One in Fifteen Images Are Stolen

September 10, 2007 | Mark Goldstein | Photographers | Comment |

Stock Artists AllianceA report from the Stock Artists Alliance concludes that 1 out of every 15 stock images are stolen, accounting for an estimated loss of $67 million per year. SAA’s research addresses how and why the stock photo industry is subject to this theft. The report also describes current industry-wide initiatives and suggests specific steps to minimize piracy of stock images.

Stock Artists Alliance Press Release

SAA Reports on Infringements of Stock Images and Lost Revenues

The Stock Artists Alliance has released its latest white paper report, “Infringements of Stock Images and Lost Revenues,” which addresses one of the stock industry’s most serious challenges. Download the PDF at

Along with the opportunities of the new digital age, easy online access to millions of stock images has also made them extremely susceptible to theft and misuse. With just a click and a drag, anyone can move a digital file from a web site onto their desktop-without any payment to photographers or distributors.

In addition to outright piracy, there is also the increased potential for legitimately licensed images to be misused. Once downloaded, image files can be easily repurposed and redistributed to other users. File names are commonly changed and identifying metadata is stripped or altered, making these images vulnerable to misuse-and even more difficult to enforce copyrights.

SAA’s research addresses how and why the stock photo industry is subject to this theft. The report also describes current industry-wide initiatives and suggests specific steps to minimize piracy of stock images, protect our copyrights, and create new revenue opportunities for photographers, archives and distributors.

SAA’s report features detailed findings of a landmark SAA/PicScout study that tracked for four months the online uses of 20,000 Rights Managed images represented by market leaders Getty Images and Corbis. SAA’s report also gauges the size of the problem and develops a ballpark estimate of the industry’s uncollected revenues.

According to respected stock industry expert, Joe LaCugna, PhD, “SAA and PicScout are to be commended and thanked for this preliminary research into the costs of online infringements of stock images. This study offers the most specific and actionable research into this critical issue facing the stock industry today.”

LaCugna reviewed the methods and findings and concluded that “SAA used a simple, straight-forward method to build a compelling case that collecting on infringing uses is a largely untapped potential revenue stream for agencies and some photographers, and that new technologies are making it much easier to track rights and convert infringers into paying customers. This is rare good news all around for players in the stock image industry. SAA also makes a strong case for even greater vigilance and better industry collaboration, and they identify best practices for photographers who want to earn as much as they can from their images.”

Just before releasing this report, SAA learned of a new Getty Images’ new license product that prices images across all their collections at $49 for web or digital use, including their highest value RM images. This is a very troubling move which seems to devalue their RM imagery and thus undermines efforts to collect lost revenues from web-based infringements.

SAA’s report also describes tracking and recovery efforts across the industry and suggests that much more can still be accomplished. Obstacles that can best be addressed include the lack of industry-wide licensing standards, the need for more effective rights management of all stock images (including Royalty Free), and a commitment to embed and preserve image metadata whenever digital files are sent or received.

SAA’s Executive Director Betsy Reid notes: “As an advocate for stock photographers’ interests, SAA is committed to working toward solutions with our industry partners, and this begins with building greater awareness around this infringement issue and for all stakeholders to do their part in addressing this issue. We can achieve a lot through collective efforts that we cannot achieve alone.”

About SAA
SAA is the only trade association dedicated to the business interests of stock photographers, supporting its members with substantial information resources and ongoing advocacy initiatives. More information about SAA is available at

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