Getting "Fair" Compensation from Publishers

Posted on 5/20/1998 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



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MAY 20, 1998

If you sell pictures to a magazine or newspaper you should expect that they will be

published on-line as well as in the printed version of the publication. Most


will not tell you they intend to do this -- unless you ask specifically. And, the

publications expect to get this additional distribution at no additional cost. Most

publications are claiming that the "Tasini" (Jonathan Tasini et al vs The New York Times



decision last year gives them the right to make such extra uses without any additional


In most cases, your images will stay on-line in an archive indefinitely, not just for the

week, or month, that the printed version of the publication is in circulation. This

archive may also be put on CD-ROM discs and may be a total re-edit of the way it appeared

in the original printed version. While not all publications are to the point of putting

everything they publish on-line, YET, most are moving rapidly in this direction.

Relying on copyright law to protect you is simply not good enough, anymore. If you want

fair compensation you must pay careful attention to contracts and make sure there is a

written agreement for all transactions. You can get additional compensation for


uses, but in order to do this you must be very specific in the written terms you send


every delivery of your images to any publication. Also, be prepared to track uses and


for the additional compensation.

Paula Borchardt learned recently that even the New York Times (winner in the Tasini vs.

The New

York Times case) will pay for on-line use when your contract with them is clear and in

writing. Paula is a lifestyle and location shooter working in the Southwest. In


she was asked to submit images for a NYT Sunday section article. One picture was used in

the printed newspaper, and also used on The NYT web site.

Paula's delivery memo to the Times had specificed that the images were being offered for

the print version "only" and that electronic/digital, advertising, and reprint rights

were only

available for an additional fee.

After the picture was used Paula sent the editor she was working with an invoice for both

the print and electronic use. Her fee for electronic uses was 50% of her normal fee for


use. The editor called and informed her that The NYT "does not

pay for electronic use," and said they consider the print use and the electronic use as

"one use."

Paula replied, "Well, I CHARGE for electronic use." She pointed out that she had never

granted rights to use her image electronically, and that the NYT was in copyright


until they pay for the electronic usage.

The NYT editor claimed that she could only pay for the print usage, and that Paula must


mail a separate bill to the person in charge of the web site, to get paid for the



As an interesting side note, Paula contacted two other photographers who also had images


the same printed article. The images of one had been returned, but there was no


that anything had been used. All his images were in plastic mounts and they appeared to


been unopened. Neither photographer was aware of the possibility that their images

would be used electronically.

Now The "Fun" Of Collecting

A couple weeks later Paula received two phone calls from the web site department at the


Phone Call #1: She was told by the person at NYT web site that The Times' policy is that

once they use a photo for one section (like the print edition) it is available for all


sections (like the web site). She pointed out that this was not HER policy per her


Memo terms. The web site person also said they try not to use stock for the on-line


of NYT, just assignment.

The web site person said Paula would now have to take the matter (of getting paid for

electronic use) up with the NYT legal department. Paula informed the web site person


she would be passing that persons name, the original editor's name, and the NYT's


name on to her "own" lawyer, as this is a case of copyright infringement, a FEDERAL


and she thought it best the lawyers handle it from this point. (By the way, if anyone is

wondering, the image in question had been registered with the US copyright office).

The web site person had not seen her Delivery Memo terms which stated print use only, and

asked that she fax over a copy of the Memo for them to review. Paula emphasized a few


that this is a serious matter of copyright infringement and she would recommend they just

end the matter now by paying for the web use rather than getting lawyers involved.

The web site person also mentioned that NYT would not be interested in working with Paula

in the future after this situation. [This threat probably works very well for the Times


they are dealing with many stock agencies because the stock agency may be afraid of

alienating a potenial large customer over one sale. Photographers, whose stock agency


made sales for them to the New York Times, or any publication, can easily check to see if

this is your agency's practice. First ask your agency if the fee you were paid included

web use rights. Then check the publication's web site and see if the picture is there.]


this case, Paula replied that she had no interest in ever working with NYT again, not


because of the problem with payment for electronic use, but because of problems in


her images returned (see insert at the bottom of this story.)

