Shutterstock Begins Paying Contributors for AI Usages

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Written By Thomas Smith

The New York Times called Thomas Smith a "veteran programmer." For over a decade, Smith has led Gado Images, an AI-driven visual content company.

In an email sent on December 19th, 2022, Shutterstock informed contributors that it would begin to pay them for AI-generated content created on the Shutterstock website.

Shutterstock previously announced that it would begin to offer an AI-image generation tool on its site. The program is currently available through a waitlist. As part of the announcement, Shutterstock also said that it would pay Shutterstock contributors if their photographs were used in training AI systems.

“You will now accrue royalties when your IP is used in the training of AI-generative models or used for licensing of generative assets created using Shutterstock’s software,” Shutterstock said in its email.

In its recent announcement, Shutterstock provided some more information on how this would work. Shutterstock will place a portion of revenue from the AI content generation tool, as well as deals to provide training data to companies like LG, into a creator fund.

Every six months, Shutterstock will then pay out revenues from this fund to Shutterstock creators. It appears the payments will be proportional to the amount of content the contributors have on Shutterstock.

Shutterstock said:

For data deals, a portion of the contract value is paid to all contributors involved, distributed proportionally by the number of assets and metadata a contributor has included in the deal. For generative licensing, a portion of every customer license for generative content is paid out to the contributors whose content was used to train that particular model (eg. OpenAI or LG AI Research). Generative licensing also distributes earnings proportionally by the number of assets and metadata a contributor had included in the original data deal.

Shutterstock contributors will be able to see these payments through their normal Contributor Income Reports. The payments will appear as “Contributor Fund.”

There’s no indication yet of how much the payments will be. Presumably, as Shutterstock inks more data deals and opens up the AI generation tool to a broader set of customers, revenues for contributors should increase.

We will keep an eye on these developments and report back.

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