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Messages - green machine

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General Stock Discussion / Good News & Translation
« on: February 10, 2017, 01:07 »
Just received this mail, couldnt understand it, so asked a pal of mine whos in media marketing to translate it for me.

'Dear Contributor,

Were delighted and honored to announce the roll out of the latest changes to our website this week. As you know we constantly strive to enhance our position in the international market place, thanks to our enthusiastic front office team, and our highly experienced managerial team.  This roll out includes an even better GUI than the last one (which proved so popular), with fantastic new features, a value offer for our huge customer base, versatile marketing strategy based on geography and crucially,even more imaginative ways of of marketing your great work. This roll out has required substantial investment of capital, and valuable internal resources, and demonstrates our commitment to always promote your precious work so that you, our partners receive the maximum recompense for your unique and precious work. Our Partner Program continues to achieve exceptional penetration into various global markets, providing even greater market exposure for your work.
Obviously changes to the way our website works requires us to make some minor modifications to the GSA, details of which can be found on our website.  You are requested to approve these changes by returning a signed copy of them to us within 7 working days of now (see our FAQ for details). Obviously you are at liberty to not sign the new GSA, but we are convinced that you will be every bit as enthusiastic as we are to further increase your sales with us.  If you have any questions on this new roll out, our comprehensive FAQ page will undoubtedly clear them all up.
As director of communications, I would like to take this opportunity to thank every one of your for the priceless contribution that you make to this community of artists, and hope that you will as always continue to provide us with your highest quality work.

Yours, Croesus, vice-president of communications.'

The Translation

Dear Crowd,
We have once again changed everything, just when you had become accustomed to and figured out imaginative work-arounds for all the foibles, bugs, shoddy coding and incomprehensible user interface  on our website, weve re-written it all, and produced a fresh lot for you to get your heads around. The new website was re-written from scratch by a Calcutta sweat shop software company who have no previous experience in image libraries and so to get a foot in the door, they made us a value offer for the work that we just simply couldnt refuse. This latest revision wasnt just about confusing our customers and contributors, the accounting department have had a massive input, in fact that was the real reason for this re-write, but the new GUI givers us a plausible smoke screen for making this new version. Our creative accountants have devised even more convoluted ways of selling your images so that we undercut the market even further, thus achieving even greater market share from our competition in our rush to achieve market domination.  Our Partner Program offers us a unique conduit for selling your images into developing markets where there is no traceability, no respect of copyright, and immense off balance sheet sales which we use as a personal slush fund. This slush fund allows us to finance the creation and development of yet more  off shore and 3rd world image databases with unlisted and untraceable directors, where we are unfettered by tedious copyright law, artist commission and unnecessary sales tax.
Those contributors who do not correctly sign the new service agreement within 7 days will have access to their accounts frozen. Their images will remain available for sale indefinitely, and particularly through our Partner Program.  Were more or less got a monopoly going here, you want to bail out, thats your choice, we dont care. There are a multitude of other idealistic morons like you who think that they can make an easy living out of selling a few useless snaps, eager to jump on board. We are not going to waste any of our precious time dealing with your inane questions and incessant harping which weve patiently had to put up with for years now. However, well put a few questions and answers in our FAQ page for the sake of appearances. Any specific questions sent by mail will be replied to by an automatically generated reply pointing you to our FAQ page.
Many of you bleat about not having had a pay rise for the last 15 years. Weve already got thousands of photos of every single thing imaginable on the planet and off it, were only humouring you by taking on more.  Welcome to the world of crowd sourcing. Count yourselves lucky that were paying you anything at all. You havent got a clue how many of your images we sell, nor how much we actually sell them for. Take what we give you and be content, and for heavens sake stop your * whining you insecure, useless bunch of losers. One of the many improvements that weve made is to suppress your earnings information. Youre always dissatisfied with what you earn, so were doing you a favour by not providing you with this information. This enhancement is designed to make you happier.
We realise that the vast majority of you are undereducated snappers, who know nothing about international business and are too dumb to get a real job. We arent a charity, and we arent here to make you idiots rich.  Weve hit a really rich seam of gold here, theres loads more left in the mine, keep snapping away and uploading you fools.

