Getty To Return Images

Posted on 1/11/2001 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



January 11, 2001

Getty Images has announced that they will begin returning to TIB photographers, early

in 2001, approximately 5.5 million original images "inventoried in Dallas" . They have

had a team of approximately 30 individuals sorting through these images for the past

nine months and organizing them by photographer.

Getty has also confirmed that all or their offices and the offices of their

sub-agencies have stopped licensing rights to original images in the Stone, TIB and VCG

brands. All these images are being rapidly returned to Dallas which will be the

central sorting facility. They intend to sort and return to the photographers all

images from all these brands on an ongoing basis. They will no longer retain images

until the end of the contract term.

TIB and FPG photographers have already received letter explaining the policy. The letter

to the Stone photographers is expected to be mailed next week.

In a letter to TIB photographers Stephen Morelock said, "Our goal is to put your

images to work or return them to you in a timely fashion and within the terms of our


"At the time Getty Images acquired The Image Bank, we inherited a large backlog of

images already in storage. Getty Images has invested heavily in manpower and resources

to bring order to this backlog and to put efficient systems in place to manage the

images. A team of approximately 30 individuals has been at work on the project for the

past nine months. They have taken images that were stored by subject matter and

resorted them by artist. The result of our efforts is that all images in that backlog

inventory (some 5.5 million originals!) have now been sorted by artist and we have

begun the process of returning the images to released artists."

Part of the motivation for this action was the suit for lost originals by photographer

Charles Mason that resulted in an undisclosed out-of-court settlement last spring.

This settlement came after court documents revealed that TIB had distributed images all

over the world without tracking them. (A full report of this case can be found on the

PDN site at: .

Industry sources indicate that they may have been a number of out-of-court

settlements for lost transparencies recently.

Morelock pointed out, "As was announced at our previous artist meetings, it is not

Getty Images policy to license original images in our offices. Therefore, we have asked

each office and franchisee to return all originals to us. Some of these images will be

elevated to CORE, where they will be aggressively marketed through our world wide

distribution systems. The remainder will be sorted by artist and we expect to return

them to you on an ongoing basis.

"In addition, please be assured that the masters of your CORE images are stored

securely. We hope this update increases your confidence that Getty Images is

committed to the care and return of your images, having allocated the resources

necessary to achieve this goal," he continued.

FPG Returns

Rana Faure, Director of Photography at FPG has also announced to FPG photographers the

"permanent closing" of the FPG files. They will begin returning images in the 2nd

quarter of 2001.

The FPG files are now on their way to Dallas where they will be sorted by the same 30

person team that worked on the TIB files last year. Faure said, "These images are all

being sorted by photographer in preparation for their return. We are making excellent

progress and we expect to begin the process of returning images to all photographers

involved sometime around the end of the second quarter of 2001."

Faure told photographers, "As you know, FPG stopped accepting new images for

'file-only' promotion in January 1999, in a move to prepare for our evolution to a

fully e-commerce enabled business model. Since then your editor has been selecting

images for product representation only. After many months of careful preparation,

evaluation and editing, we are now at a point where we are ready to announce the

permanent closing of our files. We realise that this is a milestone in FPG's history,

one that we have approached with the utmost care and consideration. We feel that it is

critical now that we fully embrace the technology available to us today. This

technology will allow our business to grow by providing better access and exposure for

your images then was ever possible before.

"Over the past several months, we have been closely evaluating the

original images residing in our files for relevance and marketability. We have

completed the process of selecting the most viable images from the file material and we

are in the process of digitising and uploading this material to the web. The selected

file material will now be marketed as part of our core collection,"

Faure continued.

Barbara Roberts, former President of FPG before the company was sold to Visual

Communications Group and later to Getty Images, said, "The dismantling of the FPG file

is totally tragic. One of FPG's biggest money makers was retro photography from the

50's and 60's. Photography, like everything else, goes in and out of vogue on a cycle

of about 20 years. I predict that the photography and fads from the 70's and 80's will

have renewed demand in the 21st century. Nostalgia for the last century will explode

in the next ten years. The documentary photographs on social issues that we produced

while I was at FPG will have tremendous value in the future. Some FPG photographers

have really chronicled the whole development of taste and culture in the 80's and 90's.

The people at Getty Images don't seem to appreciate the absolute gold mine they are


Contact Your Agency

It is recommended that any photographer with images at either TIB or FPG contact their

repsective companies and supply a current address where their images can be returned.

TIB photographers are advised to write to Stephen Morelock at: The Image Bank, 2777

Stemmons Freeway, Suite 600, Dallas, TX 75207, or e-mail me at FPG photographers should write to: Sarah Whiteside at FPG,

32 Union Square East, New York, NY 10003, or e-mail her at If FPG

photographers have questions contact Claudia Micare at or by phone at

(212) 358-6520 and she will be happy to assist you.

New Year's Present

Getty is offering all the other stock agencies in the industry (except Corbis because

they intend to do the same thing) a huge present.

  • By closing down these files they are significantly reducing the number of

    competitive images in a number of categories.

  • They are leaving a number of the world's best photographers no alternative but to

    take a substanial portion of their work elsewhere in order to make it available in the

    marketplace. Once photographers make such a move it will be interesting to see if they

    continue to give Getty first choice of their production.

  • For many agencies this will be an unprecendented opportunity to add depth to their

    files with material from some of the world's leading photographers.

  • They are offering many of their customers no alternative, but to go to other

    sources to find much of the imagery they need.

  • Once they have dismantled their files there is little or no chance that they will

    be able to rebuild a file that compete in these particular subject areas, if they

    happen to discover that this has been an ill advised move.

  • This move is likely to significantly reduce the oversupply of images in the

    marketplace at the expense of some of the world's top photographers. Once the images

    are returned to photographers many will never see the light of day again. Some

    photographers will edit the best of their material and make it available to other

    agencies. Many will find the task too burdensome.

  • This move is likely to make it clear to many customers that Getty is not a

    supplier concerned with their needs.

  • 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 301-461-7627, 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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