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Author Topic: Shutterstock steals sales. Control purchase  (Read 2973 times)

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« on: February 11, 2024, 11:06 »
+21
It's a third-party information, so probably I will not be able to provide further details. But it comes from a trusted contributor, experienced, with a pretty old portfolio.

At the end of October, we decided to make a control purchase on the Shutterstock, collaborated with colleagues and bought a package of 25 Standard one-time demands. Purchases were made of works that had never been sold, with the help of a real customer within a spread of 10 days.
Divided it like this: 5 purchases from my accounts, 11 purchases from colleagues accounts, 9 purchases randomly.
Of my five - 1 appeared on the first day, 1 - after a couple of days, and another one after 4 days
The result as of February 1 is the total number of sales for all interested parties - 7

So, 70% of the sales via one-time demands package are lost! What do you think about this?


« Reply #1 on: February 11, 2024, 11:42 »
+11
Believable. Need 3rd party auditing to ensure they do things fairly. They've already demonstrated a number of times they are dishonest (i.e., "selling ai" data first, "then" saying here's some peanuts and 'now' you can choose not to participate). Jon originer cashed out & bailed a couple years ago too. The "exciting news" that they restructured payments to make it poorer for contributors, etc. They are dishonest. Wouldn't be surprised if that was the case of what was going on.

This type of auditing by contributors would actually be a very good thing. Share results/youtube videos/etc if indeed that is what is happening. First raise awareness of the dishonest tactic, and then get pressure to get accountability and things 'fixed'.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2024, 11:45 by SuperPhoto »

« Reply #2 on: February 11, 2024, 12:34 »
+20
That's a huge scandal if it's true!!!

« Reply #3 on: February 11, 2024, 13:08 »
+8
That's a huge scandal if it's true!!!

I have almost 10k videos at Pond5 and sell 1 YES just one in 14th days. Last month I have two sales! If Shutterstock does that than Pond5 do taht to. At Adobe I sell around 20 videos a day. On Shutterstock maybe 1 or 2/day. Pond5 2/month.

At Shutterstock and Adobe I have 10k videos too..

« Reply #4 on: February 11, 2024, 15:54 »
+5
It's an interesting experiment, and I understand that the contributors want to stay anonymous, because buying your own images is against the TOS. But on the other hand, this leaves very little room for verification. Anyone can claim anything. Always be careful with 3rd party information like "heard it from a friend who has been told by a friend that another friend..." Information can get thickened or altered per hop :-).

Not saying it isn't true, but always be careful with jumping into conclusions. We don't know what happened afterwards, there might be a delay in reporting, and maybe the rest of the sales were reported later, after the story started to get around. Or the system flagged some sales as fraudulent, because, well, they were buying their own images, and however not directly, it still might have triggered some red flags in the system.

That said. I wouldn't be too surprised either if it's true. There's also no way to know what has been sold to whom and how it is used. We just have to... trust the agencies. And in all fairness, that's a bit of a stretch for me. They might not hold back on reporting deliberately, but technical issues do occur, and what happens in case of database corruptions, interfacing issues, or anything else technical. I can imagine that in such case some sales went into the nirvana and never got reported.

I don't have a personal experience with this. I use google alerts to see if one of my images pops up on the internet (if I'm credited) and in such cases there was always a matching sale reported at the agency. I know this covers only the tip of the iceberg, and impossible to track for images that sell daily or very regularly, but at least, it's that. Until now I could not catch one of the agencies on not reporting a sale.



« Reply #5 on: February 11, 2024, 16:21 »
+5
It's an interesting experiment, and I understand that the contributors want to stay anonymous, because buying your own images is against the TOS. But on the other hand, this leaves very little room for verification. Anyone can claim anything. Always be careful with 3rd party information like "heard it from a friend who has been told by a friend that another friend..." Information can get thickened or altered per hop :-).

Not saying it isn't true, but always be careful with jumping into conclusions. We don't know what happened afterwards, there might be a delay in reporting, and maybe the rest of the sales were reported later, after the story started to get around. Or the system flagged some sales as fraudulent, because, well, they were buying their own images, and however not directly, it still might have triggered some red flags in the system.

That said. I wouldn't be too surprised either if it's true. There's also no way to know what has been sold to whom and how it is used. We just have to... trust the agencies. And in all fairness, that's a bit of a stretch for me. They might not hold back on reporting deliberately, but technical issues do occur, and what happens in case of database corruptions, interfacing issues, or anything else technical. I can imagine that in such case some sales went into the nirvana and never got reported.

