MPCA In 1996

Posted on 2/15/1996 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



The following discussion offers a variety of opinions on MPCA (Media Photographers
Copyright Agency). We lead off with an article from Vince Streano which was first
published in January 1996. Vince was president of ASMP at the three years ago when
MPCA was established, and was initially a strong supporter of the proposed plan. Three
years later after looking at what MPCA has become he has a different attitude.


It has been three years now since the ASMP board authorized the formation
of MPCA. Those were heady days indeed as the board envisioned an agency
specializing in electronic rights. This agency would help set the rights
and standards for all photographers in the emerging digital marketplace,
and at the same time develop one of the worlds strongest digital editorial
files. I traveled the country as ASMP President speaking to chapters, telling
members MPCA was their best hope to be represented in the digital marketplace.
I also spent $1,000 of my own money to become a charter member.

Now, after three years of watching MPCA

develop, I admit I was wrong.

When the ASMP board created MPCA, it was stressed over and over to the members
that MPCA would benefit ALL photographers through its advocacy of favorable
standards and business practices in the digital marketplace. Now that we
see how MPCA is evolving, I don't believe MPCA will ever have enough clout
to have a positive influence on digital business practices for photographers.
Most of the business practices and standards have already been set by companies
selling digital rights for 10 percent of what photographers are charging.
Prices and standards are market driven. You only have to look to MPCA's
endorsement of Time's electronic rights policy to understand that.

The board that created MPCA also stressed that ASMP would not have to finance
the operation. The start-up money was to come from selling MPCA memberships.
But to date MPCA has spent all of its start up money as well as over $100,000
in loans from ASMP, and the ASMP board just made an additional $125,000
available to MPCA.

In order for MPCA to repay ASMP even the initial $100,000 it has borrowed,
MPCA would have to generate over $1 million in sales, not counting overhead.
This is highly unlikely since, as of the first of December, MPCA had not
made a single sale to an outside client. Its only sales so far are a couple
to AGT for promotion of MPCA.

The other startling fact I recently learned was that MPCA still has less
than 8,000 images in its database. Photographers are not responding to
requests. In order for MPCA to be even marginally successful, it has to
have a minimum of 250,000 images on file, and a million or more is what
is really needed.

Collecting a file of this size will take enormous resources. We're talking
editors, scanning, key wording, and any number of other tasks to make MPCA
viable. I'm not saying it can't be done, I'm saying ASMP should not be financing
this effort with dues money when it might only benefit a small minority
of ASMP members.

We also told our members that MPCA would license only digital rights, not
print rights, so there would be no conflict with photographers who had contracts
with existing stock agencies. Like other promises that were made, this one
is also being ignored.

Furthermore, I'm concerned with the two partners MPCA has selected. Lets
start with AGT. AGT is one of the largest pre-press production companies
in the United States, and their clients are the very publishers that are
forcibly taking rights from photographers every day. When push comes to
shove, their allegiance isn't going to be on the side of photographer's
rights. AGT will side with their main clients -- the publishers who provide
them with the majority of their income.

MPCA's other partner is the Copyright Clearance Center (CCC). The CCC is
a collecting society created by and run by publishers for publishers. The
vast majority of their board is comprised of either people from the publishing
industry, or clients of the CCC. Since the CCC was created, it has been
collecting millions of dollars each year ($25,000,000 in 1994) for secondary
rights, mostly photocopies, and returning this money to the publishers.
Much of this material was copyrighted by authors and photographers, yet
these creators are not seeing a penny of this money. Again the allegiance
of the CCC in any battle that pits creators against publishers will remain
with the publishers.

The CCC is not an organization that is sensitive to the problems of creators.
So why is the CCC interested in joining with MPCA? Again it's not for the
benefit of photographers. It is because they see us moving in on their
and they want a piece of the action.

I would much rather see MPCA forming alliances with other groups of creators,
groups which have similar interests and concerns to ASMP.

In summary, I would be thrilled if MPCA could be the agency we originally
envisioned, the way ASMP members were told it would be. An agency that would
benefit ALL photographers through its advocacy in creating favorable terms
and conditions for the sale of images in the digital marketplace. An agency
that is self sufficient without taking money from ASMP. But what we have
now is a poor substitute for our original dream. This enterprise is costing,
and will continue to cost, ASMP money and resources that could be better
spent by ASMP on advocacy efforts which would effect and benefit all
The time to admit our mistake is now, before MPCA further erodes the vitality
and the viability of ASMP.

Rules for supplying feedback


Weisgrau Replys to Streano

Dick Weisgrau has sent the following letter in response to Vince's comments.
In fairness, I am publishing that for your consideration. Both of these
articles will be on my new TSOnline service and other pro or con arguments
will be available there. Interested in commenting? Send e-mail to:

I am concerned that some of the information which you have provided in your
open letter is inaccurate, and I feel it is important for me to set the
record straight.