2 / Re: Disappearing sales
« on: April 26, 2016, 12:35 »
Confucius famously said :
 'If it's not in the bank then don't bank on it'.  He later amended this in 2009 with 'unless it's in a Cyprus bank in which case don't bank on it at all'. :(

Newbie Discussion / Re: Newbie- Ready to make some real money
« on: March 07, 2016, 13:59 »
here's my profile of the ideal new photographer to microstock, who wants to make it...

- independent source of revenue (essential for buying food and valium) Or living where it costs less than $20/day
- years of spare time looking forwards
- large supply of spare F5 keys for the keyboard
- nice thick skin
- posesssing a sturdy umbrella to keep off unpleasant things that will get dumped from above regularly
 - a bottomless pit of optimism and ambition
 - wide variety of photogenic models willing to work for nothing but a thank you
- computer geek
 - happy to take on large debts on the vague understanding of a return on the investment at some far distant time
 - low self esteem (willing to be treated as an insignificant member of a vast worldwide horde of co-contributors having no more importance than a single bacteria to those who hold your so-called career in their hands).

Funny, not a lot to do with being a half decent photographer in my list, I suppose that it can't do much harm.  :-\

just to offer a slightly different perspective on this debate:-
the current stock price is $28.9
a year ago it was $70
two years ago it was $99
from what I can see no dividend was paid out over the last 12 months, 2 billion dollars have been wiped off the value of the company in 24 months that's an average loss of about $83 million a month. The trend looks very bad.

It seems to me like the CFO is under serious pressure from big investors to massively improve the bottom line (ie cut costs increase profits) and stop the rot.  And somewhere down the chain this Brennan person was tasked with sugar coating a cost cut to us.

My reading of this (and my conclusion gives me no pleasure at all), is that whatever protest we can organise, at the end of the day SS is ruled by the investors, and the investors at the moment with nothing to show (no dividend and evaporating capital), for their investments, will be considering pulling their money, causing panic in SS management.

If the slide continues, expect more good news from Brennan, and even possibly at some point an aggressive takeover.

for those who don't follow these things regularly. Our 'partner' is now worth $1.03 billion, ($1,030,000,000).
SSTK@ $28.67 (we might just about have been able to buy a common share with an old style ED). 17 million more ED's and you could control the company.

I'd say our 'partner' is doing rather well. 'Partner' in this context being somewhat analagous to a Hump Back Whale being a partner with a krill. Hump Back's like to crowd source their dinners.

6 / Re: 2014, 2015 compared
« on: January 05, 2016, 13:21 »
earnings :

overall -15% (40% down on best year; 2012, and 3rd annual decline on the trot)
SS -20% (uploads more or less =, rejections ^)
Al -58%

7 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 27, 2015, 01:37 »
One of the benefits of being a contributor and stock buyer is that I can do a lot of tests. I rarely do it, because I don't believe in abusing my corporate subscription account for my own benefit. With that being said, I have bought my own stock in the past to see if the caps conspiracy was real. And the result was what I thought, it was bullcrap. There is no cap on earnings or downloads. I used up a full day of subs to test and it all went through.

When someone buys a stock image, the transaction is instant. I buy an image and it shows up on my download list a second or 2 later. There is barely any delay. I'm not going to do another test, because there is no need.

What people need to understand is that this is not some Office Space nonsense where a bunch of rogue programmers install a virus to skim off the top. This is automated software that handle millions of transactions a day and they happen instantaneously. If anyone dares to try it, it would be some disgruntle programmer, not the company itself.