I don't have a personal experience with this. I use google alerts to see if one of my images pops up on the internet (if I'm credited) and in such cases there was always a matching sale reported at the agency. I know this covers only the tip of the iceberg, and impossible to track for images that sell daily or very regularly, but at least, it's that. Until now I could not catch one of the agencies on not reporting a sale.

Thank you, you have also summarized my thoughts very well here.
Fraud is conceivable and possible, but there are too many unknown variables to draw reliable conclusions.

Edit:

What always makes me a little suspicious these days are lurid sensational headlines without supporting evidence: "Shutterstock steals sales..."

At this point in time, this should perhaps have been worded a little differently.
« Last Edit: February 11, 2024, 16:57 by RalfLiebhold »

« Reply #6 on: February 11, 2024, 16:35 »
0
At least please keep us updated if the sales maybe show up later. Perhaps there is a (new?) delay in reporting the sales.

I find it difficult to believe this is indeed a widespread problem because many designers and producers know each other and buy from the agency while talking to the producer.

But if true it would be horrible indeed.

« Reply #7 on: February 11, 2024, 18:52 »
+3
Omg. That is bad!!

I have noticed that whenever I have larger sale the subscription sales dry up. Why is that so? Or they just might regulate the sales. After all they have to pay for investors...fudge the workers..I mean us...
There must be no inflation in their world...

« Reply #8 on: February 11, 2024, 19:03 »
+3
I would get a friend to sign up, download 1-3 of your assets, and maybe of several other people (use search terms you know you show up for, as opposed to directly accessing the portfolio). Test it - and see if you get credit.

Post results here. Contributor auditing is a good idea.

« Reply #9 on: February 11, 2024, 20:49 »
0
That's a huge scandal if it's true!!!

I have almost 10k videos at Pond5 and sell 1 YES just one in 14th days. Last month I have two sales! If Shutterstock does that than Pond5 do taht to. At Adobe I sell around 20 videos a day. On Shutterstock maybe 1 or 2/day. Pond5 2/month.

At Shutterstock and Adobe I have 10k videos too..

Try deleting all your videos on Adobe Stock and un-publish all your videos on Shutterstock.  Your buyers may know you sell the same clips much cheaper on Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.  And price your videos at reasonable price on Pond5, $49-89/HD and $99-199.4k.

« Reply #10 on: February 11, 2024, 21:21 »
+3
That's a huge scandal if it's true!!!

I have almost 10k videos at Pond5 and sell 1 YES just one in 14th days. Last month I have two sales! If Shutterstock does that than Pond5 do taht to. At Adobe I sell around 20 videos a day. On Shutterstock maybe 1 or 2/day. Pond5 2/month.

At Shutterstock and Adobe I have 10k videos too..

Try deleting all your videos on Adobe Stock and un-publish all your videos on Shutterstock.  Your buyers may know you sell the same clips much cheaper on Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.  And price your videos at reasonable price on Pond5, $49-89/HD and $99-199.4k.

That might be a good idea - until SS makes all of p5 content available for subs sales.

« Reply #11 on: February 11, 2024, 23:59 »
0
That's a huge scandal if it's true!!!

I have almost 10k videos at Pond5 and sell 1 YES just one in 14th days. Last month I have two sales! If Shutterstock does that than Pond5 do taht to. At Adobe I sell around 20 videos a day. On Shutterstock maybe 1 or 2/day. Pond5 2/month.

At Shutterstock and Adobe I have 10k videos too..

Try deleting all your videos on Adobe Stock and un-publish all your videos on Shutterstock.  Your buyers may know you sell the same clips much cheaper on Shutterstock and Adobe Stock.  And price your videos at reasonable price on Pond5, $49-89/HD and $99-199.4k.

That might be a good idea - until SS makes all of p5 content available for subs sales.

That may or may not happen.  I do what's best for me now.

k_t_g

  • Caught you looking! ;)
« Reply #12 on: February 12, 2024, 01:12 »
0
It feels like they do bait a bit. Might be possible? Or is it my imagination? 🤔

« Reply #13 on: February 12, 2024, 01:47 »
+8
I would not be surprised. After all we already know for a fact that this happens regularly on Alamy. I have found multiple images of mine online credited to Alamy, but never had any sales for these images reported on Alamy. And in some cases the images had been used on websites for well over a year.
When I contacted Alamy, they "hunted down the sale" and the images were reported as sales after all, but had I not taken any actions, I would never have gotten money for these sales. And I have read of similar stories from other contributors.
 And finding these unregistered sales was only possible because the sites credited Alamy and because I have so few sales on Alamy that it is easier to know that an image has never been reported as sold. But on Shutterstock, with severl hundred sales per month, when I find an image online, even IF it is credited to Shutterstock, then I have no way to know whether the particular sale was reported or not.