  1. There is nothing on record that indicates the Board, which first authorized
    MPCA, stressed that ASMP would not finance it. In fact, it tried to lend
    MPCA a much larger sum than MPCA would accept. MPCA, at my instance as its
    C.E.O., would only accept the $25,000 initial loan. It paid that back in
    the first year of MPCA's existence. MPCA paid it back the $25,000 quicker
    than it wanted since ASMP needed the money. That was the year it was decided
    to move from NYC, which was eating up about $70,000 a year in capital over
    our current cost in NJ.

  2. MPCA was created to influence standards. So was ASMP. It took ASMP ten
    years to set its first standard (in 1954). The magazine photojournalism
    business was about 20 years old at that point. The notion that the practices
    of the electronic trade are already set is misguided. Practices are set
    by forces. Today, the publishers have the force. When MPCA has enough content
    and photographers, it will have the force. By the way, the reason it took
    ASMP ten years (1944 to 1954) to set its first standard was it had to build
    its ranks from the first seven members to the 300 members it had in 1954.
    300 was enough to exert control then. MPCA is trying to do what ASMP did
    then, because ASMP is no longer permitted to do what it used to do. Of course,
    you recall that is why we founded MPCA. I am saddened at the fact that you
    believe it should have produced controlling influence in three years. It
    took ASMP ten years to get its foot in the door in the emerging print magazine

  3. MPCA never endorsed the Time Electronic Rights Policy. It agreed to
    carry any offer of more that $50 per use to MPCA members who would decide
    if they wanted to license an image at that price. No offer was ever carried
    for that amount. In fact, the only licenses to any Time Warner unit were
    for $100 per image per 5,000 disks pressed for a number of images. By the
    way, this negates your statement about the only sales were made to AGT.

  4. Sales is a big issue in your mind, but it is still a premature worry.
    After one year of negotiating, we just finally concluded the contract between
    AGT, CCC and MPCA. Sales are the work of CCC which has a client base of
    9,000 publishers, and of AGT which has a client base of over 10,000 publishers,
    ad agencies, design firms, and others. AGT and CCC are investing the money
    for sales and marketing. MPCA can't afford it. MPCA, by contract, is to
    secure content, set the prices (in accord with MPCA members), and set term
    of sale.

    So you can see that MPCA has control over the important details of the deals.
    Your worry about AGT and CCC are misplaced. MPCA controls the important
    elements, and the photographers own their own scans (through MPCA's contract
    with AGT).

    Also, the worlds is changing. There are complimentary and competitive interests
    between all players in the industry. Photographers, stock agencies, publishers,
    ect., all share such interests. ASMP spent many of its years concentrating
    on the competitive interests through adversarial action. That hasn't worked
    since the economic decline of 91 / 92. New strategies have been formed,
    and they are starting to work. They will work if given a chance.

    The notion that ASMP alone, by preaching and publishing and strong public
    posturing, can change conditions is flawed. We attacked work for hire and
    buyouts for 20 years, but photographers are signing over rights left and
    right. We attacked stock agency contracts and their horrible terms. We even
    got PACA to agree to a set of standards. Today, most stock agencies have
    not adopted those standards, but photographers continue to sign up.

    We've published, preached, litigated, lobbied, and more, but things have
    not gotten much better- why? The answer is that economics dictate. Photographers
    have to eat, competition hurts interests, ASMP can not represent the financial
    interests of members. Education and information don't give clout without
    some element of power. That power has to be bargaining power and ASMP can't
    do it by law, but MPCA can - please let it - please help it.

  5. You have offered figures about how much ASMP has lent to MPCA. Here's
    the facts. Currently, MPCA owes ASMP $115,499.60. Of that, about $60,000
    is paper entries, no cash exchanged. Share of rent, utilities, insurance,
    ect., for three years. We created expenses to lessen the tax bite on MPCA
    by transferring part of the cost of ASMP facilities to the Agency. In fact,
    ASMP would have paid the same amount if MPCA didn't exist.

    In actual cash, the debt is about $55,000. We could reduce it to $30,000
    today if we had to. The $55,000 is not any worse that the $57,000 which
    was lost with no gain on the defunct 50th Anniversary during your two years
    as president. I know the loss distressed you and others but unlike MPCA,
    it produced nothing.

  6. MCPA has opened doors for ASMP. I've elaborated on them in the
    past. Heck, we've even been invited to Europe to help the European
    Commission set up its own MPCA type operation. The Scandinavian countries
    and Germany also want us to provide information and help on how MPCA is
    designed, ect. We are doing that. The copyright Office field lecturer on
    new technology holds MPCA as an example of what can be done. Bruce Lehman,
    head of the government's National Information Infrastructure, also
    said the same thing to hundreds of rights owners in NYC in June.

    We must be doing something right!

