If a textbook customer finds an image in the Creative RM section of Getty Images and wants to use it inside a book, he can get nonexclusive use of the image for $290 for seven years, regardless of the size used (1/8 page or spread) and regardless of the circulation (1,000 or 1,000,000 copies). If he finds an image on the Editorial section of the site, he gets the use for $227 with the same conditions.
These prices are not Rights Ready, although they look like such an offering. They are prices for the use of RM images.
If that same customer goes to Corbis, he can get five-year use of a picture, 1/4 of a page with a 1,000 circulation for $175. But if he wants to use the same picture over 2 pages for 10 years and produce 1 million copies of the book, the price will be $1,300.
At Alamy, it is $80 for the smallest use and $770 for a 2 page spread for 10 years with 1,000,000 circulation in North America. Does anyone wonder why Alamy makes so many editorial sales? But are their prices too low, given that Corbis makes a lot of editorial sales also?
The significant point is that both Corbis and Alamy adjust their prices based on how large the image will be used on the page and circulation. This makes sense to book publishers because that is the way they have priced usage for decades. Yes, publishers want to be able to print an image in more copies than originally anticipated, and include electronic uses, which Alamy offers for an additional 50% and is included in Corbis' price. But is it necessary to give larger uses away?
The interesting thing about Getty's strategy is that it is designed to chase customers away. A huge percentage of textbook buyers are using images at 1/4 page size and with relatively small press runs. These people cannot afford to pay $290, or even $227, for many of the images. At the other end of the spectrum, buyers who plan to use images as chapter openers, or print 1 million copies would gladly use an image from Getty rather than Corbis or Alamy because they would get the image for much less than at these other agencies.
The vast majority of all textbook uses are for 1/4 page sizes, which Getty has chosen to overcharge for. For the larger uses, Getty has chosen to leave a whole lot of money on the table.
On the other hand, I suspect Getty's online pricing really has very little to do with what they are charging most textbook customers. I suspect, but cannot confirm, that Getty is negotiating separate volume deals with the major publishers, and these deals might take into account circulation and size of use. However, given their online strategy, it seems more likely that Getty offers some average number for all images downloaded, regardless of size of usage or circulation. It is hard to see how it could charge a publisher more than $290 for any usage when the publisher doesn't need a bulk subscription price for larger circulation projects and can meet the $290 online price.
Taking all these things into consideration, it is hard to imagine that the resulting payments to Getty photographers are fair to those whose images are used big, and in large circulation projects. It is easy to imagine that those whose images are used very minimally are getting more than they deserve.