Monday, July 16, 2012

Pinterest An Affiliate of Photo Licensing Site?

Follow the money brick road...

It appears that Pinterest may have worked itself into becoming an affiliate site for iStock Photo.
Please be aware that the Pinterest website is a member of our Affiliate program. The iStockphoto team which handles the affiliate program, continually monitors the usage to ensure it is in line with the program.
The use of the word "affiliate" comes with the expectation that Pinterest would receive commissions for licensing revenue that is generated by traffic referred from its pages. In other words, if someone follows the link to an image posted on Pinterest and purchases rights to use this image from, in this case, iStock photo, Pinterest would receive a commission.

It's not clear why anyone would want to purchase rights to a photo that's all over Pinterest, that's already on a pinner's own pinboard, or that any webmaster can hotlink to from the Pinterest servers without worrying about copyright infringement (Pinterest has the "rights" to distribute the image according to its ToS).

Not much noise has been made to make the photographers on iStock photo aware of this affiliate scheme - possibly because this news might upset some of them.

The money pie isn't infinite, ultimately, who pays for Pinterest's commission? To whom is the burden transferred? Now, and over years?

Is such an affiliate relationship a reason why a photo licensing site would be ignoring copyright violations?

How much extra revenue could this possibly generate? One might suspect "close to zero," but what are the real numbers? How many pinners care about copyright enough to license a photograph? And for what? Their blogs? Their fashion magazine empire? The travel books they are writing? Someone looking to license a photograph won't be looking for it on Pinterest when stock photo websites have convenient search functions.


ohnostudio said...

Thanks for the clarification here. Ordinarily I don't consider the microstock group forum as an authority on anything. I was looking for a direct statement of policy or linkage on the part of iStock. Looks like you ferreted it out. Although not in their terms, someone under the umbrella of the company said it.

So I wonder how many more white lies there are in pinterestland. We already know that the Skimlinks debacle was revealed and allegedly the practice has been discontinued.

As the company is located in the US, and this has now been stated on behalf of iStock, I am sure that the FTC would be interested in the evolving revenue schemes at pinterest. Because after all, the spinning of stock images with Pin receiving an affiliate commission if purchased is in effect yet another deceptive practice.

And let's of course not forget that the pinners are in violation of the Pin TOS, because they do not have the right to distribute such images, which they are in effect doing.

"Let's get the web mules to do the work and we'll take the money, we just won't tell anyone."

A Glass Artist said...

The [photo licensing site may have succumbed to the hype and decided to let contributors' photos be pinned in the hope their future will be paved with gold from Pinterest referrals.

Will the increase in revenue expected from these referrals offset the payment of affiliate fees to Pinterest? This would only work if the majority of these referrals wouldn't have found the photos on the licensing site through their own site search, or from a Google image search.

I predict a loss of total revenue for the licensing website that will eventually erode the photographers' share of earnings. Time will tell.