Does Elimination of Foreign Office Fees Benefit Corbis Photographers?

Posted on 11/9/2010 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Skeptical photographers are struggling to understand whether Corbis’ new Contributor Gateway and the elimination of foreign office fees will actually benefit them. 

Many have focused on the royalty reduction from 40% to 37.5%. In order to participate in the Gateway, contributors must sign a new contract with Corbis and agree to this lower royalty rate. However, the 35% foreign sales office fee that is currently being deducted from sales made by any office outside the contributor’s home territory will be eliminated.

The 37.5% will be calculated on gross sales made by the 11 Corbis wholly owned offices around the world. Corbis offices are grouped into 5 territories – U.S.A., U.K., France, Germany and Hong Kong. Under the current system, a contributor had to choose a home territory, but the new agreement makes the whole world one territory.

Notably, approximately 50% of Corbis sales come from sales made in North America, 33% from wholly owned offices located outside North America, and 17% from international distributors who will still deduct a percentage of the sale before submitting the remainder to Corbis.

Thus, while contributors will lose some money on sales made in their old home territories, they will earn a significantly larger share on all sales made through offices outside those home territories. Photographers can easily determine if they are likely to benefit from the new contract by analyzing their sales reports for the past year and determining the percentage of gross revenue that came from sales made through all of the four territories that are not their home territory. If more than 18% of revenue comes from territories other than home, a Corbis photographer will make more money at a 37.5% royalty on all wholly owned sales than they would earn receiving 40% under their existing contracts.

Don Wieshlow, senior vice president of production at Corbis, estimates that 95% of contributors will see a net increase on the real money they will be receiving.

Exclusive, co-exclusive, non-exclusive 

Another important change in the new contract is that Corbis will no longer require that all submitted images be exclusive to Corbis. Under the new contracts contributors will have the option of submitting images on a co-exclusive or non-exclusive basis. Contributors can make these choices on an image-by-image basis as they are submitted. The new “standard percentages” are as follows: 


  • 37.5% if Corbis represents the images exclusively.
  • 35% for a co-exclusive giving the photographer the right to sell the images through his own Web site.
  • 30% for a non-exclusive, allowing the photographer to sell the same image through multiple other sites and agencies.


  • 20% if Corbis represents the images exclusively.
  • 15% for a co-exclusive giving the photographer the right to sell the images through his own Web site.
  • 10% for a non-exclusive, allowing the photographer to sell the same image through multiple other sites and agencies. But, the photographer may not make the images available through any microstock site. 

Wieshlow noted that in addition to the higher percentages exclusive contributors will receive there are other benefits like the anti-piracy efforts the company makes for its exclusive content. But he also pointed out that, “We are giving contributors more control over their assets going forward and giving them ways to potentially earn more money by having non-exclusive content represented on more sites. We feel that is a positive for contributors and something that has not typically been available in the traditional stock industry. We’re hoping that our guys will see advantages to both and provide both and do it in a way that can maximize their earnings.” 

A few particularly productive photographers with contracts that provide them with a higher percentage royalty than 40% have expressed concern about the huge drop to 37.5%. Wieshlow said, “40% is the standard rate. But, if someone is currently earning 45%, or some other rate, instead of the 40% standard rate they will see an adjustment down, but it won’t necessarily go all the way to 37.5%.” The new rates will be negotiable just as the higher rates were negotiable in the past. “If someone has been earning 45% and he decides that he wants a non-exclusive arrangement for future work his rate for the non-exclusive will drop, but not to 30%.”

Some photographers are concerned that they may be forced to accept the new contract before their existing contract expires. Wieshlow said, “We are rolling this out to people when their contracts come up for renewal. The vast majority of contracts are due to renew within a couple years, but if someone has a longer contract we will honor those terms.

However, once contributors understand that one agreement allows them to submit photography, motion, illustration, rights-managed, royalty-free, commercial and editorial all through one submission tool we anticipate that most people will approach us asking to go on the new contract and the Contributor Gateway early. Those who join the Contributor Gateway will also benefit from shoot lists and trend information available on the new portal and get their images working quicker. Early feedback is that people want to get on as soon as they can.”

“We will start the re-contracting in the next couple of weeks. Even photographers who are not submitting much new work can benefit from this new contract because they will get a higher percentage on all sales made outside their home territory,” he continued.

Extra work

Some photographers are not happy that they will have to do keywording on the Gateway.

Sven Kroencke, Director, Production Management, said “most contributors are already providing keyword recommendations with their image files. We can extract those keywords using our tools. They help a lot. Contributors understand the concept they were trying to shoot if the images are commercial, or if they are editorial the who, what and where and those kinds of details. By using the Gateway’s keywording tool contributors get exposed to relevant terms and other shortcuts and benefits so they can apply their keywords more effectively. By doing that it allows the content to get through our system a lot more quickly than it would if we have to manually keyword and the images have to fight its way through that queue. This allows us to get the content live to site much more quickly. 

“The beauty of the new system is that it is connected to the controlled vocabulary so the suggestions that will be made when the first keyword is entered are so much more relevant. This is an intuitive thing and gives us more and better keywords than if the guy were to sit in front of a computer and think about potential keywords that fit. It does not have to take more time. Over time it may actually save time because the contributor is able to batch content and use the same keyword sets and model and property release for many images. Beta testers in multiple countries have been pleased and thrilled with how intuitive the tool is.”

Taking less

Don Wieshlow, SVP of Production at Corbis, points out that, “we take a big hit when we eliminate foreign office fees. Corbis will be paying out several million dollars more in royalties each year through these changes. We reduce that hit somewhat by adjusting the rates down.”

I pointed out that it is hard for photographers to understand why Corbis would be willing to take less and pay out to photographers a larger share of revenue generated in these difficult economic times. This is something that has not happened in the industry. Somehow, it never seems to happen. Certainly, that is one of the reasons for the skepticism. Agencies always seem to end up taking more.

Wieshlow said, “What we’re doing is really streamlining our systems, our back end processes and our administration. By the time we are done with this we have a vastly simpler system to work with and rather than concentrating on administration and supporting the system we can concentrate on building new features and tools and finding new monetization opportunities for our talent. By having much cleaner, more efficient and simple tools, both internally and externally, our intention is that we won’t have to spend as much money in the future on administration.

“That will allow us to spend more dollars on marketing, contributor support and contributor acquisition. We think this system will clean up 20 years worth of contracts and back end processes that were attached onto each other and allow us to operate much more efficiently, effectively and quickly without having to invest in the systems support technologist and administrators that we have had to in the past.

“In some cases we are involving the contributors in more steps. We’re making it attractive for contributors to become part of this new effective system. We want to attract the best talent and the best content in the world. By doing that we will put ourselves in a position where we can steal more market share. We’re bullish on the future of this industry. We feel there is always a need for high quality content and there will always be customers out there that are willing to pay for high quality content. That market is differentiated from the high volume, low cost market. We’re willing to continue to invest in making Corbis a good place to sign on with and the best place to put your best images. That’s why we’re willing to put some money back out to the contributors as an investment in the future.”

Copyright © Jim Pickerell. 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

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff