BAPLA Elects New Board, Comes Under Fire for 'BAPLA Academy'

Posted on 10/29/2009 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

At this week’s annual meeting, the British Association of Picture Libraries and Agencies elected several new members to its board. It also announced a new business endeavor, which is not meeting with the approval of at least one BAPLA member company: Wales paid-membership stock Web site fotoLibra says the forthcoming BAPLA Academy is a rip-off of the fotoLibra business model and will be its direct competitor.

The BAPLA board re-elected nine members, including chairman Paul Brown of the Mary Evans Picture Library. Three new members joining the board for 2009–2010 are Alison Crombie of Getty Images, Mike Markiewicz of ArenaPAL and Mary Egan of Press Association Images.

“This is an extremely exciting time for BAPLA as we attempt to lead the industry through some very challenging times,” said Brown in a statement. BAPLA executive director Simon Cliffe added that the organization had some exciting and radical plans to unveil to its membership.

Cliffe presented one such plan at the annual meeting: the BAPLA Academy, a public membership offering that targets photo students, 24- to 64-year-old amateur shooters and 65+ enthusiasts. The Academy will offer skill building through podcasts, seminars and newsletters; it will also allow members to upload images for sale to the general public—as prints, mugs and t-shirts.

Gwyn Headley of fotoLibra, a 7-year-old niche business with five employees and a loyal following, wrote on the corporate blog: “The [BAPLA Academy] idea is that photographers pay an annual fee and get to upload their images to the BAPLA Web site where they can be viewed and made available for ‘non-commercial sales’ (a wonderful oxymoron on par with ‘business ethics’ or ‘military intelligence’). I stared slack-jawed in amazement at the screen as [Cliffe] blithely described the business plan of fotoLibra—except we provide commercial sales; our members make money from their photographs.”

Headley, whose blog entry is professional and even understanding, writes that BAPLA has lost some 50 members over the past two years and thus needs to improve its cash flow. Still, he says that the BAPLA Academy will be directly competing with fotoLibra for subscriptions of the same photographers: “the same graduates, keen amateurs, semi-pros, wedding and studio photographers we work hard to attract, encourage and foster.” Headley also feels that BAPLA, whose link is prominently displayed on every page, has forgotten about its member-company’s existence, as evidenced by not consulting fotoLibra prior to announcing its plans for the Academy.

Others feel that the conflict of interest extends beyond targeting the same subscriber market. Essex photographer Peter Bolton comments: “Sounds like BAPLA have some sort of identity crisis. What do they want to be—a representational body for photo libraries and agencies or a photo library? In my book, they can’t be both!”

Cliffe joined the dialogue and endeavored to offer assurances: “We WILL NOT be representing these [new] members. We will NOT be licensing their images beyond giving them the platform to sell their images as prints etc. We are NOT planning to go in direct competition with fotoLibra and under no circumstances would we ever claim, pretend or pitch to be a photographic library of any sorts.”  (Original emphasis.)

Cliffe also said BAPLA has not “ripped off” any ideas and is approaching the Academy project with entirely different objectives. Such objectives improving BAPLA’s visibility, finding new ways to broaden the organization’s copyright-education program, encouraging a new generation of entrants into the industry and generating revenue. “But it’s absolutely NOT just about extra income. It’s about finding smart ways to build the BAPLA profile and engage with new people. It’s the first project we’re launching because it was the first one we got ready,” he said.

According to Cliffe, he and Headley will meet shortly to discuss the situation in more detail.

Copyright © 2009 Julia Dudnik Stern. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz


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