  7. Finally, $100,000 has been approved for MPCA and other efforts like
    advocacy and education.

    I am drawing plans for new strategic efforts involving all representational
    and educational efforts (including MPCA). I have no request for money from
    ASMP for MPCA in mind at this time. I might later, but not now, and certainly
    not $100,000.

  8. You make an issue of print v. electronic rights. Vince, you left the
    ASMP board meeting , rescheduling for earlier flights, when that issue was
    debated and decided. you should have argued it but you left. The decision,
    I believe, was unanimous. The logic - if MPCA can get a member 70% of a
    print sale v. 50% or less from a stock agency, why shouldn't it do
    it? And Vince, you voted to approve the MPCA Mission Statement which says
    the MPCA will supply images for ôall applications.ö No electronic
    limits. I made that presentation to the MPCA board, and said eventually
    MPCA would have to license print.

    Vince, I could spend the next several hours rebutting much of what you said.
    But I don't have more time for this and the posting would look like a book.

    We have difference of opinion about the true purpose and value of MPCA.
    I can't do anything about that, sad to say. But I'll continue
    to work on it and if ASMP kills it, I can go get another job. You believe
    that MPCA will drag ASMP down, I believe that ASMP can't prevail without

    Times have and will continue to change, We have to adapt. MPCA is

    MPCA has taken the collective clout of 582 photographers (including you)
    and leveraged into an agreement with the two largest companies of their
    kind - in photographers' best interests. Just imagine what it could
    do with 5,000 members.

REAGAN BRADSHAW - President's message in March, 1996

Some ASMP members have expressed public objection over spending ASMP dues money on
the Media Photographers Copyright Agency. The primary concerns expressed are:

1 ) Objection: that MPCA does not benefit all ASMP members equally.

no single program of ASMP benefits all members equally, but in fact the potential
benefit to all members of MPCA's collective representation is greater than any other
program ASMP has ever developed. Over fourteen percent of the eligible voting membership of ASMP chose to support the concept of MPCA by joining the agency directly. The
indirect benefit of MPCA to ASMP and its membership in terms of credibility and influence
in government and among other industry groups is not measurable, but MPCA has increased ASMP's influence greatly. MPCA's future impact will be even greater, both in terms
of ASMP clout and direct benefit to members.

2 ) Objection: that standards, prices, and practices in the digital delivery arena
have already been established by others and MPCA's entry into the market is superfluous
and ineffective.

standards, prices, and practices in the trade are in constant flux, and always subject
to influence, but a presence must be established in the marketplace to exert that
influence effectively. ASMP cannot represent photographers directly in the marketplace.The collective strength of MPCA representing member photographers directly in the
market can be much more effective than ASMP's advocacy efforts from the sidelines.

3 ) Objection: that ASMP dues money and staff time spent on MPCA reduces the advocacy
and representational efforts of ASMP.

very little dues money (far too little, in my estimation) has been spent on MPCA.
ASMP's advocacy and representational efforts over the past three years have never
been more effective, due in part to the high level of respect and visibility ASMP
has gained through the establishment of MPCA.

4 ) Objection: that the cost of MPCA scans makes it difficult to acquire a substantial
image file.

with additional financial support from ASMP, the MPCA file could be acquired at a
much lower cost to members.

5 ) Objection: that MPCA's actual sales are virtually nonexistent.

MPCA has to build the file before it can market the images. Marketing and sales will
follow image acquisition.

6 ) Objection: that MPCA's strategic partners AGT and CCC have a conflict of interest,
since their clients are all publishers.

guess what? Photographers' clients are also publishers! We have a common interest
with AGT and CCC, and bringing them into the equation as partners only reinforces
that common interest and in no way reduces MPCA's effective representation of photographers to the client. These questions and more have long been discussed and settled to
the satisfaction of both the ASMP and MPCA boards. Each argument, if examined carefully,
can be seen as a reason for ASMP to support MPCA even more vigorously than it has
to date.

Rationale for MPCA:

ASMP established MPCA to carry out a task for photographers that ASMP itself cannot
perform. Since 1976, by Federal Trade Commission administrative decree, ASMP as a
trade association has been legally proscribed from representing photographers collectively. Many of the landmark accomplishments of ASMP in the past--negotiation of a minimum
editorial day rate, the editorial practice of one-time use, return of editorial photography
to the photographer after use--would now be legally prohibited. In the area of representation, ASMP's hands are tied. ASMP is limited to advising, educating and
distributing information that its members can use to represent themselves, and to
good offices mediation between photographers and clients in dispute. As a non-profit
corporation, ASMP cannot even lobby legislation on behalf of its members except by paying
tax on the money it uses in that effort. Agencies, publishers, stock agents, and
corporations can and regularly do ignore with impunity ASMP's most vociferous complaints
about unfair treatment of photographers. MPCA can assume for its membership the role
ASMP pursued so effectively for its membership prior to 1976.

The birth of MPCA

The ASMP leadership began to conceive of an MPCA-like organization in the late 1980's,
as we saw ASMP's traditional advocacy efforts begin to meet with decreasing success.
We recognized that digital technology would soon create universal access to high
quality reproducible photographs. Up to that time, the primary means a photographer had
to control the reproduction of his work was to maintain physical control of the original
photograph. A client had to have access to the original to make a high quality reproduction. We saw that with rapidly developing technology, physical control of the
original would not be enough to prevent unauthorized reproduction. We thought at
the time that the primary aspect of such a photo collective would be to administer
and enforce small secondary rights uses. With the improvement of technology, we soon realized
that the use of scanned and downloaded images was not limited to these "small rights".

A major print advertising campaign could easily utilize scanned images without a loss
of quality. Clients also were pushing work-for-hire contracts and all-rights buyouts,
a practice that increasingly continues as clients come to realize the high value
of content. We understood that if photographers did not have the negotiating strength
to retain the copyrights to their photographs, publishers and corporate clients would
obtain the rights contractually and deprive the photographer of the benefit of all
secondary uses--which would certainly not be all "small rights". MPCA resulted from
the recognition that only by collective action would photographers be assured of
holding on to their copyrights in the face of increasing pressure from publishers
and large corporate clients.

The strategy of partnering:

The essence of MPCA is strength in collective representation, but that strength can
only be exercised from within the market place. MPCA must be a player in the marketplace
to be effective. To minimize the capital required for startup and to leverage its
effectiveness by taking advantage of existing expertise, technology, and administrative
systems, MPCA needed partners. Applied Graphics Technology, the world's largest digital
prepress operation, was chosen to do the scanning, maintain the database, and develop the cataloging, search, and delivery software. In our estimation, there is no
other company that is better equipped to perform this service. It took twelve months
to negotiate that contract.

The Copyright Clearance Center, the largest copyright collecting society in the world,
was targeted to perform licensing and enforcement of copyright. Again, there is no
other entity that is as well equipped to perform this function. These two companies
are building interlocking systems linked to MPCA. The sales and marketing function will
be shared by all the partners, but again, MPCA is primarily the catalytic agent.
How will this strategic partnership work? MPCA is the sole partner in control of
pricing and usage, and as a true agent for its photographer members, it can only act with
their individual permissions.

Today, permission for pricing levels is established by a simple yes or no by each
individual member for his own work. In the future, software will be developed that
will allow distinct pricing by individual photographers and even individual photographs.
Neither CCC nor AGT can set prices or grant usage rights. MPCA is in sole control of
content, usage and price, and then only with the permission of the individual copyright
holder. Uniquely, the photographer owns his own scans and can have them removed from
the database at any time, or have them returned by paying the cost of transferring
them to removable media. Of the three partners, only MPCA has legal custody of the
scanned images.

The partnership will retain 30% of sales, a low percentage made possible by the economy
of digital technology. A major portion of that percentage will go to pay for the
AGT and CCC services. MPCA needs only to retain enough to pay its expenses, and the
partnership is structured to keep the MPCA expenses very low as most of the hardware,
software, sales, and development costs are borne by the other partners. AGT and CCC
are betting large amounts of money on the success of MPCA. If ASMP pulls the plug
on MPCA itself, you can be sure that AGT and CCC will take the system they are developing
and create a surrogate MPCA, but one which will not be answerable to photographers
-- another Corbis or PNI.

The Copyright Clearance Center:

The Copyright Clearance Center was established by the publishers at the behest of
the U.S. Congress in 19__ specifically to administer, enforce and collect rights
holders' license fees generated under the new copyright law. CCC was established
to represent any rights holder, including original creators, but only if those creators retain
the rights to their work. We are endeavoring to establish a system in which the creator
has not only the theoretical right but also the actual negotiating power to retain
copyright. ASMP cannot do that effectively, but MPCA can, and through the partnership
with CCC, MPCA can leverage the power of the creator by utilizing CCC's extensive
systems of license administration and enforcement, similar to what ASCAP has done
in the music business.

MPCA is, in many ways, a nascent ASCAP, and the difficulties of the establishment
of such a monolithic entity should not be underestimated. To be able to look forward
to secondary sales of any sort, photographers need negotiating clout. For most of
us that power can arise only from collective action. Only with a strong MPCA collective
representing photographers, can we effectively resist the demands of clients for
work for hire and extensive buyouts.

