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Photographer finds Flickr pics sold on iStockphoto

iStockphoto shuts down a seller after a photographer complained her images were being sold without her permission. To make things right, iStockphoto might pay her royalties.

A Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir self-portrait Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir

Update 4:15 p.m. PST: I added a comment from Guðleifsdóttir and corrected that the earlier incident involved selling eight individual photos.

An Icelandic photographer has for a second time encountered the ugly side of Internet photo sharing, finding photos she published at Yahoo's Flickr site being sold by somebody else through the iStockphoto Web site.

Rebekka Guðleifsdóttir, a professional photographer, found a picture she took of three frolicking horses on iStockphoto, a "microstock" site that licenses images for relatively low prices.

"I mean for crying out loud, out of 31 images this particular user has on his 'portfolio,' 25 of them are mine, and at least 3 are of me," she said in the caption for a screenshot of the iStockphoto page.

iStockphoto, a division of Getty Images, removed the photo and the user, named "vulcanacar."

"As soon as we get a report of something like that, we investigate right away," said iStockphoto Executive Vice President Kelly Thompson. "We have a compliance officer right here. It's important, and we have to do it." Usually the shoe is on the other foot, he added: iStockphoto sends several takedown notices per week to go after unauthorized use of iStockphoto images.

As for justice, Thompson said it would be tough to pursue this particular iStockphoto user. "He is in a country where it would be very difficult to do too much to him, which is unfortunate," Thompson said.

And on Guðleifsdóttir's side of the equation, "iStock will strive to make the situation right...We'll have to talk with Rebekka and see what needs to be done," potentially including paying her royalties.

iStockphoto did indeed get in touch, Guðleifsdóttir said. "I have been contacted by the CEO of iStockphoto, and the matter will be handled in an appropriate way, I'm sure," Guðleifsdóttir said, though she declined to comment on specifics.

This is the second time Guðleifsdóttir has found images she posted on Flickr for sale elsewhere. In 2007, she discovered a company selling eight landscape pictures. She complained about the incident on Flickr only to have her image and the discussion below it deleted because, Flickr told her, "Flickr is not a venue for you to harass, abuse, impersonate, or intimidate others."

Flickr co-founder Stewart Butterfield later issued an apology; Guðleifsdóttir decided to restrict her Flickr uploads to a maximum width of 800 pixels.

Thompson said it's "very, very, very rare" for iStockphoto to sell photos that have been uploaded without the copyright holder's permission, but given that the site has "almost 3 million images" available, it's also inevitable.

"We usually catch these way before the images are even sold," not the few months that happened in this case, Thompson said. "The community is pretty amazing at finding things like this. And our inspectors are usually pretty good at it too."

(Via Thomas Hawk)