« Reply #14 on: February 12, 2024, 03:24 »
+11
The hunch I developed about SS over the years is that they basically give you a "salary" based on your portfolio quality, size and current uploads. Most of the sales are real but they would hide or add fictitious sales in order to keep you in the tier you've been attributed to. So many times my monthly sales would be below average and then several big sales would make things right. Or I'd be having a great run of sales for 3/4 of the month to then completely dry up and again finish around average. You really can't ignore this pattern after spending over almost 15 years with them.

The right way to test SS would be to have some sort of contributor association which would hire an external agency to perform the role of hidden random customer and then share the results so the association could actually confront SS in case of fraud. Otherwise we're only driving ourselves crazy with conspiracy theories and meanwhile SS are laughing all the way to the bank

« Reply #15 on: February 12, 2024, 04:03 »
+1
It just needs graphic designers who have regular SS plans to inform artists if they download their files for their projects.

No extra special sign ups needed.

10 design companies informing various producers for their last 100 downloads should clear this up easily.

Or a magazine like petapixel or any other media outlet that buys a lot from Shutterstock. Publish the date and files they bought in the last weeks.

It would be a huge scandal if this true and obviously a criminal act.

A different thing to just cutting royalties.

« Last Edit: February 12, 2024, 04:31 by cobalt »

« Reply #16 on: February 12, 2024, 05:02 »
+2
Shocking if this is true, but I find it hard to believe, even from SS. Anyway, in 10 days time, SS will release their quarterly report and it will be interesting to see how many subscribers they have left. I havent sold a single video on their site so far this month, just 3 video sales through some low priced partners (maybe Wix?) for a total of $1.90. I used to make $1000s there. My bestsellers are still well-placed in search results.


« Reply #17 on: February 12, 2024, 07:42 »
+1
The hunch I developed about SS over the years is that they basically give you a "salary" based on your portfolio quality, size and current uploads. Most of the sales are real but they would hide or add fictitious sales in order to keep you in the tier you've been attributed to. So many times my monthly sales would be below average and then several big sales would make things right. Or I'd be having a great run of sales for 3/4 of the month to then completely dry up and again finish around average. You really can't ignore this pattern after spending over almost 15 years with them.

The right way to test SS would be to have some sort of contributor association which would hire an external agency to perform the role of hidden random customer and then share the results so the association could actually confront SS in case of fraud. Otherwise we're only driving ourselves crazy with conspiracy theories and meanwhile SS are laughing all the way to the  bank
   
I agree with you.  I think they will use an algorithm to control how many pictures  sells in a day

« Reply #18 on: February 12, 2024, 12:10 »
+6
Contact the auditors ... I believe it's PricewaterhouseCoopers.

Explain that you believe that SS may be defrauding suppliers/contributors and that this could be leading to a material misstatement of the financial statements. Obviously give sufficient detail to support your concerns.

You could also contact the SEC with your concerns and, if PwC ignore you, contact the PCAOB.

Uncle Pete

  • Great Place by a Great Lake - My Home Port
« Reply #19 on: February 12, 2024, 13:35 »
+3
It's a third-party information, so probably I will not be able to provide further details. But it comes from a trusted contributor, experienced, with a pretty old portfolio.

At the end of October, we decided to make a control purchase on the Shutterstock, collaborated with colleagues and bought a package of 25 Standard one-time demands. Purchases were made of works that had never been sold, with the help of a real customer within a spread of 10 days.
Divided it like this: 5 purchases from my accounts, 11 purchases from colleagues accounts, 9 purchases randomly.
Of my five - 1 appeared on the first day, 1 - after a couple of days, and another one after 4 days
The result as of February 1 is the total number of sales for all interested parties - 7

So, 70% of the sales via one-time demands package are lost! What do you think about this?

I think it's irresponsible, and hard accept based on, someone who knows someone, who said they did this.

There needs to be better accounting and methodology before the headline claim "Shutterstock steals sales. Control purchase"
« Last Edit: February 13, 2024, 10:51 by Uncle Pete »

« Reply #20 on: February 12, 2024, 14:50 »
+1

I think it's irresponsible and there's nothing but someone who knows someone who said they did this.