ASMP has been advising photographers against work for hire, copyright assignment,
and all rights buyouts ever since the 1976 copyright law created the necessity for
client to acquire these rights. But photographers must work to eat, and ASMP does
not have the legal right to go up against the publishers on behalf of photographers and represent
them collectively. So we still have to resist publishers' demands individually--a
very difficult negotiation when we are dealing with a multi-million dollar corporate
entity. There are always other photographers who will take the job and give away all

Interlocking interests:

The Media Photographers Copyright Association was established and is entirely owned
by ASMP. Despite ASMP ownership, federal law allows MPCA to represent photographers
collectively and individually. MPCA's initial representation focuses on stock photography, but it can represent photographers in assignment work as well. As with all for-profit
corporations, MPCA's primary obligation is to represent the interests of its owner
while acting as an agent of its own photographer members. MPCA's owner by design
is ASMP, whose primary mission is to protect and promote the interest of professional
photographers. This creates a closed loop of aligned interests which preclude any
possible conflict.

MPCA by definition and by law cannot act in a manner that is opposed to the interests
of ASMP and ASMP likewise is bound by law and by its own mission to act in the interests
of its members, who can also be represented by MPCA. Any money that is spent by ASMP on MPCA must benefit its members.

Where are we now?

MPCA is not yet serious competition for Corbis, KPX, Warner New Media, PNI, or any
of the other early players in the new digital media market. But because MPCA is the
only such agency established strictly to benefit photographers, it will be the one
that establishes the standard of fair representation. Even as a minor player, we cannot
be ignored. MPCA will grow in proportion to the resources ASMP is willing to commit.
Detractors of MPCA complain that it has accomplished too little in the three years
since it was established. These people are victims of shortsightedness and lack of vision.
They want a cheap, quick fix for photographers' problems in the stock business. The
concept of MPCA is so much more far-reaching that they fail to comprehend the magnitude of change that is possible. Such change comes about slowly, with great effort and
the great expenditure of resources. With MPCA we have the opportunity to create a
fundamental change in the way our business operates, the opportunity to give photographers the negotiating power with publishers and large corporations that they will never
achieve as individuals working alone.

But it will not be cheap, and it will not be quick. If future Boards choose to continue
the support of MPCA, they must be willing to commit necessary funding over a long
period of time. MPCA is a large endeavor, and it requires a large commitment.

Some have complained that ASMP is spending too much money on MPCA. I maintain it is
spending far too little. MPCA is the single most important initiative that ASMP has
made in its history, and its support should be proportional to that importance. Over
the past three years ASMP has allocated only about 5% of member dues money to MPCA, and
that only in the form of loans. During the same time, ASMP accumulated a surplus
of over $100,000 in reserves. I maintain that ASMP has the financial capability and
it the responsibility to fund MPCA to the extent necessary to ensure its timely establishment
in accord with its importance to photographers. There is nothing more important for
photographers today.


Gene is currently a board member of ASMP and treasurer of the organization. In February
he put the following message on the PhotoPro site in an effort to try to determine
attitudes of ASMP members on the MPCA issue.

I would appreciate comments on the present and future of MPCA. I solicit this information
as a national board member of ASMP trying to make informed decisions. I am interested
in what the ASMP membership and photography community think. I would prefer not to make this a political discussion, but rather am interested in hearing pro's
and con's of MPCA. Can it be profitable? Will it have a positive or negative effect
on pricing? To what extent should ASMP continue to fund this effort? To further
stimulate the conversation, I have posted, with permission, President Reagan Bradshaw's
March address to membership. Address to follow: President's message March bulletin,


Dear Eugene:

You asked for opinions on MPCA so here's mine. To begin, I totally endorse the position
taken by Vince Streano in early January. I'm sure you have seen it, but if you haven't
you can find his letter and Weisgrau's response at the beginning of this post.

1 - You asked, "Can it be profitable?" For who. The photographers or ASMP. Actually
I am very skeptical that it will ever be profitable for either, but you need to clearly
define who you want it to be profitable for. It is conceivable that it could be
profitable for one and not the other.

However, the biggest unanswered question about profitability is when will it start
selling images? What will be the state of the rest of the marketing world when MPCA
finally gets its act together? If you assume that the whole world is going to stand
by and do nothing in the way of marketing in the digital environment then maybe you could
make an argument for eventual profitability. However anyone who cares to look around
can see that there are lots of digital marketing options out there and more of them are appearing every day. MPCA isn't the only option and it is becoming a less and
less viable option by the minute as technological development marches on.

2 - "Will it have a positive or negative effect on pricing?" Right now it is having
a negative effect because its very existence prevents anyone from ASMP speaking out
on behalf of holding the line or raising rates. ASMP may not be able to set prices,
but they could have given photographers some guidance on how to price new digital usages.
I had a photographer ask me today if $50 a picture for six images was a "reasonable"
price for use of images in a screen saver. NO IT IS NOT. I know a photographer
who got $1000 per image for 12 images used in a screen saver. ASMP can't set prices,
but they should be able to supply anecdotal information that will help photographers
at least know the range they should be working in. They should at least be able
to tell photographers some of the questions they should be asking when they negotiate CD-
ROM or on-line uses. If ASMP is doing any of this I certainly haven't seen any evidence
of it.

