The company was founded by Bruce Livingstone in May, 2000, as iStockphoto, a free stock imagery website supported by Livingstone’s web development firm, Evolvs Media, It began charging money in 2001 and has been profitable since then.
On February 9, 2006 the firm was acquired by Getty Images for $50 million USD. Livingstone promised that the site would continue “functioning independently with the benefits of Getty Images, yet, very importantly for them and us, autonomy. ”
On September 18, 2006 the site experienced the first benefits of the new ownership: a Controlled vocabulary keyword taxonomy borrowed from Getty Images.
As of March 31, 2007, iStockpro closed. iStockpro was a more expensive version of iStockphoto that was never as popular as iStockphoto, and became redundant after the acquisition by Getty Images.
On April 1, 2008 Getty Images disclosed, as part of its agreement to be sold to a private equity firm, that iStockphoto’s revenue in 2007 was $71.9 million USD of which $20.9 million (29%) was paid to contributors.
Contributing photographers apply (via a short quiz regarding policies, requirements, basic photographic knowledge, and legal issues) before they are eligible to upload their images. The applicant’s sample images are screened for quality and suitability before being approved.
Contributors receive a commission of between 15% and 40% of each sale, depending on whether or not they are “exclusive”, and various other factors.
In an address to its community entitled “2008: A Year in Review and a Look Ahead″,the firm’s CEO mentioned that the company was paying out ‘almost’ $1.1 million per week in royalty payments to contributors.
Purchasing and use
Each approved image is added to the searchable online database, where it can be found by purchasers. Files can be downloaded immediately, and used in almost anything. The basic license agreement prohibits some uses, such as web templates, print on demand, adult materials, etc. Print runs over 500,000 must pay additional royalties. Extended licenses are available for purchase to cover needs not met by the basic license agreement.
This background of a movie poster for the 2011 film The Roommate was provided by iStockphoto. The image is that of the Christy Administration building at Southwestern College. The college believes this image was used without their permission.
Since iStockphoto’s launch in 2000, purchase prices have slowly increased, from initially bartered (based on accumulated contributions), to $.25 and then $.50, and more recently tiered at $1, $2 and $3, to a higher-cost tiered pricing of $1, $3, $5 and $10 or more for extra-high resolution, to today’s current pricing scheme where images cost between 1 and 250 credits, and credits sell for $9 each or from $8 to $5.81 each in bundles of 3 to 3000. Best rates for photos, vectors and illustrations are available through monthly or annual subscriptions.
Ownership of material
The 2011 film The Roommate obtained photos from iStockPhoto for its promotional material. One of the photos used as its backdrop was the Christy Administration Building from Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. The college administration voiced concern that permission to use the photograph of the building was not properly obtained and is investigating the legality of its use. As of February 8, 2011, no lawsuits have been filed but discussions continue to take place.
On July 31, 2006 iStockphoto announced the development of a new branch, iStockvideo, to sell stock video clips in a variety of formats from web-size, through NTSC and PAL up to HDV and HD sizes. The collection is slated to open on September 5, 2006, and clips (between 5 and 30 seconds) will range in cost from $5 USD to $50 USD, based on resolution.As of February 9, 2010 the video collection contains over 250,000 videos. Videos are not available as part of the images pricing or subscription arrangements.
This new branch of iStockphoto competes with motion stock collections already available from companies such as Getty Images, Artbeats, and Veer.
The iStockalypse was founded in 2005, as an official multi-day iStock photography event held several times a year for contributing artists and photographers.
Since the first event in Las Vegas, iStock has visited Seattle, Boston, Ljubljana, Prague, Austin, Barcelona, Marseilles, Buenos Aires, Malta, Berlin, Calgary, Istanbul, Cannes, Tokyo, London, Milan, Singapore, Sao Paulo, Los Angeles and Paris. In March 2015 the event was organized in Dubai to get authentic, local shots of the city and its people.