368 GETTY TO RETURN IMAGES
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.
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,"
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
email@example.com. FPG photographers should write to: Sarah Whiteside at FPG,
32 Union Square East, New York, NY 10003, or e-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org. If FPG
photographers have questions contact Claudia Micare at email@example.com 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.