It is interesting that Reagan says, "ASMP is limited (by the Federal Trade Commission)
to advising, educating and distributing information that its members can use to represent
themselves." If they would just do that it would be of much greater help to photographers than trying to establish MPCA.

Reagan says, "because MPCA is the only such agency established strictly to benefit
photographers, it will be the one that establishes the standard of fair representation."
The problem with this statement as I see it is that until MPCA is in full operation its seems that there is nothing it, or ASMP can do to "establish standards of fair
representation." Because most of us who are trying to make a living NOW can't wait.
When MPCA finally gets around to a point where they can say, "Oh, now we can help
you," my guess is that most of us won't need the help. We will have solved the problem
on our own, or we will be out of business.

After doing nothing to help the situation during the critical formative years will
ASMP/MPCA suddenly be able to enforce much higher prices when MPCA finally gets functional?
To me that argument makes absolutely no logical sense.

3 - "To what extent should ASMP continue to fund this effort?" That's easy. ASMP
should cease funding MPCA. If the MPCA members want to put in extra money to fund
it fine, but don't make all the other ASMP members pay for this boondoggle. In one
sense the funding of this project is a minor part of the problem. The real problem is the
energy of personnel that is being wasted trying to salvage something from a flawed

The MPCA goals are laudable, but it is easy to outline laudable goals. At some point
I believe the board needs to face reality. It has been three years since MPCA was
first proposed and the board has spent a huge amount of energy in promoting the MPCA
concept. In that period of time only a few very minuscule steps have been taken toward
a fully operating and functioning organization. A huge amount still needs to be
done to get the organization to a point where it can achieve even part of its goals.
Membership enthusiasm and support has been less than overwhelming -- and, if anything
is diminishing, as it takes longer and longer to get something going. Is it realistic
to think that the goals can be accomplished? Is it the only way professional photography can be saved? Is it time to accept the fact that it is a flawed concept and move

Now let me deal with some of the points in Reagan's article.

Objection 2. Prices and practices are always in flux, but if prices get established
at the $50 level when they should have been at the $1000 level MPCA, or anyone else
is going to have a hell of a time getting them back to where they should be. Fortunately, there are some of us who are fighting back right now to try to keep photographers
from unknowingly undercutting the market. ASMP could have been a help in this area
because they have the means of communicating with a large number of photographers.
However, they have abdicated their responsibility because they are too busy trying to
get MPCA to work.

Reagan talks about the "collective strength of MPCA
the market." At 500 member MPCA represents about as many people as a single large
stock agency. However, it is my strong impression that many of those 500 members
have already written off MPCA and are doing other things to sell their pictures. They
are not supplying images for this file, even when they can get them scanned, keyworded
and captioned for ridiculously low prices.

Critical Points to be considered:

1 - Editorial Images -- MPCA is focused on marketing editorial images, not commercial
images. The market for stock images is heavily weighted toward the commercial.
We at Stock Connection have been marketing images on CD-ROM for two-and-a-half years.
We currently represent the work of over 90 photographers. Last year we licensed usages
in 38 states. We have a lot of editorial images on our discs, but 90% of what is
selling are images that can be used for commercial purposes. MPCA is focused to
selling to the weakest segment of the market. It doesn't make any difference how great a
file you have, if no one wants to buy the images you are not going to make any sales.
Too many photographers want to shoot what they love instead of what the market wants
to buy. ASMP/MPCA is doing a disservice to photographers when they try to convince
them that somehow MPCA will be able to sell pictures that no one wants to buy.

2 - Keywording -- In the digital environment you must use words to find pictures.
Keywording, and to a degree captioning, is critical if you expect anyone to find
and look at your image. We find it takes an experienced person using a computer
program designed for the purpose about 15 to 20 minutes to adequately keyword an image.

MPCA is offering to keyword and caption images for the photographers for $1.00 per
image. I predict that MPCA will either do a woefully inadequate job of keywording,
or they will lose bundles of money in the process. In their efforts to give the
photographer something for nothing they always end up throwing money away and getting nowhere.

3 - Quality of Imagery -- Rumor has it that much of the imagery currently in the database
is of marginal quality. If that is true what makes the board think that the people
with the good imagery are going to let MPCA handle it? Someone from the board, other than Dick Weisgrau, and someone who has some understanding of what sells as stock
ought to take a look at that database before the May meeting.

Have the board member ever seen a list of photographers who have supplied images for
the database, and the number of images they have supplied? Do the board members
know the percentage of MPCA members who have actually supplied images for the database?
What makes the board think people who have been MPCA members for 2 years and have never
supplied one image to the files will ever do so? If you can't get American members
to join MPCA what makes you think you are going to get foreigners to participate?

4 - 70% to photographers -- I'm getting tired of hearing that 70% is such a great
deal. Stock Connection gives the photographers we represent 75% of the gross fee
we collect. Yes, we do require that the photographer pay the basic cost of advertising
the image in a print or digital catalog as do most agencies, but 75% of something is better
than 70% of nothing.