Phone Call #2 (20 minutes later): The web site person looked at her Delivery Memo and

called to inform her that the invoice was being put through to Accounts Payable and that


should be receiving a check for the electronic use soon.

In May, two months after the original use, Paula finally received payment for the

electronic/web site use of her image.

Greenberg vs. Audubon Magazine

Just so you don't think Paula's is an isolated situation that this only happens with


newspapers, let me tell you about Jerry Greenberg's recent experience with Audubon


In September 1996 Jerry Greenberg contacted Audubon Magazine with a set of photos on the

Florida mangroves. He had been shooting this subject for several years with the hopes of

producing a book. Audubon liked the images and made plans to publish a story entitled


Magic of the Mangroves" in the March/April 1997 issue of the magazine.

Jerry negotiated a contract with Audubon that specified that the use was to be "one-time

print rights only", that no other use was allowed, that Audubon would pay a base fee


space for this use, and that all pictures would be copyrighted in his and the name of his

son, Michael.

When it came time to go to press Audubon called and said that they would not copyright


pictures in the Greenberg's names because it "was not their policy." They tried to agrue

that Greenberg would be covered under their collective works copyright of the magazine.

Jerry insisted that either they copyright the pictures in his and Michael's names, or


not publish the pictures. He was prepared to return the advance. Audubon backed down


listed copyright credit to the Greenbergs. As soon as the publication was released Jerry

sent copies to the copyright office and registered the copyright.

Later in 1997 Jerry discovered that for $11.00 he could buy an electronic copy of the

article through UMI, a reprint service in Michigan. When he recevied the UMI printout it

included B&W reproductions of each of his photographs and a label on the printout that


"reproduced with permission of the copyright owner." Of course, Jerry had given no such

permission, and in the normal course of things would receive no portion of the $11.00


for this copy. Audubon, however, would receive payment for this use.

Audubon claims that their "collective works" copyright gives them the right to make this

use, irregardless of the fact that they signed a contract agreeing to the opposite.


lawyer cites last year's Tasini decision as justification.

Jerry has offered to settle the dispute. He asked, first, that they should remove his

photographs from the UMI reprint service and any other electronic databases in which they

might have been placed, and that they pay him an additional 100% of the original fee as

compensation for any uses already made by the reprint service.

Audubon made a minimal and totally unacceptable counter offer that Jerry rejected. It

appears that Audubon would rather fight than settle. Maybe their lawyer should talk to

the New York Times lawyer and find out why the Times believed they needed to pay Paula

Borchardt in spite of the Tasini decision.

Jerry Greenberg has turned this matter over to his lawyer.

Lessons Learned

  • Ask every editor, up front, if there is any likelihood that the article will be



  • When someone tells you that you are covered under their "collective works


    what they are really saying is, "we want to rip you off." You may be covered if someone

    else attempts to use the image, but given the interpretation many publishers are putting


    the Tasini decision they can do anything they want with your pictures under their

    "collective works copyright". Be sure to register your images.

  • Have a rock solid delivery memo. Be as specific as possible about the use in the

    delivery memo and invoice. Use ASMP etc. publications for reference on what to include.


    not worry about your terms and conditions scaring off clients. It will just make you


    more professional.

  • Do not back down when you really feel you are in the right. Of course there may be


    negotiating with the price sometimes, but remember "you" are the seller and they came to


    because you have something (images) they need.

  • Be professional but firm.

  • Invoke the "L" word (lawyer), if necessary.

If you know your pictures are going to be used in a certain issue of a newspaper it is a

good idea to check the newspaper's web site that day. Not all the images they put up

initially will be kept on the site for more than a few days, or a week.

The Other Problem - Getting Your Images Returned

There was also a problem with the way the New York Times handled the return of Paula's

images. During the initial conversation Paula asked when they were going to return her

images. The editor replied that the images were sent back to her 2 weeks earlier via

registered mail/return receipt. Paula says, "I almost blew a gasket, because my Delivery

Memo specifically says (in bold, underlined, italicized print) that all images "must" be

returned by Federal Express."

