Freelancing in the Internet Age

Posted on 5/9/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



May 9, 2000

The Steering Committee of Boston Globe Freelancers' Association recently prepared

the following background information for freelancers as they attempt to develop

new strategies to price their services in the Internet Age. (See companion Stories

301 and

302 .)

Freelancing in the Age of the Internet

Questions and Visions

To successfully negotiate with clients, freelancers must understand - or

envision - the impact which the internet will have on editorial publishing and

their careers.

To obtain a glimpse into this 'e-future', we consulted with five individuals

around the United States. They are Alan Carey, co-owner of The Image Works, a

stock photo agency; Greg Mironchuck, freelance photographer and owner of Picture

Desk International; Jim Pickerell, a stock photo researcher and author of the

book, Negotiating Stock Photo Prices ; Seth Resnick, freelance photographer

and president of Editorial Photographers; and Richard Weisgrau, executive

director of the American Society of Media Photographers.

They were presented with the following question: As the future unfolds, by

what new means will freelancers profit from their work? Most of their replies -

and visions - expressed a common theme: There will be

profits earned from the sale of editorial archives .

A Primer

What are ancillary rights?

Ancillary rights are permissions granted by the creators of intellectual

property for others to utilize their materials, usually after a first

publication. In most instances, these creators - freelance writers, photographers,

or anyone who possesses a copyright - will license these rights for a fee.

How come freelancers get paid for additional rights?

Copyright law permits them to license ancillary rights. This boosts their

incomes, which is especially important to editorial freelancers. They are usually

paid a lower remuneration for assignments than their peers who handle work for

commercial clients. In a sense, it allows them to catch up.

Why are editorial freelancers paid less for assignments?

To use a photography example: An advertising photographer will receive a

handsome remuneration for a days work. He images might be seen repeatedly on

billboards and in print advertisements. A newspaper or magazine photographer is

taking a photo which will be published only once. Publishers of newspapers and

magazines will not pay commercial rates for images that will be published once.

In return, they understand that the work may be licensed again by the person who

owns the copyright.

The Internet

If a newspaper or magazine publishes a freelancer's work on their web site, is

this considered an additional use?

Yes, the courts in the United States have determined that web publication

represents an additional use.

How does a freelancer determine a fair compensation for web use?

He (or his peers) must negotiate with a publisher. In order to negotiate

successfully, he must understand the ways in which the publisher intends to use

his materials on the internet. Granting a publisher œinclusiveœ web rights may or

may not be in a freelancerœs best interest. It depends upon the remuneration he

receives. This question will be answered in greater detail on another page.

How will publishers profit from the internet?

  • 1. They will post stories and photos on the web versions of their daily

    newspapers. Advertisers will (and currently do) pay additional fees for space in

    these web versions.

  • 2. Publishers will transmit syndicated stories and photographs of topical

    information to other media.

  • 3. Publishers or their affiliates will sell photographs to other media, in

    essence becoming a stock agency.

  • 4. Publishers will rent the editorial materials in their web archives to

    clients all over the world.

    Why are editorial archives valuable? Aren't they just 'old news?'

    Researchers have traditionally sought archived articles by referring to

    periodical guides, browsing among library stacks, and combing through microfiche.

    This process was time consuming and cumbersome.

    Today and in the future, internet search engines and keywording will enable

    researchers - often representing other media - to access published articles from all

    over the world. As the internet matures, media entities will be purchasing the

    rights to republish each otherœs articles. This development will represent

    additional means of income for freelancers and publishers.

    Describe a scenario by which an archive will be rented?

    To paraphrase Jim Pickerell:

    When a college professor develops reading material for his class, he can

    inform a text book publisher of his lesson plans for the semester. The textbook

    publisher can then provide the professor with a custom package of academic

    materials germane to his class.

    Some of these materials will come from the text book company's data base.

    Other materials can be searched and found on the archives of internet web sites.

    For example, a six month old report from the Academy of Sciences web site might

    be included in this package. Another contribution could be a one year old science

    article, including the photos that accompany it, gleaned from the archives of a

    newspaper's web site.

    The text book publisher will package these materials and sell them for about

    the cost of a major textbook. The newspaper and the freelancer who wrote the

    story will receive ancillary fees for this transaction.

    Where on the internet can I view an editorial web link?

    Visit the web site of This encyclopedia is resplendent with

    web links to editorial articles at other web sites.

    Besides text books and encyclopedias, what other kinds of media will purchase

    access to editorial archives?

    The possibilities are varied. Magazines will rent archives from newspapers,

    and newspapers will rent archives from magazines. Some end users will be

    independent editorial web sites renting content from the traditional large

    content providers. Or vice versa.

    But on the internet, will there really be end users? What if the end users

    sell their archives?

    In summary, archived editorial materials, including those of any newspaper,

    will be rented to media throughout the world. These transactions may occur long

    after these articles and photos were first published. This will happen more often

    as the internet matures.

    Savvy freelancers who control and license the means by which their work is

    passed around will boost their incomes.

    But who in the world is going to rent an archived newspaper story about pot

    holes on the streets of a suburban town?

    Chances are, this story would have little residual value. But what about a

    story and photos from a newspaperœs local section describing mosquito control

    efforts in the marshes of a river? Months after this story is archived, other

    media, perhaps an elementary school text book, might decide to publish it as a side

    bar to a story about insects. The re-sale possibilities are endless thanks to the


    How can a freelancer bill for the inclusion of his materials in a publisher's

    web site, and later, in the publisher's digital archives?

    Here are some examples:

      According to Seth Resnick, if a publisher wishes to place a photo of his on

      a web site for a short duration, he charges an additional 35% above the fee paid

      for the assignment. If a publisher wishes to permanently include the image in its editorial

      archives, Seth charges 100% above the assignment fee. He writes that some

      photographers and agencies are charging ten times the amount of the original


      Time Magazine offers freelance photographers an option: For an additional

      payment of $100.00 per shoot, a freelancer will permit the magazine to publish

      the photos on the internet with some restrictions.

      Business Week Magazine has doubled their day rate in exchange for inclusive

      web rights. Their new rate is $850.00 per shoot plus expenses.

    Does this mean the publisher keeps the future profits whenever other media

    access the archives?

    Seth Resnick replies: "This is a possibility and this is the reason I like

    to restrict the times on contracts. The rates must be commensurate with the use.

    Unlimited time as in archiving is tough to put an actual price on but is should

    be at least 100 percent."

    By what other means can a freelancer profit from the internet?

    Freelancers can sell materials to a new kind of publication - editorial web

    sites which have no affiliation to print publications. As examples, Greg

    Mironchuck cites, Planet Out, Lifewise,, Mosiac, Belief Net,

    and Microsoft News. One reason these publications are flourishing is their low

    overhead. There are not paying the costs of paper and printing plants.

    He wrote: "All they have to do is buy content and hire a few editors to

    spruce it up."

    Here is another scenario: Freelancers with shared specialties might band

    together and create editorial archives related to similar topics. Editors

    worldwide will visit these archives when they need materials related to those

    specialties. These freelancers will license a web link to a particular article or

    photo. Or they will license to buyers the rights to publish these materials in

    print or directly on web sites.

    On a solo basis, freelancers will sell their archives from their own web

    sites. Some photographers are already doing this.

    What are some other ways by which a freelancer can profit from the


    Commercial web links represent a means of substantial profits.

    What is a commercial web link?

    It is a hyper link between a company's web site and the archives of an

    editorial publication. For example, when a newspaper publishes a laudatory

    article about a company, the marketing and public relations representatives of

    the company will endeavor to utilize this article for advertising and publicity.

    Accordingly, the company will create a link - the click of a mouse - which sends the

    visitors to their web site over to the web site of the newspaper, specifically,

    to the electronic archives of the newspaper. The visitor will immediately enter a

    custom page which presents the story and photos about the company. The newspaper

    will charge a fee for this access to their archives. A freelancer will negotiate

    another fee to this company.

    But will a company pay twice - to a newspaper and a freelancer?

    Absolutely. The Boston Globe recently charged a company for two ancillary

    uses of an archived article written by a staff writer and illustrated by a

    freelance photographer. They charged one fee for the rights to reproduce one

    thousand stand alone reprints (paper copi es of the story) and a second fee for a

    commercial web link to the article in the archives of The

    freelance photographer who took the photos for this story charged the company an

    additional ancillary fee - a third fee - to include his photos in the paper reprints.

    It was a win-win-win situation for each party - the newspaper, the freelancer, and

    the company.

    Public relations firms and their clients recognize the value of positive

    editorial coverage. They will pay high fees to utilize these reprints. Remember,

    this is advertising usage, not editorial.

    What's the downside to these visions of the future?

    1. There could be fewer assignments for freelancers if publishers place a

    greater proportion of archived materials - gleaned from other media - on their pages.

    2. If a freelancer decides to sell his work by himself, or place his work

    into an agency like the Copyright Clearance Center, the value of the work may

    diminish because the same work is also being sold from the editorial archives of

    the publishers that first assigned these works. To paraphrase Alan Carey: "By

    having many people distributing the same materials, they become a cheap

    commodity. The ability to get real value from them is diminished." He suggests

    that freelancers should grant their clients limited electronic rights, not


    3. Publishers may seek to impose contracts which limit or prevent

    freelancers from sharing ancillary profits. The upside for publishers is a higher

    profit margin on the sale of residual rights. The downside for them is a

    possible drop of editorial quality. Some freelancers will not accept these

    contracts and will move on to other clients,

    taking their talents with them. In an era of declining newspaper circulations,

    publishers must consider the

    risk to the quality of their content - and related advertising revenues - in their

    efforts to secure ancillary rights from freelancers.


    Alan Carey states: "Publishers view the internet based future as a pot of


    Here's another way of stating it: "To freelancers, the internet is not a pot

    of gold, it is a vein of gold. Editorial archives are the vein, hidden from view

    and waiting to be tapped. As the internet matures, those freelancers who are

    compensated for the re-use of their materials in these archives are likely to

    reap the financial rewards."

  • Copyright © 2000 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 301-251-0720, 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:  


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