The only thing that constantly changes is the search rankings. Images rise and images fall. Images with high consistent downloads rise to the top while images with no downloads fall to the bottom. It's the nature of search of search engines and the nature of competition. If you still think there is a conspiracy, that's your own problem, not anyone else's. You have neither or facts or numbers to back it up, just an excuse as to why your portfolio is not performing as well as you want. So what would that be 0.002% of transactions on one day?

So you proved to yourself (if we can take this story at face value) that some of the sales are credited some of the time. We all knew that already, big deal.  You say that SS handles millions of transactions a day, and you checked on what 25, 50?  So what would that be 0.002% of transactions on one day?  Statistically insignificant.  It doesn't come near to addressing the capping concern, which would presumably occur at a specific time in the month/week around the time that the presumed threshold is reached.
In addition creaming off sales on 25/day downloads doesn't make anything like as much sense from the corporate point of view as SODs, EDs etc. for obvious reasons.

 Only last week, look at how VW have managed to hide defeat device software in their diesel cars, and actually deliver that software around the planet hundreds of thousands of times for years without being caught.

For anyone who believes that corporate fraud is just conspiracy theories, there's a top 10 worst cases here.  The fun facts in each case are particularly illuminating.

8 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 26, 2015, 04:31 »
I'm quite prepared to believe in fraud - in fact its'  inevitable to some degree the problem I have with the capping theory is I don't see how it benefits the agency and given the state of their IT systems I'm not sure they would be capable of implementing it.

I'm not sure about US company law but certainly companies quoted on stock exchanges such as SStock are audited.
Agreed. But there's a big difference between auditing the accounts, which involves accountants ensuring that the P&L, salaries, and running costs, liquid and fixed capital declarations etc are accurate, so that a correct tax declaration, dividends and end of year accounts is made, and on the other hand ensuring that each supplier is paid according to his or her agreements with the corporation.   I know, as I've managed some big internal audits into US companies in the past. These are two very different activities, with very different aims.  The independent audit that I'm refering involves rigorously following the sales/individual to their payments for a sample of contributors.  Just to illustrate my point for those who haven't had any experience with auditing. An accountant auditing the accounts wouldn't care what category of contributor was in, say in the FT complex model.  He would only care about the overall payments made to each supplier.  The accountant if he spared a thought in that direction, would assume that each supplier would raise a fuss if he wasn't paid properly.
The advantage with the microstock model in terms of hiding the fraud, is that the supplier has no way of knowing exactly what he should be paid, as he doesn't get to see the direct sales of his products.

9 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 26, 2015, 03:42 »
I do believe I saw a similar thread a while ago...something about capping downloads. This conspiracy is just as loony.

If earnings are down, it's because of competition. Sometimes, you have competitors and other times, you are the competitor. There are no cap on downloads or earnings. People need to face reality and start upping their game.

What is loony about widespread corporate greed and fraud?  Let's see some facts to back up your blind faith in the unimpeachable honesty of the microstock industry.  Slinging insults around doesn't make your arguments convincing, quite the contrary.  As far I can see there have been no independent audits to demonstrate that fraud isn't conducted on a systematic scale within the industry. It's long overdue that people realise that the microstock industry is a multi-million dollar industry who's single most important lodestone is the bottom line on the balance sheet. Profit.  It's an industry run by accountants and big investors. They don't know who we are. They don't care how many hours it takes to create a single image, the care, the effort, the imagination.   Anyone who believes that microstock is some altruistic business is simply living in a utopian dream world.
They draw a veil of secrecy over their internal workings. And until some whistle blower from the inside exposes the whole thing, or lawyers get to examine the books, we'll never really know what goes on.  But one thing is sure. If the big microstock companies were really concerned about showing how honest they were they'd invite independent auditors in and the results proving how honest and altruistic they were would be circulated with great fanfare to each one of us.  The pall of secrecy that they take great pains to maintain undermines any confidence we should have in their probity.
A message to those SS/Getty etc stooges on this forum. Let's see some hard facts.