The editor did not have an answer, but promised to get more information and get back to


A few days later a second employee from NYT called Paula and said that according to his

records, her images were shipped back via Registered Mail/Return Receipt.

One month after The NYT employees first indicated the images had been returned by U.S.


Paula did receive her images, by -- surprise -- priority overnight

Federal Express!!!!!!!!! Evidently the images were NOT sent back to her office via US


despite the records of two NYT employees. There was no note in the FedEx envelope

apologizing for the


and the delay, or explaining what happened on their end. Also, no check(s)


enclosed. Just the images in cardboard.

Sellers, You have been warned!!!


Tom Sayler

I've been following Paula Borchardt's trials with The New York Times Sunday section on

the Stockphoto news group . I've been shooting on assignment for that

section for about 8 years, and was never informed of the web use. When Paula

first posted her experiences, I had just had 6 photos run in the Sunday

section. I checked out the web site and sure enough, three of my photos

were there.

All my paper work has indicated one edition only, no electronic use. I know

that as soon as I complain to the picture editor, or ask for more money, they

will cut me off assignments. Fine, you say, walk away, it's only a few days a

year. But the problem is, this taking advantage of photographers is happening

all over.

National Geographic World , another client, used to pay $100 for web use on top

of a day rate. Starting last year, for all of an extra 10 percent of the day

rate - $40 !! - they get unlimited secondary use in NGS products. For ever. I

questioned it. They said take it or leave it, " the legal department came up

with this."

I should add to my complaints, that some editorial clients DO work fairly. Success has a

contract paying $100 additional for electronic use, on top of a $350 day rate. They are a

little vague on what electronic use, and for how long. And Guideposts pays a total of

$550 a day, for one-time use in their magazine and web site. They also have the right to

use the pictures in other Guideposts magazines. If an image is used in an electronic

publication they pay an additional 25%. You won't get rich shooting for them, but at

least they pay extra for more use, and put it is writing.

I'm getting frustrated with editorial work.

Editors note: Next year the legal departments, will demand that photographers pay

the magazine to get their pictures used, instead of being paid for usage. The magazines

will keep asking for more until it becomes extremely difficult for the editors to find photographers


will accept their assignments. At that point they will be forced to raise their prices. This is


true of "Name" magazines. Nobody else will bail you out.

Each individual photographer will have to make his or her own decisions and simply quit

when they can't earn enough to justify doing the work. As long as there are photographers

willing to work at any given rate, prices will not go up.


David Stuckel

Photographers remind me of pharmacists. Remember when everyone went to the independent,

locally owned drugstore for medicine needs? Pharmacists could not control the licensing of their

profession and soon third-party paid insurance plans (you know, where you pay $5.00 for a prescription

and someone else pays the rest) took over the retail drug business and squeezed margins so tight that

the little guy could no longer survive.

Retail markup became a thing of the past and now a drugstore is likely to receive less than the

average wholesale price for its drugs and tries to live on the small fee they charge you.

Photographers are headed down the same road with less and less leverage engendered by wholesale

disrespect for their services.

Registering copyrights is a pain in the ___, BUT that is the only way most of you can afford to have a

real lawyer take on your case against a large company. Without the added damages registration allows

as a remedy, even hundreds of usages cannot generate an award large enough to interest most good

lawyers (I know, but they have a right to make a buck too).

It takes a strong person to stand up for what's right and often the only reward is to shut off a source

of future income and watch a fellow professional jump for the next assignment. No one wants to be too

persnickety to get assignments, but there needs to be some kind of database where PHOTOGRAPHERS ONLY

can get straight info on who is playing fair and who isn't. For me, any sale to the Times, even one

that looks good up front, would really cause some soul searching. Who wants to run a real database

with good contacts for fair play information?

Copyright © 1998 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:  


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