iStockPhoto of Calgary gets bought by Getty

Who says there’s no Web-buyout action going on in the Great White North? It may not compare with Yahoo buying Flickr or del.icio.us in terms of visibility, but in the world of downloadable stock photography, iStockPhoto.com – based in my former home town of Calgary, Alberta – has been one of the early stars, and so it’s interesting to find out that they have been acquired by stock photo giant Getty Images for about $50-million (U.S.). Thanks to Thomas Hawk for pointing that one out.

Along with Corbis (owned by Bill Gates), Getty is one of the largest players in the industry. If you see a classic or iconic shot in a newspaper or magazine or on a website, there are good odds it belongs to Getty. There’s more information on the buyout at an online photo magazine called Photo District News Online, and much discussion at StockPhotoTalk, run by Andy Goetze, who mentioned a rumour that Getty would buy iStockPhoto in a post three weeks ago.

According to the reports, Getty will continue to operate iStockPhoto.com as a separate unit, run by iStockPhoto CEO Bruce Livingstone and about 30 employees (a nice payout for them). As far as I can tell, this is one of the first signs that the world of big, expensive, global stock-photo companies such as Getty and Corbis has started to pay attention to the small, inexpensive, Web-distributed model being pursued by iStockPhoto, Fotolia.com and others.

As Thomas Hawk mentions in his post, imagine what Yahoo could do if it started trying to monetize some of the photos in Flickr. And if you want to explore this topic further, Alan Meckler of Jupitermedia.com – which also owns a stock-photo company – has some thoughts here, and StockAsylum notes that Getty is trying to soothe the ruffled feathers of its professional photographer suppliers, who might think it is going down-market.

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