Getty Photographers Respond to Contract Proposal

Posted on 2/6/2001 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Many Getty Images photographers contracted to Stone, The Image Bank, FPG and other VCG brands have formed a new group called StockArtistsAlliance (SAA). This organization is designed to provide assistance in negotiating the upcoming Getty Images contract. Individuals within this group will jointly retain counsel to proceed with initial discussions, but each individual is free to disassociate him/herself from the group at any time during the negotiating process.

The SAA leaders have responded to the contract outline that Getty Images recently presented to its photographers. They commended Getty for their positive stance on the following issues:

    - No tight turnaround deadline to sign new contracts.
    - One uniform contract for all brands.
    - Addenda that will allow cross-brand marketing.
    - Larger home territory for TIB artists.
    - Image Exclusive vs. Artist Exclusive with no "right of first refusal."
    - No restrictions on alternate agencies for our marketing.
    - Faster Payment (However, 120 days is still too slow).
    - Protection from Bad Debts.
    - No charge for Catalog Images that don't pay for themselves.

They also expressed a desire for improved working relationships, but pointed out that, "Over the past eighteen months the relationship between Getty Images and many of its contributing artists has been severely strained. As a result, a large number of photographers have stopped submitting images to Getty Images companies and are now channeling their new work through other outlets."

Among the areas of concern outlined in the letter were:

    --- That the proposed royalty percentages are inadequate. The SAA wants 50% of the gross license fee on all digital and analog sales made through wholly owned Getty offices. They are basically in agreement with Getty's proposal of 30% of the gross license fee for sales made by sub-agents not owned by Getty and not in the photographers home territory.

    --- That Getty should place the highest priority on returning inactive images it has "withdrawn from the market place" and has no plans to place online. The photographers feel the return of these images should be substantially completed before the new contract is presented and negotiation begins.

    --- That the procedures for accepting new images be substantially improved and that images be "either selected for upload or returned to the photographer within 45 days after submission."

    --- That there should be no charges for inclusion of images in any of Getty Images' catalogs whether paper-based or in electronic form.

    --- That Getty improve its accounting and reporting systems to provide clear, accurate and prompt royalty reports. In addition, Getty should honor existing contract terms related to providing necessary documents to auditors working on behalf of photographers.

Any photographer under contract to Getty Images with Stone, The Image Bank, FPG or other VCG brands, who wishes to get more information about the StockArtistsAlliance should contact:

Glen Allison (Stone)   

1-310-822-1534   

GlenAllisonPhoto@aol.com   

Peter Dean (Stone)   

+44-139-833-1598   

peter@agripicture.com   

Mark Harmel (FPG)   

1-310-546-6509   

mark@harmelphoto.com   

Kevin Kelley (Stone)   

1-415-455-9260   

KWKelley02@aol.com   

Fred Licht (TIB)   

1-818-763-9941   

fredlicht@home.com   

Steve McAlister (TIB)   

1-214-746-6336   

steve.mcalister@d2studios.net   

Joseph Pobereskin (Stone)   

1-973 313-0799   

joseph@pobereskin.com   


Letter To Getty Management

This letter represents the collective sentiment of the StockArtistsAlliance. Drawn from the ranks of artists contributing to Stone, The Image Bank, FPG and various other VCG brands, the StockArtistsAlliance represents hundreds of photographers contributing to Getty Images.

Over the past eighteen months the relationship between Getty Images and many of its contributing artists has been severely strained. As a result, a large number of photographers have stopped submitting images to Getty Images' companies and are now channeling the flow of their new work through other outlets. Many photographers, investors and others in our industry are saddened by this deterioration in our once wonderful and mutually beneficial relationship. For others, our philosophical separation has been the lucky break they've been waiting for.

Getty Images now faces real competition from Corbis and the proliferation of recently formed on-line alternatives. Most of these companies offer far more photographer-friendly agreements with higher royalty payments, open accounting procedures, higher levels of image acceptance and faster turnaround in placing new images for on-line distribution in the market place.

Given these developments, the industry at large is watching Getty Images and its contributing artists closely, wondering what we're going to do. In your recent letter to contributors, we feel there were several contractual concerns you addressed positively. We have been seeking resolution to many of these issues for some time and we are happy to see you now agree with us on the following points from your letter:

    --- No tight turnaround deadline to sign new contracts.
    --- One uniform contract for all brands.
    --- Addenda that will allow cross-brand marketing.
    --- Larger home territory for TIB artists.
    --- Image Exclusive vs. Artist Exclusive with no "right of first refusal."
    --- No restrictions on alternate agencies for our marketing.
    --- Faster Payments (However, 120 days is still too slow).
    --- Protection from Bad Debts.
    --- No charge for Catalog Images that don't pay for themselves.

Because we desire a mutually beneficial relationship with Getty Images, and in light of your recent proposal, we do wish to respond to your letter. We would therefore ask that serious consideration be given to the following items, which you did not address.

We deem these concerns to be among the essential building blocks of the relationship we both seek to forge.

(1) Status

We believe that our relationship should be an artist/agency relationship, with all of its implied fiduciary duties and responsibilities. Our agreement should include a "best efforts" clause for the agency to represent and market the contributors' images and should specifically promise that the agency will not offer "assignments" to photographers, freelance or in-house, that compete with the agency's contract photographers' images for license, catalog space or web site placement. Participation should be on an image-exclusive basis and the contract term should be a fixed term of two years for all artists, renewal should not be automatic.

