. Getty is turning istock into the Getty model, so I expect that the DL numbers will disappear anyway at some point. And since buyers are bailing and going elsewhere, they are unnecessary for them. As I see it, you could blame Getty for the whole copycat problem. Those DL numbers didn't seem to be an issue for anyone until Getty bought the place. Once they turned the site into a competitive free-for-all, pitting contributors against each other for every last stinkin penny, the numbers and flames were basically a pat on the back and reward for the contributors, a means of recognition for a job well done.

Ah, the good old days.  ;)

« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2011, 09:39 »
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You can find complains in the IS forums about copycats since, al least, 2004.

helix7

« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2011, 10:36 »
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I used to think the DL numbers were useful to buyers, allowing them to get an idea for how many licenses have been issued for a particular image. If they want an image that is more exclusive to them, they could purchase an image with very few DLs and know that very few other companies are using that image in their marketing materials, designs, websites, etc.

But I don't think that's really much of a concern to buyers anymore. Getty has never revealed that info and yet people keep buying images there. Maybe just under the assumption that Getty images aren't as widely used because of the higher prices. But even within microstock, DL numbers aren't revealed by many sites. SS is the top microstock site and buyers there don't seem to mind at all that DL numbers aren't shown.

I'm all for getting rid of visible stats and those "Most Popular" lists. Neither are useful to buyers, and the popular lists like the one on SS only encourage copying.

« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2011, 10:54 »
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We're all copycats, we're humans and that's the way we do it. Look, learn and alter. That's called evolution. Keeping knowledge private is just stupid and contra productive in the long run.

« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2011, 11:02 »
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Unfortunately, it's part of the system. It's probably unavoidable. When you let everybody in, some of them may not have the best of character or intentions. Even if they do, a little bit of inspiration or similar ideas happen all the time. Especially when you put thousands of contributors together all working towards the same end goal.

I would think the only way to stop it would be to really regulate your contributors, and that may not benefit most of us.

« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2011, 12:43 »
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Thank you for the many replies, looks like it is a painful subject for all of us.

I didnt mean to allude that istock exclusive content was "better" than independent content or that the exclusives would never copy independent files. Sorry, if it came across like that, that was not my intention.

But istock has within the exclusive community quite a few very original artists and I believe if the download numbers were not visible their work would be better protected, especially those who are good enough to get every file into Vetta or Agency.

I know that a search by popularity will give the customer an indication of which files sell best, but it is one thing to see "popular" file, it is something else to see it has over 14 000 Downloads...I am sure I am not the only one who in his mind just multiplies by 2 or 3 and adds a dollar sign behind that number....

And for new content it is terrible if your files get copied within the first year.

I know we cant patent our work and we are all so influenced by all the images we see all the time that very files are truly unique...and yet...we all know how crucial small details can be to give the image "flow", it can be the angle of a hand, a prop that is slightly tilted, a piece of cloth in the background with just the right colour to make it all work...

And when you compare the "original" blue flamer with the copy, those who copy rarely get it right as good as the successful file.

That is because they dont truly understand the necessary attention to detail.

But often if it just gives you 80% of the feeling but if it comes up first in best match...

So although getty only pays 20%, I really want to upload more there. I will also try to give them the more unusual or creative files where I am not sure if the file might sell in high volume. But their customers seem to appreciate uniqueness.

May I ask which Agencies out there do not show number of downloads? And are these agencies less profitable than those who show downloads? This might help us understand how many customers prefer agencies that offer this (of course that is not the only reason for teh success of an agency).

Are the agencies that dont show download numbers slow sellers?

« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2011, 13:25 »
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The download numbers, flames, 'most popular' lists exist at Istock precisely because Istock WANT contributors to identify the market's preferences and create more content like it. The numbers are there to encourage 'copiers' and always have been. Istock used to hide image keywords but then later made them viewable, much to the angst of some contributors who thought that their keywording skills gave them an advantage. Istock have given much thought and provided many tools for copiers to take advantage of, quite deliberately.

« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2011, 14:09 »
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You really think so?

I always thought the download numbers and flames were from the early days of istock, when file sharing was free or cheap. It was a fun way to get recognized.

I still enjoy seeing my files burst into flames, its like a badge of honour for that file, but unfortunately now I really depend on the money and with
120 000 photographers, the copycats make a painful impact, so painful, that I wish I could extinguish all flames and hide my numbers.

« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2011, 14:18 »
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Total Contributors: 37506


« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2011, 14:24 »
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Total Contributors: 37506

False. Many more. Tha'ts just the total number of contributors that have opted in to be showcased at istockcharts.de

« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2011, 14:27 »
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Total Contributors: 37506

False. Many more. Tha'ts just the total number of contributors that have opted in to be showcased at istockcharts.de

the opted out arent the ? ? ? ?

« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2011, 14:36 »
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No, istockcharts has only those photographers whose names have been added to teh list and most people no longer refer to it. So the majority of people isnt on there. It was never officially supported by istock as far as I know and it is the reason for the "fuzzy" numbers. It was used by too many people to sort by daily downloads and identify copy targets for the season.

Jonathan Klein said istock/getty have 120 000 photographers in the interview mentioned here somewhere. A lot of these are just registered but not active, but still, a huge number.

Ed

« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2011, 14:38 »
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I think hiding download numbers is a bad idea.  If a customer is looking for a unique image, but doesn't want to go the RM route, this is a way they can see that the same image is less likely to show up in a competing ad campaign.

With relation to people who copy things - yes, it's a problem...and it will continue to be a problem as long as buyers post in image request forums "we need an image like this one on x site".  This happens quite a bit.

I also believe that some of the copying is unintentional.  I have some images I shot for a client (commissioned work) where I was shooting a hand, with a blue glove, holding an ampule.  The only reason I used a blue glove was because that's what my client handed me to use.  Today, I discovered similar images from another contributor that had been uploaded prior.  The reason my buyer (who is a personal friend) asked me to shoot the images is because she said she could not find anything at the micros (and she did look).

Sometimes, it just happens based on chance...or not so best match.

« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2011, 14:45 »
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I'm sure that when the numbers and flames were first introduced they weren't intended to encourage copying. They were there before 100,000 files were online. But I'm pretty sure that they stayed there despite complaints because management wanted everyone to know what the most popular types of image are so they could be "inspired" by them. Shutterstock's most popular serve a similar purpose.

« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2011, 16:36 »
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It would make copying slightly harder to identify the very highest downloaded photos but basically anything that is at the top of the best match older than 1 month old would be a good target.

To my thought it would just spread the copying across a wider range of photos. Yes it may reduce copying of photos with 5000 downloads and people may choose to copy the one with only 90 downloads.


Do a search on Istock best match for say

woman shopping
man holding money
grunge background

The files in the first page of the best match all have heaps of downloads. Independents probably don't have to worry to much as it dominated by exclusive,vetta and agency. Only independents are  monkeybusiness and yuri's photos.

Searches on less popular areas bunch the heavily downloaded photos at the front.

Copying photos that appear at the top of the best match would be just as effective for a copycat as at the end of the day position in the best match is so heavily weighted by downloads and the future chance of getting downloads is reliant on best match position.
i.e. copy for search position not download numbers.

« Reply #23 on: October 28, 2011, 16:44 »
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Thinking a little more I can see the arguement that it does encourage people to get into microstock seeing the download numbers.

I remember when I was working out whether to submit to microstock I did some searches and saw photos with hundreds of downloads that weren't that special. I thought "So I do have hundreds of photos on my hardrive collected dust that could earn me money"  :)

« Reply #24 on: October 28, 2011, 16:57 »
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That is indeed a good argument in favor of those numbers. But is there still a lack of photographers?

By the way, getty doesnt have a search by popularity. They just have their own form of best match and a search by file age/newest.

Are there other successful agencies without a "popularity" search?
« Last Edit: October 28, 2011, 16:59 by cobalt »


 

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