385 CORBIS SUBSCRIPTION PRICING
March 17, 2001
Corbis plans to introduce subscription pricing later this spring. Their entire 30,000
image royalty free library will be available on a subscription basis and customers
will have access to the full 50MB files for any use whatsoever. There are no plans at
this time to use this type of pricing for any of the images in the licensed
They have joined with WAM!NET, a leading provider of information technology and
digital content management services, to offer images on a subscription basis to
corporations, publishers, advertising agencies and other creative professionals.
Corbis's images will be stored within WAM!NET's centralized, off-site storage service
for digital assets, WAM!BASE, and accessible through either the Internet or customer
premise equipment-based connection to WAM!NETœs secure IP network.
Pricing has not been finalized, but Corbis says they will be about the same as what
customers would pay if they were to purchase the full library on CD. The customer
advantages are that they will be able to pay a small monthly fee, rather than one
large lump sum; they get access to an easily searchable database and they will receive
Corbis provided the following example as an aid to understanding their pricing
Currently, if a customer were to purchase the entire Corbis Royalty-Free CD
library for 15 users that would be a $100K purchase, and Corbis would deliver the
content on CD.
With the WAM!NET service the customerœs monthly payment will be based on a percentage
of the total cost of what they have licensed. Using the $100K example above, the
customer would pay a monthly fee for a year that would add up to a total of 80-90
percent of total normal cost of CD's. The discount is an incentive to buy in. The
online nature of Wam!Net saves Corbis the cost of producing the CDs, so it is about a
The 90 percent rate would mean a payment of $7,500 per month for 12 months. This is a
much more palatable cost than a big chunk like $100K all at once. For further client
commitments of a second and third year, a further discount would be offered as an
incentive for long-term use and payment. Content will be regularly refreshed.
It is conceivable that Corbis could earn more from these images, if they maintain the
prices described above, than by selling CD's. Once they get into a second year with a
customer that customer is paying more than if they had bought the discs outright and
received all rights, forever, to the images on the disc. Large users may be willing to
go along with this for the added convenience the online system offers, even though it
costs them more in the end.
There will undoubtedly be pressure from customers to lower the monthly fee so they
don't really pay the full cost of discs until 24 months, or longer. After all, if they
purchase the disc and upload it to their in-house system they get unlimited rights
It may be difficult for photographers, or other sellers, to determine what the actual
prices are for these usages because each deal is likely to be individually negotiated
depending on the number of users within the company, and the type of use. Everyone in
the industry should try to keep a very close watch on how these prices eventually
develop. This pricing model could have a major impact on the ease of acquiring content
and the prices large users are willing to pay for other types of content.
Look for other Royalty Free producers to join WAM!NET, if the Corbis deal is not
exclusive, or to offer similar deals, with access to even a greater number of images,
through other online suppliers.
Corbis says customers with narrow interests will also be able to subscribe to sections
of the file. For example some customers may only be interested in "business,"
"family," "entertainment" or "nature and wildlife." Corbis has not defined what the
section breakdowns might be. A lot of this may be left to individual negotiations
with each user.
Photographers will be compensated in the same way they have up to now in terms of disc
sales. They will receive a fee proportional to their total image share of the customer
buy. This could produce some very strange numbers. Photographers may not be given any
idea of how long each subscription is scheduled to run.
It is hard to see how this "subscription" model could be extended to the Rights
Protected images unless the price is based on a certain fixed number of uses, with
possibly a discount for certain guaranteed volume. In any event, it gets much more
complicated when the price is based on use and individual uses must be recorded.