A few of the photographers with images on Flickr are given the opportunity to place some of their images on gettyimages.com. One photographer recently approached by Getty asked if he should have any concerns about dealing with Getty Images or if there are things he should be aware of before agreeing. Here are some of my thoughts.
Getty represents images for Flickr photographers in two different ways.
1 – In some cases a customer finds an image on Flickr and wants to license rights to use it in a specific way. If the Flickr photographer has turned on the “Request to License” link on his Flickr page then the customer will contact Getty and Getty will handle the negotiations for the photographer.
Considering Option #1
In addition there are also cases where even if the “Request to License” link is not turned on the customer will contact Getty and ask them to handle negotiations. This has two advantages for the customer. First, they don’t have to deal with a photographer who is not experienced in licensing rights to images. Second, and often more important, because the customer purchases lots of images from Getty each year the company may have negotiated a volume discount deal with Getty. In this case, the customer may get a much lower price than he might have to pay if he were to deal with the Flickr photographer directly.
2 – Getty editors also find images on Flirkr that the company believes its customers might be interested in using. In such cases Getty will request the photographer's permission to post those images on gettyimages.com. There is no guarantee that these images will ever be licensed, but they will be available for easy search and viewing on gettyimages.com. If a customer decides to license one of these images then the fee will depend on how the image is used if it is being licensed as rights managed (RM). There are three different price levels for Flickr RM images on the Getty site – Flickr Select, Flickr Unreleased and Flickr.
If the image is licensed as royalty free (RF) the image will be priced based on the file size delivered to the customer. There are two Flickr RF collections – Flickr, and Flickr Open. The price for a Flickr image ranges from $10.00 to $500.00 and for a Flickr Open images $10.00 to $275.00. Keep in mind that these are the list prices on the Getty site, but Getty often discounts these prices.
– I would recommend that if Getty contacts you on behalf of a customer who has a specific use in mind you should not only ask the Getty salesman what the use is and what the customer is willing to pay, but no matter what the salesman says answer, “I need to think about it for a few minutes. I’ll call you back.”
Then go to gettyimages.com, search for an image of a subject similar to yours, open the preview and click on “View Pricing.” Step through the pricing template and determine Getty’s list prices for the type of use that is being requested. Based and what you find you may want to negotiate the sale directly. Keep in mind that whatever price Getty gets they will keep 60% (paying you 40%) if it is an RM image. They will keep 80% (paying you 20%) if the image is being licensed as RF. If you handle the sale directly you should ask for the list price you found on the Getty Images site. If you choose you can give the customer a deal on the price and still make more money than if Getty handles the sale.
Considering Option #2
– You need to recognize that if Getty chooses to represent an image and places it in its database you must agree to give them exclusive rights to license that image for 2 years. You can leave the image on Flickr and use it for your own personal purposes, but if someone comes along and wants to license it you must let Getty handle the negotiations and give them their share of the gross revenue. By virtue of accepting your image for marketing Getty also has exclusive rights, for that same period of time, to any image that is “substantially similar” to the image in their database. Thus, even if you have a different image from the same shoot that is similar you can’t license it to anyone during the 2 year period, or use it in any commercial manner.
While some stock agencies want exclusive rights, it should be recognized that this is not the case with all stock agencies. Today, many agencies only ask for non-exclusive rights to the images they represent. The simple fact is that the vast majority of customers don’t care about exclusive rights and are happy to purchase images on a non-exclusive basis. Getty wants exclusive rights on the outside chance that someone in that fraction of 1% of all customers will want to license exclusive rights to the image. It may not be in your best interest to grant exclusive rights with no guarantee of compensation whatsoever.
One of the biggest problems with Getty is that they offer deep discounts from their list prices on a significant percentage of the images they license. For the individual photographer who happens to be lucky enough to have his image licensed by Getty for full price the royalty can be attractive. But, more often than not the photographers image will be part of a discount package and the compensation is likely to be very minimal. Often even the inexperienced photographer can get more by dealing directly with the customer. Getty is interested in maximizing their volume of images licensed and doing everything they can to keep customers from going to their competitors. This is not always in the best interests of individual photographers.
Getty licenses rights to more images than any other company in the world. There is a chance they may license rights to one of your images for very significant money. However, recently I talked to one of Getty’s “image partners” (smaller agencies whose images Getty represents). This “image partner” has lots of images on the site and Getty licenses rights to lots of their images every month. In the month in question the royalty paid for one-third of the RM images licensed was less than $2.00 per-image due to discounting.