Mar 29

As Cash-Strapped Getty Images Struggles Are Their Contributors Suffering the Effects Too?

On March 13 Getty Images’ Jonathan Klein announced he was stepping down as CEO but would

remain on the board as chairman. This came on the heels of the announcement that Getty burned through one-third of its cash reserves in the last quarter of 2014 as the company struggles to compete with mid-size stock companies such as Fotolia.

It now seems that some contributors to Getty subsidiary iStock photo are grumbling that they are not receiving their payments. This situation was brought to my attention by an iStock contributor who contacted me. He suggested that I read the I-stock discussion forum on topics relating to payments. I found several threads and have scanned through several of them. It looks like Getty/iStock made several changes to their policy and the way they pay their contributors and it appears to be very confusing for them.


One of the issue seems to revolve around a new tax form that had to be filled out in January, apparently this form was changed from a previous one and may require more information but the bottom line appears to be if it is not completely filled out Getty/ iStock does not make payment or contact the contributor to let them know the reason they did not receive their funds. One contributor venting over the tax form issue said….

….The whole thing has been an unreal hassle, from the tax interview not going through, to emails going to getty and taking weeks to be anwsered, often leaving me with both more hoops to jump through and more questions and more delays.  I finally said screw it, use the iStock paperwork and take out the tax, but didn’t see that my account was on hold unitll  I filled out the new paperwork.  Funny how my paperwork was just fine for iStock and for every other stock photo agency and client I work with… but not for Getty.

Another major complaint seems to be that there is no phone support number for contributors and there has not been one for years and all questions and complaints must be directed to an email box which can take a long time to receive a reply.


I don’t know if this is a new policy that was changed in January but apparently contributors will no longer receive payments until their accounts reach a minimum of $100. I am seeing complaints that contributors with balances over $100 were not paid because Getty/ iStock stated they had not checked the box for preferred method of payment. I read at least one contributor stating that they had definitely check the box for PayPal yet did not receive payment or notification their payment would not be made until they emailed and asked for an explanation.


Also it looks like it takes 25 days before you receive your payment. From what I am reading if your balance months and met the $100 criteria, and you had your tax form filled out properly, and you had selected your preferred method of payment then your balance would be withdrawn from your account on 5th of the month and the payment would be made on the 25th of the month. It appears the whole process was very confusing to many contributors and those who were expecting payment on the 25th and did not receive it are now being told to correct the tax form and/or select the method of payment then their funds would go out with the following month’s payment. In other words they now have to wait an additional 30 days to get paid. As one contributor going through this stated on the forum….

Unfortunately, the answer stinks.  “(I)’m sorry but it is not possible to issue your payment today.  Our Paypal an Payoneer accounts are funded once monthly and royalty payments are processed once monthly….  payment can be issued the next royalty payment cycle scheduled for April 25.”


Another contributor exchange is as follows…

“Filled out tax quiz long time ago.
Emailed techsupport couple days ago.
No payout for over 2 months, no emails, and no response for me either.

iStock support: please stop copy-pasting irrelevant response with dates of payout, and fix the system. It is clear that something is broken.”

iStock replied that he did not receive payment because there was not enough money in his account, the contributor replied that he showed a balance of $142 by late February. The same contributor then went on to say…

Actually I have read a lot of entries to this string, and new rules. It seems like poor accounting practices, or potentially a fraud.

Some people have taxes subtracted in 2015 without actual assessment of the their yearly tax situation as of end of 2015 (is business an income or loss, etc.).

Even if these taxes are to be returned in early 2016, the tax money would have been somewhere over many months earning percentages for some entitiy (iStock, Getty?).

Even if these tax money are deposited somewhere in a non-earning state, person who paid these taxes lost the opportunity to earn anything on these money during these months, to buy bisuness equipment, etc. This is a potential loss of income. Who would pay for this loss?

I am writing to Attorney General of California. This has to stop. I suggest everyone who has taxes subtracted in 2015, write to your state attorney general if you are in the US, or to your legal agency<sic> if you are outside US.


All of this is just from one page from one of the threads I have read. It appears the iStock forums are rife with contributors who are frustrated and angry over the situation that seems to have started in January. Many seem to feel as if they are beating thier heads against the wall in dealing with contributor support.


I am wondering if this is just a coincidence or is there any relation to this all happening right after Getty announces using up one third of their cash in the three months prior. I will be monitoring the forum and let you know if I see any change to the situation. Either way if Getty/ iStock is struggling as they clearly appear to be angering your contributors is not the way to increase profits.


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  1. patrick

    Hi Greg, i have been fighting with Lauren Kingston from McCormack for a while now with emails back & forth. They have dropped their demand from $2500 to $1900 to $1000 & are now down to $800.

    I can see they are truly looking for unjust enrichment & trying to take money from anyone who is afraid & will give it up with no fight. We used one photo of the hoover dam that we found on a free stock image site back in the 1990’s. We took it down the day they contacted us about it. they showed me a screen shot way back when but never anything with real proof that this was their image. there was no watermark or copyright on the image.