(2) Image Acceptance

Newly submitted images should be edited promptly and either selected for distribution or returned to the artist within forty-five (45) days. The current practice of holding photographers' images for up to a year is not acceptable. Getty Images should make acceptance decisions quickly, allowing photographers the ability to place rejected images with other agencies.

Art direction should be substantial, not just brainstorming, and the photographer should agree in writing, in advance, on Getty Images' rights to the images from these productions. Getty Images' art directors and editors should be able to efficiently approve image selection on their own and not be overruled by a higher authority. It is wrong for Getty Images to allow a photographer to expend energy and financial resources executing images to the exact specifications of a Getty Images employee and then discover months later that a higher authority, for arbitrary reasons, has rejected the image. Getty's present system does not motivate photographers, rather, it increases their production costs and wastes their time, thus fueling frustration and discontent.

(3) Catalog Charges

There should be no charge for the inclusion of images in any of Getty Images' catalogs, whether paper-based or in electronic form such as CD/DVD-ROM or in an online database such as the GettyOne web site. As the artists bear the full cost of production of their works and loan the inventory to Getty Images interest-free, the agency should bear the full cost of marketing. In addition, the photographer should have the ability to withdraw any image from catalog consideration if he or she so desires prior to inclusion without penalty.

(4) Commissions

Contributors' images are placed with Getty Images for worldwide offer and in consideration of this service, a commission is paid to Getty Images by the artist. Operationally, Getty Images is authorized to license the images, invoice and collect the fees for same and remit to the artist(s) all fees less Getty Images' commission. The present commission structure is outmoded and requires modification. Accordingly, the artists suggest the following schedule:

For all license transactions, whether fulfilled digitally or on an analog basis by a wholly owned Getty Images office regardless of location, the contributing artist will pay Getty Images fifty percent (50%) of the gross license fee. For license transactions by subagents outside the artist's home territory, the artist will  pay Getty Images 50% of the net license fee, not to exceed 30% of the gross. Should the artist reside in a territory that has no office wholly owned by Getty Images but is in the territory of a Getty Images subagent, then the artist will pay Getty Images fifty percent (50%) of the gross license fee for images licensed in that artist's home territory.

(5) Audits and Accounting

Getty Images should guarantee substantial audit rights to contributors and should cooperate with contributors' auditors by providing more extensive records. Getty Images' existing accounting system does not satisfy the needs of photographers, many of whom are concerned that Getty Images' books and records are inaccurate.

Getty Images needs a high quality computer accounting system that generates clear, accurate and prompt royalty reports for artists while providing quick access to other important financial data that would generate the type of royalty reports the artists require for the operation of their businesses. High quality reporting of such data would facilitate any possible audits by contributors while at the same time making such audits less necessary.

(6) Foreign Tax Credits

Getty Images should remit the rightful percentage of all license revenues prior to deducting any foreign taxes and prior to Getty Images claiming any foreign tax credits. 

(7) Return of Inactive Images

One of Getty's highest priorities should be the return of images that have been withdrawn from the marketplace (images not presently on-line or scheduled to be placed on-line). Getty's efforts to return these images to photographers should be substantially completed before the presentation of the final agreement for contributors' signatures.

(8) Web Affiliate Fees and Misc. Charges

If Getty Images pays web affiliates (such as Randomeye) a fee for click-through traffic, which results in a license, such fees should be absorbed by Getty Images and not result in deduction prior to calculating commissions. In addition, if Getty Images charges customers fees for analog delivery (such as for CD's or film dupes) and the charge is above cost, these additional fees should be considered revenue subject to photographers' royalties.

(9) Nondisclosure

Contracts should not include nondisclosure clauses except as applied to confidential agency information regarding image needs or the execution of image production.

(10) Minimum License Fees

Getty should set minimum license fees. The value of contributor's imagery should not be undermined by low license fees.

(11) Timely Payment

Getty should make efforts to minimize delays in reporting and remitting royalties from foreign licenses.

(12) Cancellations

Contributors are concerned about the high cancellation rates and the lack of cancellation charges to the client, a percentage of which should be paid to photographers.

(13) Breach of Agreement

Photographers are concerned that Getty is in breach of contractual agreements that were previously negotiated in good faith and that efforts by those photographers and their attorney have been met with non-substantive responses from Getty. Photographers are also concerned that Getty has delayed and thwarted legitimate attempts by photographers' accountants to perform audits as per their contractual rights.

Getty Images' apparent refusal to honor various aspects of existing agreements seems to contradict its recent announcement of creating a "new partnership" with contributors. Such issues should be promptly resolved if photographers are to be reassured that Getty Images intends to move forward in its efforts to rebuild positive relationships with its contributors.

(14) Getty Images Responses

All questions to Getty Images management or its accounting department should be answered promptly. At present, such queries largely go unanswered or the replies are so vague that contributors are perpetually unsure of the company's intentions. The company's tendency to enhance its own position with little regard for artists' needs has contributed to the present deterioration of artist/agency relationships.

The artists look forward to your cooperation in crafting an agreement that is mutually acceptable, in an environment that is non-confrontational and that results in a creatively rewarding and financially profitable partnership. Our view is that artists and agents are business partners and not business adversaries.

Respectively submitted,

The StockArtistsAlliance

If you would like to review the original contract outline distributedby Getty Images see

Story 373


Copyright © 2001 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  

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