Microstock Too Expensive for Book Publishers

Posted on 1/4/2008 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Recently, I asked a Chicago-based picture researcher, who specializes in research for book publishers, if she used microstock,  since such sites offer extensive image choices for textbooks. She said no, since a big problem was securing rights.

Since microstock is royalty free, I didn't understand - until I examined microstock license agreements.

After a quick look at the Permitted Uses, everything seemed to be covered. The iStockphoto agreement (and the agreements of most other microstock sellers) allows the customer to use images purchased in advertising and promotional projects, including printed materials, product packaging, presentations, film and video presentations, commercials, catalogues, brochures, promotional greeting cards and promotional postcards (ie. not for resale or license); entertainment applications, such as books and book covers, magazines, newspapers, editorials, newsletters, and video, broadcast and theatrical presentations; on-line or electronic publications, including Web pages to a maximum of 800 x 600 pixels; prints, posters (i.e. a hardcopy) and other reproductions for personal use or promotional purposes.

It is hard to see that anything is left out, and books are certainly included.

But then you come to Prohibited Uses and near the bottom of a long list of prohibitions the iStock agreement says customers are not allowed to "either individually or in combination with others, reproduce the Content, or an element of the Content, in excess of 500,000 times without obtaining an Extended License, in which event you shall be required to pay an additional royalty fee equal to US $0.01 for each reproduction which is in excess of 500,000 reproductions. This additional royalty does not apply to advertisements in magazines, newspapers or websites or to broadcast by television, web-cast or theatrical production."

There's the problem for book publishers. Most want the right to print the pictures they purchase in 1,000,000 or more books during the next five to 10 years. According to the language above, the publisher would be paying not $2 or $3 to use an image, but $5,003. Most RM sellers would love to get this much money for use of their images. Given this option, the numbers I suggested in my recent story, "Reasonable Pricing For Textbook Use," seem more than appropriate.


Copyright © 2008 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 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.  


  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jan 9, 2008
    Serban Enache, CEO of Dreamstime points out that they sell an extended license called I-EL that allows the customer to print up to 2,500,000 copies of any picture they get from Dreamstime. The price for this license is 50 credits (as low as $40 if the customer buys lots of credits). If the publisher exceeds the 2,500,000 it may purchase another I-EL license which allows it to publish another 2,500,000 copies of the image. The Dreamstime license also includes a price-per-copy provision for exceeding the amount authorized by the regular license, but Enache says this is “usually used for small surplus or applying penalties for such surplus.”

    This points up the fact that virtually all of the companies we tend to refer to as “microstock” have different terms and conditions for the licensing and use of their images. Thus, it should be noted that it is difficult to find any term that clearly defines all the players in this space.

    I asked Enache if he could help me define the common characteristics or all "microstock" companies. He responded, “In regards to the term micropayment, we don’t really use it. We consider ourselves stock agencies that are deeply involved into communities and web 2.0. We are working solely with online platforms and add the benefits of a traditional collection with those of a traditional distributor. The name was given for low price. It doesn’t really depict us, especially as the price has significantly grown in the last years (as high as 20 times in some cases). I would say that we are a community-based agency and am certain that my perspective is shared by most of our direct competitors, if not all.”

    Those in the traditional stock world have used the term “microstock” to refer to a number of companies that tend to charge lower license fees than the traditional sellers. However, it seems clear that there is no commonality in the strategies these companies use for licensing images, or the actual prices they charge for various uses.

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