10 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 25, 2015, 14:19 »

I don't think Shutterstock is "skimming" or limiting us in our income potential.  All contributors are the backbone that helped them gain and continue to hold their top spot in the microstock market.  They haven't been shady in the past, and let's hope it stays that way.

How do you know that? Have you seen any independent 3rd party audits published recently that have followed the 'paper trails' through SS databases to ensure that they aren't creaming off the profits illegally?  Without anything like that it's just wishful thinking to believe that they are crediting each sale that they make appropriately and have been doing so from the beginning.  Of course, it's much more comfortable and less stressful to believe in a world where corporate greed and exploitation doesn't exist. The unfortunate truth is that it does, it's endemic and crowd sourcing lends itself admirably to exploitation in various forms.

11 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 24, 2015, 23:55 »
in case any other US people are struggling to understand the usage of the word 'cream' as a transitive verb. The Collins American English dictionary is quite clear on the subject:
Search 'cream' : definition no 12 ..... 'To remove/use etc. the best part of'

12 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 24, 2015, 13:03 »
^^^ I like this theory. I propose that everyone start heavily buying my images. I'll let you know if my sales go up. Promise.  8)

 ;) 'buy each other's images'...... zero sum game (less the cream/%age)

Creaming might just kick in for the $.38 folk?

No, not zero sum, because you need to spend a dollar for someone else to make 28 cents. So as long as you're spending money, might as well spend it on me.

"Skimming" might be a better term for your theory. "Creaming" means something else entirely in the U.S.

As a 38-center, I've seen no evidence that my sales stop after an EL or ODD.

that's what '%age' was about. Sorry thought, it was obvious, I'll let you get back to nit-picking.

13 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 24, 2015, 12:27 »
^^^ I like this theory. I propose that everyone start heavily buying my images. I'll let you know if my sales go up. Promise.  8)

 ;) 'buy each other's images'...... zero sum game (less the cream/%age)

Creaming might just kick in for the $.38 folk?

14 / Re: Cap on daily earnings?
« on: September 24, 2015, 12:04 »
I too have noticed a sort of capping phenomenon following high income days. But a far more likely method of doing it IMO, would be by simply pocketing the sales once the cap has been reached, for a period of time.

 In other words creaming off our sales beyond a certain level. No need to muck around with search results, and risk negatively impacting on sales. Just cream off our sales.  I also suspect that lower income contributors may well not be impacted by this.

One way of testing this would be for some buyers and sellers on SS to get together discreetly and buy each others images over a few days, and check that all the sales are registered correctly.  Obviously they would have to buy heavily initially to test the cap theory.  If they turn up results that confirm that we are being robbed, then things could get very interesting indeed!!!

Microstock with its inherent smoke and mirrors and byzantine secrecy lends itself perfectly to dodgy dealing.

General Stock Discussion / Re: March '14 results
« on: April 09, 2014, 00:59 »
Almost identical month to Feb, and 12% better than March 2013.

SS top seller as always with 86% of revenue
DT used to make up on average 20-25% of my revenue, and now is regularly below 15% and declining (no of sales declining monthly, despite port increasing).
IS virtually non-existant, now that they're grabbing a monthly wad out of my earnings, after having claimed to have over paid me in the past due to one of their screw-ups.
The rest of the 'also-rans' are hardly worth logging onto to check on the disappointing stats.

1. BME for 2nd month running on SS, helped by 7 EDs in november
2. DT down 30% (on average down 20% on 2012)
3. FT steady (on average up 20% on 2012)
4. DP down 50%

Altogether oct was my BME and nov my 2nd BME out of 60 months of stats.

BS + Veer + 123RF next payout estimated around 2050

17 / Crisis at shutterstock
« on: June 01, 2009, 05:44 »
A lot of people still don't understand the widespread outrage against shutterstock's announcement on withholding tax. There are a large number of objections to non-US people paying this withholding tax, so instead of just dealing with them  piecemeal, this article attempts to summarise a number of the issues raised by people.

Withholding tax has been around a long time, a lot longer than shutterstock. If you want to set up a company which is going to buy and sell internationally, you have to do your homework. You pay legal experts to look into the tax implications before you create your business model.  Lack of knowledge of the law is no defence in a court. Oops sorry, I killed my neighbour, is that illegal. I promise I won't do it again. Apologists who say this whole crisis is not shutterstock's fault are simply wrong. The law was there, they should have known about it, they should have built it into their business model. They should have integrated it into their contractual agreement with their contributors (although they have done it just now, belatedly). 

Shutterstock has attracted thousands of photographers and designers to its agency based on conditions that it advertises on its website.  25 cents per download, and citing on their FAQs :
At 25 cents per download, how am I going to make any money?
Shutterstock is a subscription-based stock library. Buyers may download a few hundred pictures in a single month's membership. We get a wide variety of users subscribing, so the more images you have in our library, the more you can make! The .25 per download payout adds up fast - for example, if your images are downloaded 1000 times over the course of a month, you will receive $250 for that month! And after earning a total of $500, your rate will increase to $.33 per download, with a tiered set of pay increases as you reach the $3,000 and $10,000 milestones. If you make $250 per month, that's $3000 per year from images that would normally be collecting dust on your hard disk!

No mention of 30% withholding tax or 17 cents per download.  New photographers and designers are being lured by a falsehood. Existing non-US ones are being expected to pay for this oversight of shutterstocks.

Shutterstock did not tell its non-US contributors when they joined that they would be forced to pay tax to the US government or give their personal details to the IRS. For many non-US contributors this is a show-stopper.

Shutterstock expects all non-US contributors in treaty countries to give their personal details to the US government or take the tax hit. Divulging personal details to a foreign countries government is totally unacceptable to many people.

Shutterstock expects all non-US contributors in treaty countries to jump through hoops to get notarised documents which can cost several months earnings in some peoples cases. And then spend months sending documents backwards and forwards to the US, all because of an oversight in their own tax department.  This, to many people is totally unacceptable.  Shutterstocock has not offered the slightest help in covering these expenses.

Shutterstock expects all non treaty country contributors to pay the withholding tax, and there is nothing that they can do about it.

Double Taxation. Many non-US contributors will now be doubly taxed on their meagre earnings. Again for many this is unacceptable.

And theres a lot more...

Shutterstock is not offering any proof at all that the money that they claim that they are withholding will be paid to the IRS. Every tax payer has a right to know that their money is being paid to a particular government. However shutterstock is simply going to deduct up to 30% from every non-US contributors revenue, without any form of proof that this money is going to be paid to the IRS.  Shutterstock could be using part of this money to bolster its profits. This to many people who are paid little enough is unacceptable.

The way Shutterstock is implementing this withholding tax, is as a gross tax on turnover and not on profit. There is no chance to deduct costs from the revenue. These costs include the cost of applying for the IRS documentation, depreciation of photographic and computer material, travel, models, etc etc. Lets face it, a lot of us would be making a loss at the end of the day, and to be taxed on a loss making operation is not acceptable. 

Shutterstock has handled this situation with appalling amateurism. We have already mentioned the fact that the shutterstock has lured contributors, and continues to do so under false pretences. Shutterstock has already admitted that its first official letter on the subject to all non-us contributors was factually, and legally false, and has corrected this with a subsequent letter.  Following a massive protest on its forum, Shutterstock panicked.

It started massive deletion of posts criticizing the situation.
It started locking threads
It started banning people from the forums. Only shutterstock really knows how many people have been banned from the forums, but there are many.  When someone  is banned, they receive a message saying that they can request  clarification for why they were banned. Shutterstock has decided not to reply to these messages. Not surprisingly, as this sort of censorship in a free society is unacceptable.
They didnt stop with banning people. They then started to delete peoples accounts, and thereby sequestering their money.  Interestingly this has happened just before payouts, so this could  yet another way of shutterstock making easy money at the expense of their contributors, and could expose them to lawsuits.

The CEO justified the massive censorship by saying :
The only submitters that are getting banned are the ones who are being obnoxious, hijacking threads, asking for their images to be removed (we will comply with this), changing their avatars to an obnoxious message, creating false rumors, etc. It's very common after they get banned to cry on other forums and claim they did nothing. it isn't surprising that ones that cause the most trouble try to get others on their side with the same type of behavior they used in the first place to get banned from here.

If we had time to tell you about the details of everybody we ban, we would. But we don't - nor will we even bother arguing with their logic on forums outside of Shutterstock.

obnoxious avatars  include those with the avatar Stop Downloading. How obnoxious is that?
cry on other forums. So once contributors who have worked hard over the years to help grow shutterstocks business and have been subjected to immediate banning without warning are expected to keep quiet, and not mention this totalitarian behaviour on other forums?

This widespread censorship shows that shutterstock is not willing to listen to all the many hundreds if not thousands of people who are deeply shocked by shutterstocks behaviour. Shutterstock has only itself to blame if it treats its contributors badly, and they subsequently make their feelings known.

Even if it can be justified that Shutterstock can impose this withholding tax on its non-US contributors, the time allowed for everyone to get their paperwork in order is far too short . Estimates for getting all the paperwork vary from an absolute minimum of 4 weeks to 6 months. However Shutterstock has stated that it will start withholding tax from July onwards. This is obviously far too short a time period.

Many of shutterstocks non-US contributors do not have English as their first language. The instructions received from shutterstock as well as the instructions on the various American tax forms are couched in legalese. Difficult enough to understand for most English speakers, for non-english speakers, understanding what needs to be done must seem to be near impossible.  Again shutterstock has failed to help its non English speaking contributors.

Shutterstocks CEO reacted to the cries of outrage on the forum with an unbelievable statement which included amongst other shameful statements.
Welcome to international business.
This statement seems to overlook the fact that it his companys lack of unknowledge of international business that caused this crisis.

Shutterstock states officially on its FAQ used to recrute new contributors

I have a comment/suggestion/bug-report. Want to hear it?
Yes! Visit our Contact Page and send it to us by email. All suggestions and comments are welcome!

This is simply not true. Comments are now only welcome as long as there is no criticism of shutterstock.  Flattery is on the other hand most welcome (and desperately needed).

Shutterstock also states officially

'Does it cost anything to become a submitter?
No -- We want to pay you! It's free to contribute, and you will get paid each time your content is downloaded. '

So would you like to pay us for the costs that we will have to make in order to avoid having the withholding tax paid? Shutterstock is clear, the answer is no.

There are a large number of legal issues which this crisis has raised which for various reasons Ill not mention here. However it is not surprising that shutterstock has been trying to hide the evidence of its official statements by removing the most controversial ones. There is a very real risk that shutterstock will be subjected to a number of law suits over the coming months, including class actions unless it quickly changes its policy.

I could go on, and on and on, but I hope by now the point has been made. This is a huge mess, and the responsibility for this mess is shutterstocks. Not the IRS, not the contributors. Shutterstock, and if shutterstock loses profits, customers, contributors, and possibly even its whole business because of this, then it only has itself to blame. Meanwhile other microstock agencies based outside of the US will be rubbing their hands with glee. This could be a defining moment for the future of shutterstock.

There are those that believe that there are only two courses of action. Accept shutterstock's proposal or leave. Wrong, there is a third way, make your voice heard, and apply pressure. Already shutterstock has been pushed into making a concession.

Thankfully a petition
 exists which allows people to express their unhappiness about the situation, and where there is no censorship of any kind. For those who feel strongly about this unacceptable situation, feel free to sign the petition. 

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