5 - ASMP and MPCA boards -- Finally, I think the ASMP board should determine if having
the MPCA board made up almost entirely of ASMP board members is not putting the organization
at some legal risk. This policy of having the ASMP executive committee be the MPCA board is not a temporary measure. It has been going on for quite some time.
It is my understanding that the former counsel for ASMP advised that there should
be clear separation between the two boards in order to avoid problems with the FTC.

You asked for my opinion. You got it.


ASMP board member Peter B. Kaplan sent the following in response to Jim Pickerell's
response to Eugene Mopsik.

Dear Jim,

I received your letter to Eugene and knew I had to applaud you, provide additional
back up support and information, and then pass this on to all ASMP members.

First, I wholeheartedly agree with you about Vince Streano's position and completely
respect him for having the courage to stand up and speak the truth. Sometimes it
seems that if a member speaks out against ASMP policy, somehow the ASMP executive
committee finds a way to undermine and invalidate that member.

You go on to say, "ASMP may not be able to set prices, but they could have given photographers
some guidance on how to price new digital usages." I submitted to the Board for
the board packet, three documents which were paid invoices for electronic usage, one from an ASMP member and the other two from former members
for figures between $2000 and $5000. This was ignored.

In your next paragraph you go on to quote Reagan "...educating and distributing information
that its members can use to represent themselves." I've been disagreeing with Mr.
Weisgrau for over a year that the Time Inc. contract, which he calls a letter of
information, is being distributed with the ASMP name implying an endorsement of Time,
Inc's decision to pay the embarrassing and ridiculously low price of $75.00 per image
for electronic rights in perpetuity. Is this the best type of educating materials
we can send out to the industry? For members and non-members that we effect, is this
the best ASMP can do?

Regarding your discussion of Reagan's theory how MPCA will establish the standard
of fair representation, I wish to add that I had submitted rates that are being charged
to the advertiser for the internet and showing how many hits they are averaging.
The numbers are staggering, yet it should be clear that photographers should get their
fair share. This too was ignored.

I was scolded by the Society for daring to discuss at an ASMP open meeting the fact
that our name appears on the document that TIME, INC. sent out to our membership.
Again, I call it a contact and Mr. Weisgrau calls it a letter of information. I
understand this will be answered by our counsel at the next Board meeting.

All of the above documents were submitted to be included in the Board Packet, in order
to educate the full board, who in turn will educate our members, as to the real prices
of the industry. They were stamped by the Princeton staff as CONFIDENTIAL and discussed in Executive Session only. So out the window goes that bit of information.
If you want copies of these public documents, I'll be glad to get you updated versions.
Your spirited analysis of MPCA & ASMP makes sense to me and if I am reelected, I
will be sure to vote to cease funding MPCA.

Regarding prices and practices, let me say I disagree with both Reagan and you. Sorry
Jim, but I have always felt you charge too little and Reagan, he makes me laugh and
shake my head. The prices I mentioned earlier are more to my liking.

You conclude with a lot of good thoughts, including the false promise of "keywording,"
the quality of imaging, and the duplicity of the ASMP/MPCA boards. If I'm reelected,
I will continue to raise these issues, I'm thrilled to see so many members finally
discovering, speaking out, talking, examining, re-evaluating and writing or should
I say typing their thoughts and feelings. I'm optimistic and like our forefathers
who gave us the first amendment allowing all of us to have the freedom of speech
feel we all must have a colloquy on the important issues.

Best as always,

Peter B. Kaplan


Editor's Note:
In the following Vince is replying to some of the points in Reagan Bradshaw's March
President's message and responding to Gene Mopsik's request for members opinions.

I would like to answer some of the points Reagan makes in his President's letter.
First of all I would like to say that it seems like every time someone tries to
explain MPCA, it changes and gets more grandiose. Its very difficult to define
a moving target

so no one can ever pin down a business plan, a time table, or goals. I also realize
that MPCA has been built into this super dream, the last hope, etc., for photographers
if they hope to survive in this new economy. And people don't like to have their
dreams shattered, which is why I believe so many members would rather go along with
the dream than face reality that MPCA hasn't a snowball's chance in hell of ever
becoming viable.

My Comments to Reagan Bradshaw's "answers":

"Answer...Over fourteen percent of the eligible voting membership of ASMP chose to
support the concept of MPCA by joining the agency directly. The indirect benefit
of MPCA to ASMP and its membership in terms of credibility and influence in government
and among other industry groups is not measurable, but MPCA has increased ASMP's influence
greatly. MPCA's future impact will be even greater, both in terms of ASMP's clout
and direct benefit to members."

Fourteen percent is hardly a ringing endorsement. And Reagan is correct when he says
the indirect benefit in terms of credibility and influence is not measurable. However
I believe ASMP's influence would be at least the same, if not greater, without MPCA. Obviously this is a very subjective judgement.

