More On Corbis Sale

Posted on 1/29/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

The good news for Corbis photographers is that there will be no third cut before their royalty share is calculated. However, there are still a number of issues that aren’t clear.

A few things that are important to understand:

1 – VCG’s primary, if not sole, purpose in acquiring Corbis was to become the largest stock photography distributor in China. They seemingly have no interest in revenue that might be generated from sales of Corbis images in the rest of the world.

Despite the fact that VCG represents the Getty collection, Imaginechina is the largest agency in China. Imaginechina has a strong editorial presence and represents many of the worlds major editorial suppliers. In addition, for several years Imaginechina has represented the Corbis collection. It is believed that in 2015 Imaginechina’s gross revenue was between $17 and $20 million. Between one-quarter and one-third of that came from the licensing of Corbis images. Now, VCG will take over managing that collection.

2 – Corbis is not accepting/approving any new content going forward. At this point everything is controlled by VCG/Getty. Getty Images will cherry pick certain images and contributors that they want to represent in all the areas of the world except China. They definitely won’t represent the entire collection, but it is unclear what portion of it they might represent. The selected contributors will be contacted and asked to sign Getty Images contracts.

– Getty will not receive any percentage of the revenue generated by Chine sales of Corbis images.

4 – The royalty share paid to Corbis contributors for sales made by Getty Images directly, or by Getty distributors around the world, will be exactly the same as other Getty contributors receive. VCG will not receive a cut of the gross sale price before the contributor’s percentage is calculated. If VCG is to be paid anything, it will be an undisclosed amount that comes out of Getty’s percentage of the gross sale.

Unclear Things

1 – It is believed that the Corbis site will be taken offline within three months. All traffic will be rerouted to Getty. But, it is unclear whether VCG will be representing the entire Corbis collection as it currently stands, or only the images that Getty chooses to represent. It seems likely that VCG might choose to represent images that Getty has not selected. It seems likely that contributors will need to sign separate agreements with VCG, but that is not clear.

2 – Since Getty will be receiving no share of sales made by VCG in China, it would seem logical that VCG will be making direct royalty payments to those contributors. Royalties for Chinese sales may not come through Getty.

3 – It I believed that many of the Corbis distributors around the world have the entire Corbis collection integrated with their own collection.
    A - Will they be required to remove and stop selling all of those images?

    B – If they do a deal with Getty will they only be able to sell the images that Getty has chosen to represent, or will they be able to continue to sell images that are not part of the Getty collection?

    C – If they want to continue to license images that are not part of the Getty collection will they need to contact the image creator directly, negotiate a separate agreement  and pay royalties directly to the creator?

    D – If they need to contact the creator, how will they do that since in most cases they do not have the creator’s contact information?

    E – Creators will also find it almost impossible to contact distributors who have been representing their work in the past, because creators have never been supplied with a list of the distributors representing their work.

    F – Will the hassle be worth the trouble, or will it be better for the distributor to just forget about representing Corbis images and move on?
4 – A major incentive for Getty in this deal was to eliminate a competitor. For the most part Getty doesn’t feel they need a lot more images. They have plenty of images that should satisfy the needs of most buyers. Thus, if Corbis images are no longer available buyers will probably find it necessary to use something else from the Getty collection.

Given this reasoning, one would expect that with the exception of the images that Corbis wholly owns, Getty would add very few of the Corbis images to its collection. The editing and getting photographer to sign new contacts will be viewed as an expense that Getty would like to minimize.

5 – Many Getty contributors have been complaining about slow edit times for new material. Getty obviously don’t have enough editors to deal with the new imagery being submitted. They will be reluctant to take on a lot of new editors because they won’t understand the Getty editing philosophy. They also won’t want the long term cost. Temporary, short term editors probably are a solution, given the training necessary.

But, Getty has just taken on a huge additional editing obligation. Deciding what, if anything, of the Corbis collection to keep will be very time consuming, particularly if they only want to keep a small percentage of the very best. Meanwhile, Corbis contributors who are producing new work will want to find some way to make their images available to customers.

As it begins to take longer and longer to get new work considered and integrated into the collection there will be less incentive to produce. Contributors will be forced to look to some other way earn a living.

Copyright © 2016 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:  


  • PAt Kane Posted Jan 29, 2016
    I imagine it will encourage a lot of infringements as end users who have comped up images or need to relicense images find there is not only no one representing the images but no one to point them to the contributor.

  • Jean-pierre Lescourret Posted Jan 30, 2016
    I personnaly have been contacted by Getty for migration . I cannot understand that VCG buys Corbis (it has been said $100 M) and that Getty in full benefits from this deal . VCH has bought Corbis just to licence in China the images that Getty has not selected ? Very weird indeed ....

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