Business - Stock Photos, and Getty Images

April 05, 2013  •  Leave a Comment

Getty Images Controversy

There's a lot of discussion and commotion in the Photography world, surrounding the recent practices of some Stock photo website, including Getty Images. Nasty Comments, from both sides, like 'extortion' 'bullying' and copyright infringement are tossed back and forth. What's not in dispute, is that the recent Demand Letters and eMails arriving in many photographers' mail boxes are causing concern with regard to their rights. Photographers are receiving letters from a company connected to Gettty Images and demanding high license fees, settlement agreements, etc. 

Google recently announced a licensing deal with Getty Images for use on Google Drive. The deal provides users of Google Drive with commercial free images for use on the users documents, spreadsheets and presentations. Photographers are getting a one time payment of $12. That works out to micropennies in some instances. Credit, meta data and copyright info is stripped. The photographer is getting screwed. Here's more about it: http://www.1001noisycameras.com/2013/01/controversy-google-signs-deal-with-getty-images-for-google-drives-but-photographers-get-micropennies.html

 

Here's a summary of some of the issues from Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Getty_Images#Controversial_practices_to_enforce_copyright

Here's a letter from Thomas Hawk on Why He Quit Getty:  Thomas Hawk: Dear Getty Images: I quit.

http://www.petapixel.com/2013/03/25/why-im-ditching-getty-images-in-favor-of-stocksy-for-my-stock-photo-sales/

 

Stock and Microstock Agencies

OK, we get it! There's a controversy going on... but to understand this, perhaps a small primer on Traditional Photo Agencies and Microstock Agencies.

Traditional Stock Photo Agencies

Large photo agencies, like Getty Images, are traditional stock photography agencies. Most of the photographs for sale are owned or at least licensed by Getty exclusively, and shot by professional, full time photographers. Licenses for many of these photos are in the thousands of dollars, for use. As a photographer, it is unlikely that you will get to this level. There are just too many impediments, and too many people in the pool trying. However, there are great alternatives.

Microstock Photo Agencies

Microstock agencies address some of the biggest problems with licensing from Getty and their cousins: Cost. As a photographer, it is fairly easy to get your images onto a microstock agency. Companies like iStockphoto (before it was bought up by Getty) and Dreamstime, are examples of Microstock agencies. Photographers submit images, whcih are inspected for copyright, license and of course quality of the image, before they are accepted. They do not need to submit large portfolios; photogrpahers can submit one image or a few at a time. Images at Microstock agencies can be licensed for a couple of hundred dollars or go for as little as $1 for a lower resolution and one time usage. In most cases, you as the photographer still owns the image at a microstock agency. The agency is merely acting as your agent in negotiating your fee. They typically negotiate and take a percentage from you. You still own the photo. 

 

Think of Apple

Like Apple, and iTunes in the music industry, microstock is causing a distruption in the distribution model for images. Typically, large music publishers controlled the industry. They paid a fee to sign musicians and controlled how and what a musician produced (albums). Royalty Fees were paid, but a lot of money never made it to the musician. Along comes iTunes and now, it's possbile for a musician (or for books), an author to create content and retain 70% of the money earned, with Apple taking a fee for selling, distributing and managing sales. 

Microstock Agencies negotiate fees and the percentage a photographer gets is typically a larger percent than Traditional photo agencies. Sure, the total amount paid is much smaller, since photos are licensed for much less, but many more photographers, and now clients, can license images at more reasonable rates, without clients resorting to pirating images. Democratization of images. Photographers can control more of their business, and ownership of images.

The problem, for some photographers, is that they feel microstock devalues the images  that were at a tier below traditional, say in the "mid stock level agencies" priced between micro and traditional. And, some say, the model of microstock agency is unsustainable in the long run. Still, many more photographers are making money, and that has to be a good thing.

Bright Light on Horizon!

There's a solution out there brewing as well. Keep your eyes on a new company called Stocksy founded by none other than Bruce Livingstone, of iStockphoto fame!. This new agency is a photographer owned co-op. It's in Beta, and photographers cannot get images into it yet. We'll see, but all signs point to a pretty good model, with sustainable pricing, and no large corporation to take control of your photos.  Check out Stocksy here:  http://www.stocksy.com

More Business Issues from the Bluefin Blog

Copyright Issues http://www.bluefinstudios.com/blog/2013/4/business---copyright

Photographers Rights  http://www.bluefinstudios.com/blog/2013/3/photographers-rights


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