Are Thieves Selling Your Pictures on Shutterstock? One Photographer’s Story


A report on PetaPixel is making waves across the Internet as it seems that photographer James Wheeler discovered that someone had taken his photos from other websites and uploaded them to Shutterstock. at Pexels

He found this out when Shutterstock’s algorithm suggested that his photos resembled another user’s except for it was more like the other user just took his images and put them up on the site.

Wheeler further reports that this seems to have gone on for some 8 years with Shutterstock doing little more than deleting the offending photos as they are reported.

Just in case you’ve never dealt with this kind of thing before, Wheeler even made a video about what photographers who have their photos stolen can do including sending a DMCA takedown notice to Shutterstock to get them to handle the situation.

To be fair, however, Shutterstock does have some 1.5 million photos uploaded to it every week so a few are probably going to slip through the cracks here and there.

What the real lesson of this story is, as ever, how important it is to stay on top of your rights when it comes to your work.

As for why Shutterstock might not just stop these photos from even making it to the public space, Wheeler speculates, “I think this may be because it costs less for them to deal with the DMCA takedown notices than it would be to review and deal with duplicate images being uploaded, but maybe we can change that. If even a small percentage of Shutterstock photographers checked to see if their most popular photos were uploaded to Shutterstock and sent Shutterstock DMCA takedown notices, I think Shutterstock would see a spike in takedown notices and may make changes to stop this from happening in the future.”

It’s a really interesting read that you can check out over on PetaPixel.

Also watch his video here on YouTube.

As always, we’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

And be sure to check out our other photography news stories here on Light Stalking.


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Kehl is our staff photography news writer and has over a decade of experience in online media and publishing and you can get to know him better here

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