    I am not sure but i dont even think the statute of limitations would even allow them to sue us in court at this point in time. I briefly looked into it & i think its either 3 or 5 years from the time of discovery.

    i have threatened her with a class action federal lawsuit if her firm continues this harassment.

    let me know what you think & if we can do anything together. They have moved up on my list & i want to go after them.


    1. Greg Troy

      Hi Pat and welcome.

      If you have letters coming to you out of Mr. McCormack’s office you do not have to worry about an eminent lawsuit being filed. Getty images has NEVER used McCormack legal for anything but a collection agency and his final “last chance” letter usually state something like if you do not pay we will recommend legal action to Getty.

      I think you can see they would also have a hard time trying to prove the value of the image if they are claiming the image was initially worth $2500 then miraculously worth $1900, then $1000 in now only $800.

      I am however very interested in your statement that they are sending you letters past the three-year statute of limitations allowed by law. If you could provide documentation of this to me I would greatly appreciate it as it would assist me with a current project in regards to McCormack legal I am working on. What I would need is copies of all the correspondence sent to you by Getty and/or McCormack legal, especially the first letter containing the date it was sent in any letters after the three-year statute of limitations has expired. I have another similar case where Ms. Kingston did the same thing to another letter recipient.

      As far as a class action lawsuit goes I don’t think there is really much of a chance for that. I know for a fact that Oscar Michelen, the legal advisor to the site, has been approached many times by other lawyers wanting to file class action lawsuits against Getty for their letter program. Oscar has turned over his information to them and he never hears from them again and not one class-action lawsuit has ever been filed.

      As far as what you can do to fight back, and I would be willing to assist with examples of letters, addresses and contacts, is to file complaints against Getty and McCormack legal with the Washington state Attorney General’s office and also one against McCormack legal and Lauren Kingston with the Washington state Bar Association. These complaints should only be filed if you feel you are have truly been harassed, treated unfairly and/or feel they have failed to negotiate in good faith. By what you have said in your comment it sounds as though you do feel this way which is why I mentioned this option.

      Please let me know if you have any questions or if I can assist you. You may contact me directly at GregTroy@Gettyimagesmustchange.com

  2. Dean Russell

    Getty are digging their own grave.

    They have recently attacked one of my clients with their troll letters.
    A tiny 1 inch by 1 inch pizza image and a severely obscured in background of heading image were used.
    similar images would cost $5.00
    and the larger one perhaps $30.00
    But they have demanded payment of $550 USD (in Canada that is $800 for us.

    They go on to threaten legal costs, collection agencies and ruining credit.
    They do this EVERY week without fail.

    I have personally made a point to contact them and explain what happened.
    – firstly I told them it was 100% my fault.
    – I told them the images were located using google’s rights tool and were cleared for use, but they are no longer showing or we are not able to locate them again using this method.
    – We took the images down THE DAY we got a notice.
    – I personally made exact replicas of the images using completely legal images that I triple checked.
    you would not be able to tell the difference unless you were REALLY looking.

    Do they care? no
    Do they let up? no
    They instead tell my clients I’m lying to them, and they are completely responsible for paying them “OR ELSE”.

    Fortunately I have a good relationship with them, they are a small immigrant family that own a corner store by my house.
    I see the every day. And every time they get a letter they bring it up.

    I think its absolutely wrong they are allowed to do this.
    Causing stress, anxiety and grief over something they can’t even prove they have legal rights over.

    In fact the one larger image is actually licensed to a very large pizza chain and on their menu.
    did somebody upload the image and mark it ok? who knows.
    But we didn’t do it out of malice or intent.

    We stringently check and try to validate now every google image we have ever used (YES we check for rights on every image)..
    but now to be held liable for trying to do it right?

    I personally spend $200+ /year in images
    my clients can spend anywhere from $50 – $1000 each

    As of this happening, I have sent out a letter to every designer friend, client and company that I know who buys images and told them NOT TO BUY GETTY.

    I told Getty I was a customer, and I do buy images, and I DO take copyright seriously.
    Because I also am a provider of that material.

    BUT none of this mattered to them.

    So yes, Getty’s going in the toilet..
    who cares, they deserver it for hiring or deciding to use these unethical practices to get money.

    For every dollar they spend trying to rip somebody off, they lose $1000 in lost revenue.

    To date, and it has only been about 6 months since this began, I have recorded over $675 of lose revenue to Getty ..
    Thats what you get for trying to rip people off Getty. Instead of keeping a client who buys images, you lost one and you lost your money as well.

  3. Bengt Nyman

    I have the impression that iStock is cheating their contributors.
    Uploads over a year old show 0 views. Not likely.
    Reported and paid sales are almost 0, down substantially and very suddenly.
    I cant remember when I last got a $100 check from iStock.
    They owe me some $85 but it is suddenly not growing like it used to.

    It the iStock business is dying I can understand it, especially with iStock’s clumsy and time consuming contribution procedure. However, that is no excuse to steal from your contributors !!

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