This photographer uploaded a photo to a royalty-free stock site only to find it on over 500,000 Walmart products

Dec 24, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

This photographer uploaded a photo to a royalty-free stock site only to find it on over 500,000 Walmart products

Dec 24, 2018

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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Canadian photographer and filmmaker Michael Stemm recently sold an image through Shutterstock, earning $1.88. Little did he know that it would end up on Walmart products: 500,000 of them! A friend let him know when she noticed his image at Walmart, and the photographer believes that the company is taking advantage of him.

Walmarts Selling My Picture Without My Permission

Walmart is selling my picture without my permission throughout all New Brunswick. I feel like I am being taken advantage of in this situation. Let me know what your thoughts are on this..Www.instagram.com/St3mm3r Michael Stemm Down to Earth Productions

Posted by St3mm3r – Michael Stemm on Thursday, December 20, 2018

Michael, who is based in Fredericton, Canada, explains that he often takes photos of the city. He took this particular image in December 2017 and uploaded it to Shutterstock’s royalty-free library in February 2018.

The photo was sold through Shutterstock, and a few months later, a friend of Michael’s noticed it at Walmart. It was printed on Christmas cards, calendars, even large blankets. The photographer discovered that Walmart distributed 500,000 units of merchandise bearing the photo he’d taken – and all he got was $1.88. To make things worse, Shutterstock doesn’t even allow you to collect earnings until your account reaches at least $35.

Michael sells copies of his prints and postcards, and he feels that in this situation, the big company has taken advantage of him, “the small guy who makes the time, effort to take the picture and upload.” He complains that Walmart is selling his photo without his permission, but this does depend on the license Walmart purchased. It’s possible Walmart doesn’t require that permission.

The thing is that some licenses allow the buyer to make and sell merchandise with the images they buy, while others don’t. If Walmart has a standard license, which is the default on Shutterstock, then it cannot use the image for merchandise. In this case, I think Michael can sue them and easily win the lawsuit. On the other hand, with an enhanced license, Walmart is permitted to make and sell merchandise using the photo. And in this case, there’s probably nothing he can do.

It’s not clear whether Walmart has purchased the standard or the enhanced license. But either way, the company has reached out to Michael in the comment section of his video, so I hope that situation will be resolved soon. We have contacted Michael, too, and we’ll update the article if we hear back.

What do you think of this situation? Who is in the right here?

[via FStoppers]

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Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic

Dunja Djudjic is a multi-talented artist based in Novi Sad, Serbia. With 15 years of experience as a photographer, she specializes in capturing the beauty of nature, travel, and fine art. In addition to her photography, Dunja also expresses her creativity through writing, embroidery, and jewelry making.

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25 responses to “This photographer uploaded a photo to a royalty-free stock site only to find it on over 500,000 Walmart products”

  1. Tj Ó Seamállaigh Avatar
    Tj Ó Seamállaigh

    I upload to some stock websites and most (if not all) of them have this condition indeed – maybe they differ in number of copies? Not sure…
    Anyway, it is sad, and yet it is a condition that both sides agreed upon so it’s like a contract. Unless, I believe, Walmart is proved to have printed this image on more than 500K units, then I’m not sure how a lawsuit would be useful here. Besides, the terms here are between the buyer (Walmart) and the seller (Shutterstock).

  2. Robby Karam Avatar
    Robby Karam

    That pisses me off as a photographer

    1. Marina Ćirović Avatar
      Marina Ćirović

      Shortsightedness of other photographers?

    2. Charlotte Fiorito Avatar
      Charlotte Fiorito

      act like a business you’ll get treated like a business. That was a raw deal and the photog didn’t bother to read the fine print.

  3. Marco Peixoto Avatar
    Marco Peixoto

    Dont upload your work for such cheap values… I keep seeing thousands of Photographers doing it… well there it is your payoff right there.

  4. Paul Tobeck Avatar
    Paul Tobeck

    For most stock sites, $1.88 royalty doesn’t cover unlimited use.

    1. Michael Leslie Avatar
      Michael Leslie

      Paul Tobeck $1.88 is the photographers commission, Shutterstocks standard licence allows up to 500,000 print run, have a look at their pricing, I’m surprised he even got $1.88.

    2. Paul Tobeck Avatar
      Paul Tobeck

      That’s why you don’t upload to subscription sites.
      Especially a high quality photo as referenced in the article.

    3. Sean MacDonald Avatar
      Sean MacDonald

      sorry for ignorance, but why up load for only 1.88 why would he? how do people make money on this?

    4. Paul Tobeck Avatar
      Paul Tobeck

      Back in the day, it was a volume game where you could sell mediocre photos en mass and make a decent buck. Now competition and quality have both escalated, making it very difficult now to get established.

  5. Nick Avatar
    Nick

    Stop the whining! Thats what happens when you post to shutterstock or any royalty free stock site and your image is used .you agree to the terms and conditions when you sign up and begin posting.

  6. Christian Lapointe Avatar
    Christian Lapointe

    People are so desperate to sell their images and make a living from photography that they resort to these stock photo sites that don’t pay them what they’re worth. Photographers are their own worst enemies.

  7. Rich Morgan Avatar
    Rich Morgan

    If he agreed to the contract with the stock photo site, and Walmart’s purchase/use follows the contract, then there is nothing to complain about. Learn from the experience and move on.

  8. Yann Poirier Avatar
    Yann Poirier

    The publisher of the calendar clearly didn’t purchase the proper licence, Shutterstock should be going after them and pay the photographer the proper fee

  9. Kenth Hagström Avatar
    Kenth Hagström

    I’ve stopped uploading to these kind of websites, I rather keep my photos for myself than letting someone make profit of my work. Making money with stock photography is a stupid business model that should be made illegal.

  10. Duncan Dimanche Avatar
    Duncan Dimanche

    Is there ONE good story about someone making money with any shutterstuck type of website ?

    1. Kenth Hagström Avatar
      Kenth Hagström

      No.

  11. Nani Davi Avatar
    Nani Davi

    Take advantage of the fame you’ve achieved.

  12. Elizabeth Ramos Torres Avatar
    Elizabeth Ramos Torres

    I wint be uploading anything to them

  13. Sara Amelia Avatar
    Sara Amelia

    Why not speak to Walmart about shooting next years calender for a fee ans royalties? I get he’s pissed but try and make a positive out of it!

  14. Lars Oeschey Avatar
    Lars Oeschey

    omg, read the contract, and don’t whine afterwards. That’s how stock works

  15. Nadine Spires Avatar
    Nadine Spires

    That’s how stock works. He should find out what license was bought as some people/companies abuse the licenses. But if it’s within the agreement that’s his loss.

  16. PCat Avatar
    PCat

    If they bought Enhanced license, I don’t see any problem. There is said: “Unlimited physical prints”

    1. cm Avatar
      cm

      Enhanced license is much more than $1.88. They most likely bought standard and abused it.

      1. Kaouthia Avatar
        Kaouthia

        That’s just the photographer’s cut. Not the cost of the license. :)