Lobster is a marketplace for Instagram and Flickr users who want to legally buy and sell their photos, changing the way people use images online.
Are you tired of people stealing your social media photos?
Would you rather get paid when people use your photos without your consent?
iLobster.it is a new marketplace for user generated content that enables authors to start selling their photos direct from their social media sites.
How Does iLobster.it Work?
By connecting your Instagram and Flickr accounts up to iLobster.it and *tagging the photos you want to sell with #iLobsterit, they will automatically be shown on the iLobster.it marketplace and be available to purchase.
*Tagging works using comments in Instagram or adding tags in Flickr
Similar to how photographers are paid for transferring the IP rights of their image files to others (selling photographs) and how music artists get paid for selling music on iTunes, users can start getting paid for taking photos and uploading them to their photo sharing platforms.
How Much Can I Earn?
You will essentially earn $0.42 (USD) per image file, per licence purchase.
You can only use PayPal as the payment gateway right now, so the iLobster.it payment model looks like this:
Each photo sold costs a buyer $0.99...
- $0.75 goes to the author
- $0.24 goes to iLobster.it
The seller must pay PayPal transaction fees, which typically is $0.33 per image file, per licence purchase, bringing the net profit to $0.42.
Don't worry, this is all done automatically.
Tip: You can reduce the PayPal transaction fee to around $0.09 by joining PayPal’s free Micropayments program - instructions here. This will increase your income to $0.66 for every license sold. If your photos are sold many times over, then this would result in you earning substantially more.
I recently had the opportunity to speak with the CEO of Lobster, Olga Egorsheva, who shared her thoughts on the vision of the company...
"Our vision is to build a marketplace where IP rights for all user generated content can be acquired legally, effortlessly and in real time. Where simple users have the same powers as large publishers, creating the ability to earn with your content on Instagram, Flickr, Vimeo, Soundcloud - you name it, and from anywhere in the world – a bit of freedom for everyone." - Olga Egorsheva
A lot more of my questions were answered in their Slideshare presentation -> Unfortunately, this media has since been marked private by the uploader, so is now unavailable.
Overcoming The Legal Issues
The iLobster.it idea is quite a simple one, but it relies on one key principle in order to really scale into mainstream culture.
And that is the legal principle.
If photos and images on social media sites were governed strictly and actively policed, then there would be a real need for this type of service.
But they are not. And the only people that can police content stealing are site owners and publishers. The site owners will never change because they don't need to and it might not be feasible for them to on such large social networks.
So it's down to the publishers to continuously scan the internet to see if their images are being illegally used. Because this is implausible to completely self-govern, it dilutes Lobster's potential.
In reality, those stealing will continue to do so because nothing has changed with copyright being enforced.
Those who are sticking to the law and purchasing licenses to display photos will now be able to instantly obtain IP rights using iLobster.it.
The iLobster.it terms and conditions state that it's the authors responsibility to acquire the appropriate release forms and the buyers responsibility to verify the release forms (more information here)
Whilst photographers, used to selling images, might be familiar with this requirement, the casual social media uploader might not be so fluent. This could produce an equally compromised situation for the uploader, to the current situation for those using imagery unwarranted, now. So Lobster.it might recreate a situation it is endeavoring to correct.
iLobster.it has a lever to block any content that is acknowledged as misleading or breaking any of the site terms. There is also a 'Report' button in case anything slips through the net and is picked up on by a user.
The most impressive measure is still in the planning stage, but the desire to reinforce copyright and marketplace moderation with an outsourced workforce that is hoping to be faciliated by crowdsourcing.
Images do not lose copyright when they are posted on the internet.
When (and if) you have been discovered violating someone’s copyright, most authors would then ask you either to provide a link back to their website for credit and ownership purposes, or ask you to remove or stop using their images completely.
However, a copyright owner can sue for damages, as was the case with one website who ended up paying $4000 in damages for a $10 stock photo they had used without permission, even though they removed the photo promptly after receiving a take-down notice.
So surely by launching a content marketing campaign around copyright awareness will drive attention, buyers and sellers to iLobster.it?
I would think so. Who said advice is never free
Who Is Lobster And How Does It Work In Reality?
iLobster.it was founded by Olga Egorsheva, Maria Iontseva and Andrey Dmitriev in January 2013. Check out their video demonstration below for an overview of how Lobster works:
Real User Experiences
I used the help of Aresko Photography via a screenshare session to evaluate the user experience of the site.
This enabled me to gather real feedback into the pros and cons of using iLobster.it from a potential buyer and sellers perspective.
Here was the summary:
- The tagging concept is easy to understand.
- It's about as simple as it could be to connect existing accounts.
- No downloads and no software required.
- Essentially a risk free solution as you only pay once you earn.
Things To Work On
- The branding it a little cold and includes no photos or rich media to reflect its user-base.
- The placement of the blog is wrong - it should be on it's own page. It's purpose is also wrong - it should be used as a valuable resource to build traffic and awareness, while alleviating concerns.
- The information needed at different steps isn't clearly accessible.
- There are no online confirmation pages or redirects after sign-up or after tagging (there was an email sent upon signup). Without email access, it makes it unclear what is required next or if the tagging has been successful.
- After an image was tagged, we couldn't find it in marketplace. Without a success notification, or any information after tagging, we were left in the dark as to what happens, if anything.
- The analytics is pretty light and only includes the essential information such as sales per photo and trending hashtags. A few other statistics that could be valuable include: impressions, clicks, time on photos, engagement level (for comments/shares), any demographics from users etc.
- Affiliate programs - a very viable and proven route to build the user-base seems to be missing...
A Few Small Annoyances...
- We had to give feedback in order to delete our account after testing - you shouldn't have to give feedback if you don't want to.
- We didn't get redirected to a confirmation page when the account was deleted - we were just sent back to the homepage. An email came through, but this should be onscreen and visual. A confirmation page can also be used in a much more valuable way to provide information, resources and opportunities.
If There Was One Thing That Could Be Easily Improved...
...It would definitely be adding an option to bulk tag photos. When testing the system, we found that it takes a long time to tag each photo individually.
It's nice that the individual tagging route is included because some users will not want to sell some personal photos, or have many photos in their database that need tagging.
For the more seasoned users, it will be a big time drain. Add in a box to tag every photo and it would save hours for some people...
The One Thing We Especially Liked...
...The fact that you didn't have to upload or transfer anything. Simply connect the accounts and add some tags. Nothing moves. Nothing has the potential to get deleted or misplaced. Nice.
The Brand Is Quite Unorthodox...
We were not sure about the name - Lobster. It might be hard to catch on in the online world because it is a word that is already massively indexed.
Or iLobster.it - have you got it yet? "I Lobster it" (verb - think to Google it).
Ms. Egorsheva explains it's origin:
"We've been approached by several people proposing that we switch to iLobster to avoid confusion and we are thinking of this. We like Lobster more. The domain name virtually means 'I Lobster it' we want to create a verb 'to lobster' just like to Tweet...
...We came up with this name in a team brainstorm. It seemed a bright, well-sounding and memorable name. The sense behind it is that a lobster gathers everything in the ocean with his clams, just like Lobster gathers any UGC (user generated content) available online."
The Advantages Summarised
- Income from license sales
- Rapid marketplace upload time via automated quality management system
- Access to everyone - don't have to be professional photographer to sell photos
- Increased exposure for photos
- Better IP awareness
- Don't pay for storage on iLobster.it as hosted on social media site
- Don't need any additional skills, equipment, or knowledge
- Instant access to IP rights
- More choice of usable photos
- Photos added in real-time so instant source of current photo content
- Cheaper alternative to professional stock libraries
- Search capability - the possibility to search social content by more than one search term simultaneously i.e. by multiple tags, username, date taken, place taken, proximity to the user, all in the same request.
What's Planned For The Future?
- A bulk tagging option!
- More payment options.
- An iOS App.
- Improved speed and usability of all functions.
- Internal quality management and quality enhancement system previously mentioned which will "not only limited to moderation, but also being able to show the better content first and to price the better content higher".
- More focus on news worthy content and news based challenge/contests.
- More networks.
- More types of content...
"Any social content at all - photo, video, sound or text, can be applicable within the Lobster system." – Olga Egorsheva
I think that the site and branding need more work before it's in a position to be marketed to the mass public. The plans to integrate more social networks will definitely improve connectivity and the scope for users. The addition of different formats of content to iLobster.it should also bring with it a set of complementary features.
I understand that the concept is sound, plus it looks to be moving in the right direction, so the future look's bright for Lobster.
Over To You
I would be interested to hear whether or not you will start using Lobster to buy and sell photos.
Do you think it's a good idea?
Are you frustrated by people stealing your content?