Images For Students: UIG and EB Do 10-Year Exclusive Deal

Posted on 4/26/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Universal Images Group (UIG), and Encyclopaedia Britannica (EB) have entered into a 10-year License Agreement that makes UIG the exclusive provider of still pictures, video and footage for EB’s online educational image service, Image Quest.

UIG, the distribution business of the Virtual Picture Desk (VPD), has provided 2 million educational still images for Britannica Image Quest and will subsequently provide motion content including video and footage clips. The Image Quest online subscription service went live in September 2010 with content from more than 50 world-class image providers.

Over a period of five years UIG has developed an educational database called Universal Source that contains over 3.2 million images. “As a distributor for the Business-to-Consumer market our partnership with EB is important to us. We also intend to focus on sourcing further content for Universal Source and developing distribution for the educational B-to-B markets and picture content for the editorial and creative premium markets,” stated George Sinclair, the Chief Executive of UIG and VPD.

According to terms of the agreement UIG may supply individual images and parts of their database to other educational publishers, but is limited from supplying the total EB database to a few of EB’s direct competitors such as World Book, Cengage Gale and Scholastic Grolier.

“UIG’s achievement in providing 2 million images for Image Quest (EB’s first online subscription service for rights-cleared images) in one year has allowed us to launch our product on a timely basis. The market and customer response to Image Quest has been very positive and the transaction growth in the last three months has exceeded our expectations” said Michael Ross, Senior Vice President of Encyclopaedia Britannica. “The press and industry reviews for the product has been tremendous, Much of it is down to the quality, depth, and range of educational images provided by UIG, and their attention to detail in providing extensive metadata and key words.” Ross further stated, “we have entered into the 10-year License Agreement to extend the life of the product beyond our initial expectations, and to develop other online image subscription services which will include video and footage clips.”  

UIG is a major provider of high-resolution content and distributes premium images through Getty Images, Photolibrary, Superstock, Alamy, agefotostock and Amana Japan, as well as specialized agencies including the Science Photo Library in the UK, Album in Spain, Alinari in Italy, Leemage in France and Learning Pictures in the USA. Content is provided on a subject or category basis including fine art, art history, history, cultural heritage, architecture, archeology, anthropology, historic portraiture, geography, science, medicine, biology, the environment, diverse and ethnic content

Photographer Royalties

Given the way the education business is headed it seems likely that databases like Image Quest will be heavily used by students, teachers and instructors in the future. One of the key questions for photographers and agencies is what will be charged for the use of images in this collection and what the photographer’s share is likely to be.

Access to the Image Quest database will be on a subscription basis. It is unclear what schools, libraries, colleges, and universities will be charged for these subscriptions, and the rights granted. The price charged will certainly depend in each case on the number of student given access and the length of the subscription.

A similar, but much smaller, site operated by Science Photo Library in the UK charges schools with less than 50 students $81 for unlimited access to low resolution (530 pixel) images for one year. Schools with between 500 and 1,000 students are charged $659 for the same unlimited access for a year. For an additional $165 per year the school can also have unlimited access to all the high resolution (approx 50 MB) images which are “ideal for large classroom printouts as well as printed course works,” according to Science Photo Library. We assume EB’s prices are somewhere in the same neighborhood in order to be competitive.

According to Sinclair the image owners will make it up on “Volume!!.” He continued, “There are 52 million students in USA and 4 million in Canada. Britannica already has 18% of the online subscription market for schools and colleges for text products. There is no reason for them not to get the same share or better (with no other competing products currently) than this product.”

If each student in a thousand student school used one image during the year the average price for each image would be $0.66. That’s the gross sale price paid by the school system. Of course, EB and UIG each get a percentage of that with the remainder going to the agency. Then the agency splits what they get with the photographer. But, I can’t imagine that once these great images are available students won’t find ways to use many more than a single image each in a year. If, on average, each were to use 10 in a year the total sale price of each image would be a little less than 7 cents.

Sinclair points out that “much of the content is wholly owned (including that from Getty Images, Photolibrary, Superstock, The Chicago History Museum, The Natural History Museum, The Science Museum, The National Portrait Gallery, De Agostini, Mondadori ) and therefore no payments to photographers is required for these Image Partners.  Having said that for those contributors using photographer’s content (ie Photo Researchers, Science Photo Library, National Geographic etc) we expect the returns to be good because of the volume of subscriptions.”

There are about 37,000 private and public high schools in the U.S., close to 100,000 elementary schools and over 6,500 post secondary schools. So it is possible to maybe sell 143,500 licenses in the U.S. on an annual basis. Assume, the average fee charged per student is somewhere in the range of $1.00 per year. That would be $56 million dollars for the U.S. and Canada. The shares for the publisher, UIG and even the agencies will be significant, but once the photographer share is divided among all the contributing photographers it seems likely that no one will be able to take home enough to cover their costs of producing the images.
If this were all “add on” income in addition to what the photographers might be earning from the use of their images in books then maybe it would be justified. But, it also seems likely that the use in books will decline as school systems are able to print their own course material using images from Image Quest and other databases like it, and use the Internet and electronic whiteboards to a much greater degree than they are being used today.

Licensing rights to images for educational use is becoming a very marginal business for image creators. Creators need a clear understanding of what is being charged for the use of their image, what rights are being granted, and the share of the gross fee paid that they will receive before they produce another image for educational use.

Copyright © 2011 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff