Despite frequent complaints from stock artists, as well as numerous efforts to report the increasingly large number of “gigs” posted to Fiverr in which stock images are illegally re-sold, Fiverr continues to largely ignore the problem while profiting from the practice of reselling stock images.
If you’re a photographer, designer, or illustrator working with Shutterstock or Thinkstock, your images are currently being offered up for sale in Fiverr gigs in bundles of typically 15-25 images, for the bargain price of $5. The folks who post these gigs purchase subscriptions to Shutterstock or Thinkstock, download images and sell them.
While these sellers operate under the guise of this all being a gray area or suggest that they’re doing artists a favor by helping them sell images, in reality they are robbing artists and scamming image buyers.
The entire practice of reselling stock content is illegal, violating the copyright that every stock artist retains over their own work. The notion that these Fiverr gigs help artists is nonsense. Sales royalties paid to the artist for any of these subscription downloads are one-time royalties (even if the person reselling the images resells the same image multiple times) and they are limited to subscription royalties, not allowing artists to benefit from other forms of licensing that would pay much higher royalties.
Fiverr, for the most part, seems uninterested in doing anything about this. Attempts to report these gigs and draw attention to the issue on the Fiverr forums and Facebook page were either buried or outright deleted. Community efforts from within the microstock business also seem to fall on deaf ears with Fiverr. Some reported gigs do get removed, while other blatant scam gigs that clearly state the images come from places like Shutterstock are allowed to remain active.
Contacting Shutterstock can initiate an infringement claim and investigation, sometimes progressing to their legal staff for review and possible action, but it is unclear if any of these reports go beyond the review stage.
Fiverr is able to hide behind the DMCA in their lack of action, telling artists that these gigs will be removed if DMCA takedown protocols are followed. But Fiverr knows as well as anyone that a DMCA request must be initiated by a copyright holder who can prove that their work is being infringed. In these gigs, the offers are just vague enough that often specific images can’t be identified, so no DMCA claim can be made.
What makes this more than just another case of stock image piracy is that, unlike typical piracy, this isn’t being enabled by some random untraceable website interested only in boosting site traffic for ad sales. This is from a known, established company, one that operates out in the open, has offices in New York, has employees, and for all intents and purposes looks like an upstanding operation. They even pride themselves on being a part of the creative community, fostering a marketplace where creatives can profit from their own hard work.
Behind that image of being a friend of artists, though, Fiverr seems content to ignore the damage they are doing to thousands of creatives who are also just trying to profit from their work through stock image licensing with companies like Shutterstock and Thinkstock. Fiverr is surely happy to take a cut of every gig posted to their service, but faced with appeals to stop allowing gigs that illegally resell creative content and they simply pretend it isn’t a big deal.
Worse still, a solution to the problem could be quite simple if Fiverr were inclined to put a stop to this. After reporting yet another gig on the Fiverr facebook page and upon being asked what I think they could do about this, I suggested that implementing gig filters that prevent anyone from starting a gig with a name of a stock image company in it (for what legit purpose would anyone need to mention Shutterstock in a gig?) would be a great start. Of course my suggestion was promptly deleted.