Photographers Peeved Their Photos Were Quietly Used in Windows 10

If you use Windows 10, you may have noticed that the lock screen features beautiful photos shot around the world. What you may not know, however, is that some photographers reportedly didn’t know about their photos being featured there and aren’t happy with how much they were paid.

The Danish magazine The Journalist did some sleuthing and tracked down 6 of the photographers behind the prominently featured photos. Windows 10 is installed on over 400 million devices in 192 countries around the world, but unlike on the Bing homepage, photos featured on the Windows 10 lock screen don’t credit the photographer behind them.

It seems that Microsoft decided to license the photos from various stock services (e.g. Stocksy, Corbis, 500px), paying anywhere from $20 to $172 to license the photos that The Journalist looked into.

What’s surprising is that all but one of the photographers had no idea their photos were being widely used by Microsoft, since they often can’t see exactly who licenses their photos, only the country from which it was licensed.

“I did not know that Microsoft is using my image,” American photographer Neil Kremer tells The Journalist. “If you’re telling me that 400 million people have seen this image, it’s upsetting. Microsoft is using the image to sell their product and they have only paid me 50 dollars for that image.”

The photo by Neil Kramer licensed from Stocksy.

“This is just an illustration of a major problem for photographers, with a lack of consideration for their work,” French photographer Benjamin Genieys tells The Journalist. “I guess this is even more difficult to understand from a big company as Microsoft is. I checked on 500px and I just have anonymous buyers for this picture. I sold 2 licences between December 2014 and March 2015 ($35 and $85).”

The photo by Benjamin Genieys licensed from 500px.

“I’m pretty surprised that my photo found itself in this role, because nobody contacted about it. At the end I guess that it can be purchased via the stock sites as royalty free license,” Serbian photographer Radisa Zivkovic tells The Journalist. “I more disappointed with payment, but I knew that when I decided to sell photos through microstock sites.”

The photo by Radisa Zivkovic licensed through 500px.

There was one photographer who was aware of the usage and was satisfied with his payment. American photographer Matt Anderson had licensed several photos to Microsoft before, and he was paid the most of the photographers interviewed.

“Microsoft has licensed several of my images for various marketing collateral needs, including screen savers, background wallpapers, etc,” Anderson tells The Journalist. “I make residuals from the licenses. And I got $172. […] I am satisfied.”

While some photographers may not be happy with how their photos made their way into Windows, Microsoft did properly license the photos in all cases.

“There is nothing illegal in Microsoft’s conduct,” says The Journalist. “We have reached out to Microsoft for a comment several times, but they have declined to answer.”

P.S. The photographer behind the iPhone 6 wallpaper didn’t find out his photo was used until the phone was unveiled, but Apple had already secured a broadcast use license from him beforehand without specifying what the photo would be for.