374 ANALYSIS OF GETTY CONTRACT OUTLINE
February 1, 2001
On the surface Getty's outline of a new contract looks like a substantial improvement
over existing contracts, but it may not be time just yet for photographers to run to
First, remember that last summer Corbis sent out a summary of their contract that
looked good. Once photographers got a chance to look at the actual language it
wasn't all that was expected.
It appears that Getty is trying to improve its relations with photographers. But, it
is still advisable for photographers to get together and jointly hire a good lawyer
to review the new contract before they sign anything.
Some of the features to consider:
Getty is offering a uniform contract across all brands. This is a major step
in the right direction. However, each photographer is still going to be attached to
a brand. Why is that necessary if the contracts are the same for all brands, and if
photographer's submissions will now be edited based on the most appropriate brand?
It doesn't seem to make sense.
I asked Getty public relations this question and they said they didn't want to
discuss issues like this until after the contract comes out.
North America is a single territory for all North American photographers. This
is great for TIB photographers. It is even a slight improvement for Stone and VCG
photographers because Canada and Mexico are thrown into the territory, not just the
European photographers continue to get the shaft. If a photographer lives in the UK,
France, Germany, etc. he gets 40% or 50% of the sale in his home country and 30%
everywhere else. Chances are those home country sales are going to, at best, 15% of
total sales for any European photographer. He gets only 30% of the sales everywhere
else while the American get the higher percentage on probably better than 50% of all
I asked Getty public relations the following: "It seems to me that while the U.S.
photographers get a pretty good deal, the losers are the photographers from other
countries. They get 40% for sales in their country, but only 30% for sales in
biggest market (North America), and all other countries but their own. It seems that
there is a dis-incentive for them to participate. Do figures show that European
photographers actually make more sales in their home country than in the U.S.? I
doubt it, but I would be happy to publish such figures if you can provide them. Was
making the European Union a "home country" considered? That way photographers in
Germany, France and the UK would get 40% for any sales in the EU and it would put
them on a more even keel with North American photographers."
This was another question they didn't want to answer. Every European photographer
ought to be sending a letter to Anthony Harris asking, "Why Not?" on this issue.
I did get a clear definition as to how they define the difference between
digital and analog sales. A sale is digital or analog based solely on how the images
is delivered. It makes absolutely no difference if the customer does the search on
line and finds the image online. If the customer requests film then it is an analog
There is another little quirk to analog sales that I found interesting. If the
customer requests that a file be written to a CD-ROM and shipped in some manner,
rather than transmitting it on-line, that is also an analog sale. The distinction
they use is if any "hard copy" is distributed it is analog.
This raises several interesting points. Digital and e-commerce are two very
different things. Photographers need to understand the
distinction because they are being paid based on whether the sale is digital, not how
the payment is made. While Getty won't give us figures, I believe that a very small
percentage of Right Protected sales, even in the U.S., are automatically priced and
paid for online. Most are negotiated, billed in the traditional manner, and the
agency still has all the hassle of pursuing collection. The customers are using the
online catalog for search, but all the rest of the transaction is still handled in
the traditional way and that is likely to continue for sometime.
Secondly, Getty pays the highest percentage for those sales where they have the most
work, and they get to keep more money when they do less work (on a sale that is
digitally delivered.) This makes no sense. It should be the other way around. If
they do less work they should get less money. If they can afford to pay 50% for
analog delivery, it would seem that they should be able to pay at least that much, if
not more when they do a digital delivery.
Of course, Getty is trying to set a precedent with the 40% because they hope that
eventually there will be more sales where the files are digitally delivered. Then
they will be positioned to get to keep more money. The major point, as I see it, is
that there is very little logic for the pricing structure as it has been outlined.
The new environment has dictated a major change in the way the business is
structured. That should extend itself fully to the matter of royalty rates. There
is no magic to the old percentages when Getty is operating in a totally new system,
and when they are no longer going to maintain analog files of non-scanned, or
non-catalog images, as we have known them in the past. Now is the time to totally
review the royalty structure. Some U.S. photographers are asking why Getty is only
offering 40% when Corbis is offering 45%. The simple fact is that there may not be a
valid justification for either of these percentages. Now would appear to be the time
to fight that battle, rather than accepting their offer for two or four years with
the hope that when it comes time to renew the contract Getty will be more
The new contracts will be image-exclusive. Sounds like a good thing, but watch
the "similars" clause. Depending on how they define similars they can lock up
everything you shoot.
There will be "capped catalog fees," but at what level. Will they be
ridiculously high as some of the recent catalog charges have been? This also doesn't
deal with the kind of images they are going to pick for the catalogs. They want the
very edgy stuff to try to convince art directors that Getty has "the most creative"
photographer, even if this kind of imagery is not what art directors tend to buy for
their client projects. There are two separate and distinct steps to the buying
process. One is to get the art director to look at your brand. The second is the
specific product they buy. In our industry the producers only get paid when their
specific product sells. It does the individual no good to pay extra to advertise and
promote the products of someone else.
Are the photographers who pay for the ad space getting a good return on sales, or are
the images that are selling best the more solid "bread and butter" images that will
never be accepted in a print catalog in the new environment? If Getty is going to
produce "hearts and minds" catalogs rather that catalogs designed to sell specific
images then the costs should either be paid totally by Getty, or shared equally,
based on each individual's share of total sales. The way to make it equal is to
adjust the percentage (but that may already have happened) so each photographer is
contributing to advertising in proportion to the gross income the photographer
receives rather than charging fees for images used in "hearts and minds" advertising.
There will be no deadline for signing this new contract --
But. Getty has a new marketing strategy of special interest catalogs that they want
to get moving. They have had images edited for some of these catalogs for over six
months. They want to put them out, but only if they can do it at a different royalty
rate. (This is probably one reason why there will be addendums to the contracts.)
The photographer's whose images have been selected will be pressured to sign
contracts quickly because Getty will not put images from any photographer into these
products unless the photographer has signed the new contract.
Percentages again. The way the structure is described it seems to me that
Getty is going to be paying TIB and European VCG photographers MORE than they have
paid them in the past -- and maybe even FPG photographers. If true, that is a
message I would think they would want to get across to photographers. So I asked the
"The way I read the proposal, I think there is a significant cost to Getty and
corresponding improvement in the overall monies paid out to photographers. Many
photographers (particularly FPG) are interpreting the proposal to mean that Getty is
taking more money out of their pockets. Based on the sales for the various brands in
4th Quarter 2000, what was the average percentage paid out to the photographers of
each brand? Then using these same 4th Quarter numbers what would be the average
increase (or decrease) in percentage of gross sales paid out to photographers if the
new percentage arrangement were in effect? (Gross sales must be the gross paid by
the customer when the sale is made through a wholly owned office and the amount
received by Getty when the sale is made by a separate company acting as a
They refused to answer this question. That makes me think there is something I'm
Payment policies. Getty makes a big thing about faster payment and improved
debt risk with the new contract, but many Stone photographers in the G40 group (a
group of photographers who jointly hired a lawyer to help them negotiate the last
Stone contract) claim that Getty isn't living up to the terms in the existing
contracts. I haven't seen the specifics on this, but it is something to check out
before rushing to sign any new deal.
In summary, it seems to me that most photographers will need professional advice
before signing this new contract. It is time to find a good attorney. Joint action
is probably better than doing this individually because it reduces everyone's
individual costs. The gArtists group has already made some major steps in this
direction. This forum is private for photographers currently on contract with Stone,
TIB, or VCG/FPG. You can learn more about joining this forum by sending a message