Why I Switched from Phtoshelter to Photodeck
For quite a while I’ve been using Photoshelter to host my online image library. Initially it served as a place that I could deliver image files to clients, sell stock and also manage print sales. I really liked the service and it had a lot to offer, but I’m afraid that I’ve had to move to a different host. I didn’t want to, but the reason was quite simple. After two years or saying that they would do something about it, Photoshelter still didn’t properly support EU Vat law.
A few years ago, the EU changed it’s VAT laws so that digital downloads had Vat added based on the country where the person was downloading the file was from. Previously the country where the seller was from set the vat rate. Because different EU countries have different rates of VAT, you now have to apply a different Vat percentage depending on where the customer is downloading from. It was basically to stop big companies like Apple basing themselves in the country with the lowest VAT rate, and getting away not paying VAT due in other member states.
I don’t want to get into the politics of this, but, while I was annoyed about this change at first, I can kind of understand the reasoning behind it. The problem is that most e-commerce software is developed by US based companies that aren’t subject to Vat rules. Some have been quick to adapt, while others either don’t seem to understand the problem or just don’t care. When this change came into effect I had no choice but to disable image sales on Photoshelter. I contacted their tech support and after several rounds of support tag, they put me through to someone higher up, who said that they were aware of the problem and were working on it. That was over two years ago.
Since that time I contacted them several more times, but they kept giving me different excuses, and it became apparent that they weren’t going to fix it. To be fair to Phtoshelter, they’re not alone in this. Squarespace, despite having significant offices here in Dublin, still don’t properly support EU vat regulations. There are work arounds but they’re messy and they don’t fully support all the VAT rules. SmugMug is another culprit. I’ve contacted them several times also, and they also don’t seem to understand the issue. They keep referring me to unrelated support articles from their knowledge base, and when you try to explain to them that what they’re sending me to is unrelated, and not what I was asking about, their customer support people get snippy. I can’t believe that I’m the only one in Europe interested in these services either, so I’m sure they get these questions on a regular basis.
Finally after searching around for a long time I came across PhotoDeck. PhotoDeck is developed by a European company, and so my hopes were raised by that fact alone, because they would be subject to the same laws and hopefully understand them a bit better. Sure enough, Photo Deck lets you set up and manage EU VAT properly for digital downloads. Apart from this it offers many similar features to PhotoShelter, including some automatic setup and pricing profiles for creating rights managed stock. It’s not perfect by any means, but at least I can use it legally.
I’m really sorry that I had to switch away from Photoshelter, as I really liked the platform, but If I were to use it’s functions to sell images digitally, I would be breaking the law. I’m really surprised companies have been so dismissive of the importance of this. I’m sure that they have, or at least had, lots of European customers, and yet they don’t seem to care that their customers are potentially breaking the law by not providing the adequate tools to comply with the regulations.
Anyway, I’m happy for now. PhotoDeck actually has some nice features, including the ability to host and sell videos as downloads, so I look forward to trying that. You can see my new Stock Library on PhotoDeck now. It’s still a bit bare, but I’m adding images to it all the time.