There needs to be better accounting and methodology to start running to forums with "Shutterstock steals sales. Control purchase" claims. I'm not the one, but years ago someone else and a few people said, if Leaf wants to risk the whole forum and being sued by allowing this kind of post, he's risking that all, for rumors and a friend who knows someone who.... What I mean is, SS could sue him into oblivion.

"The result as of February 1 is the total number of sales for all interested parties - 7" And "9 purchases randomly" If there were 9 random purchases, how did this group verify, if there were sales reported or not. Did they go contact the 9 random people who had images, with no sales? Can you see if an image has no sales, on someone else's account?

How many sales does this image have?

If Shutterstock reads your message, they could shut down the forum, demand to know who you are, and by law Leaf has to tell them anything he knows, email/IP address/logins, and then you would be sued for libel.

How about someone do this test, with data, verification of everything, and independence from the contributors financially. Then after discovering if the claims have a basis in fact, publish the study. Do what you claimed, buy a 25 pack, start a fresh new buyer account, no link to any contributors. Find 25 contributors that can be associated with their images. Make the buy, without their knowledge, without knowing which image. Wait a week and collect the facts.

I'm really surprised at how many people here are willing to spread rumors and believe that the whole Microstock industry is just a game, and fake. I've read the same claims about other agencies, just in case that seems out of place. Especially DP and those not based in the US.

Fair is fair, ask for the proof and people making claims, show the evidence, not I know someone knows someone, who says...


Thanks Pete, thought I was the only one with rumblings in my belly here.

"Shutterstock steals sales..." is sold as fact in the headline here. No evidence is given.

But somehow it works, as it always does. Because the news fits the picture for many, the brain is switched off and the "facts" are  applauded.

Based on journalistic research, millions of people in Germany are taking to the streets against a right-wing party. Because it fits the political mood, the content was adopted one-to-one without thinking by politicians and the press.
It is now becoming increasingly clear that this research was largely a hoax.
The protests continue nonetheless, and the wording and narrative continue to be used.

« Reply #21 on: February 12, 2024, 15:52 »
0
Is it a violation of Shutterstock contributor agreement to buy your own work?  I thought it was. 
« Last Edit: February 12, 2024, 15:55 by blvdone »

« Reply #22 on: February 12, 2024, 16:03 »
+5
Honestly, if "It's a third-party information, so probably I will not be able to provide further details.", I don't believe it.  Why should I believe it?  False accusation is a serious thing.  I don't believe anything without seeing an evidence on my own eyes. 

As much as most of us contributors dislike Shutterstock these days, can't accuse anybody without firm evidence.  There are too many of those false accusations/fake news out there on internet.  There's no way for me to investigate this particular case.  So, I don't believe it at all till I see the evidence.  That being said, I think those low sales numbers on Shutterstock are real.  They don't get the best contents for video nor photos.  So, customers are leaving as many contributors left.  The best photos go to Adobe Stock and the best videos go to Pond5.  So it was wise for them to buy Pond5.  And probably was a big pay day for some long time Pond5 employees who might have had a stock option on Pond5.
« Last Edit: February 12, 2024, 16:20 by blvdone »

« Reply #23 on: February 12, 2024, 22:17 »
0
It's an interesting experiment, and I understand that the contributors want to stay anonymous, because buying your own images is against the TOS. But on the other hand, this leaves very little room for verification. Anyone can claim anything. Always be careful with 3rd party information like "heard it from a friend who has been told by a friend that another friend..." Information can get thickened or altered per hop :-)
It's not much a friend of a friend thing. I know the guy on the forums for many years. And yes, it's about ToS. He is still not ready to pull out the portfolio from SS.

But this is not the first time I have seen such accusations against the SS. It was always something like, I know the client and he told me about a purchase that I dont see, or someone would just say that some studio made a control purchase and it's failed, etc. Things I might have missed or not believed. But this time I have a clear numbers, clear data on what and when. That's why I bring it here.

« Reply #24 on: February 12, 2024, 22:25 »
+2
At least please keep us updated if the sales maybe show up later. Perhaps there is a (new?) delay in reporting the sales.

I find it difficult to believe this is indeed a widespread problem because many designers and producers know each other and buy from the agency while talking to the producer.

But if true it would be horrible indeed.
Three months passed. On-demand package from one customer. How much "later" can it be? They should pay it out at the same month as the package was spent!

It's a microstock industry. I think we don't know the people on the other side much. A lot of people work here just to avoid customer contacts :) Because there's Upwork for those who don't. But as I said, I heard about this before. This is just the clearest case with numbers
« Last Edit: February 12, 2024, 22:28 by PokemonMaster »


 

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