"Answer: standards, prices, and practices in the trade are in constant flux, and always
subject to influence, but a presence must be established in the marketplace to exert
that influence effectively."

Again this is a subjective opinion. But no one has answered the question of how MPCA
can exert positive influence for photographers when it has to operate in a marketplace
that is dominated by low price sellers. MPCA will either have to match the low cost prices to compete, or go out of business because of lack of sales.

"Answer...ASMP's advocacy and representational efforts over the past three years have
never been more effective, due in part to the high level of respect and visibility
ASMP has gained through the establishment of MPCA."

Again this is a subjective opinion that has no factual proof. I get really tired
of Dick and others on the board saying ASMP has not been effective in the past as
an advocate for photographers. One only has to look at the Supreme Court victory
in the Reid decision, and the court victory with Art Rogers, to see how ASMP has been extremely
effective in the past. Show me one thing ASMP has done in the past three years that
has had half the impact on our profession as those two decision. Now I'm keeping
my fingers crossed that we have a successful conclusion with the copyright office in
the matter of depositless registration. If we are successful, that again will have
nothing to do with MPCA, in spite of what others say.

"Answer: with additional financial support from ASMP, the MPCA file could be acquired
at a much lower cost to members."

This is the line that really scares me. Is Reagan, and others on the board, suggesting
that ASMP will subsidize MPCA member's scanning fees with ASMP dues money? If this
is what Reagan is hinting at, I can guarantee you will see a revolt among non MPCA members like you have never seen before. And I will be leading the charge...

"Answer: MPCA has to build the file before it can market the images. Marketing and
sales will follow image acquisition."

Gene, this is the essence of the problem right here. MPCA has only 8,000 images so
far in its file, and from those I have talked to who have seen the file, the quality
isn't that great. Corbis has almost 1 million images in its file, and it doesn't
feel it has enough content yet to be competitive. Just how do you think MPCA, in any reasonable
amount of time, is going to acquire enough high quality content in order to implement
its business plan? Not only do you need to cover scanning charges, but you need editors, key word experts, sales personal, etc., etc. etc. Dick keeps saying these
are simply operational problems. Perhaps they are, but how are they going to be

The final part of Reagan's address under "Rationale of MPCA" is all well and good
in theory. Yes it would be wonderful if photographers had a collective bargaining
partner that could negotiate all of their contracts, avoid work for hire, and receive
fair pay for their efforts. But MPCA will never do this, just like ASCAP doesn't do it
for the music industry. As a group, Musicians are probably one of the only groups
of artists who have less industry respect than photographers. They get lousy pay,
and unless they are at the top of their profession like Michael Jackson, lose most of their
rights to music publishers.

Reagan says "in partnership with CCC, MPCA can leverage the power of the creator by
utilizing CCC's extensive systems of license administration and enforcement, similar
to what ASCAP has done in the music business. MPCA is, in many ways, a nascent ASCAP,
and the difficulties of the establishment of such a monolithic entity should not be

I think if you ask most musicians in this country how ASCAP is protecting their rights,
they would look at you like you were crazy. ASCAP doesn't protect musicians rights,
protect them from work for hire, or do any of the other things ASMP claims MPCA will do for photographers. ASCAP simply administrates secondary rights, and distributes
the royalties, mostly to the music publishers, because they own most of the copyrights.
If MPCA would stick to simply administrating secondary rights, then it could be a very useful organization. You would not have the up front expenses of trying to
create a huge file of content, and you would still have the industry clout you talk
about when it comes to be an advocate for photographers. Lets face it Gene, the
bottom line here is MPCA will not work because it will never get the content needed to become
a viable entity.

Everything MPCA wants to do has to begin with an extensive library of HIGH QUALITY
images. I mean a minimum of 500,000, and in reality they need four times that many.
Corbis is paying photographers $4.50 for each image they provide, PNI provided each
of their first five agencies with 50,000 scans each for free. This is how they developed
their content. How is MPCA going to get their's? In theory, ASMP can make MPCA
sound like a photographer's dream. Unfortunately I don't believe they will ever
be able to make that dream a reality. The time to recognize this is now before ASMP wastes
more resources on this impossible dream.


Editors Note: The following is a letter from Eugene Mopsik to David Betito, a candidate
for the ASMP board from Montreal.

Dear David: I have mixed feelings about MPCA. My primary concern, as treasurer of
ASMP, is to maintain the financial integrity of the Society and to try to insure
that funds are available for mandated programs. For personal reasons, I was unable
to attend the last Board meeting in Salt Lake City. I did call in on Saturday and was surprised
to hear about the up to $100,000.00 access to the Contingency Fund to be voted on
Sunday. I indicated to Reagan Bradshaw that this was something I was not in favor
of. Webster defines contingency as, "something whose occurrence depends on chance
or uncertain conditions." The Contingency Fund should not be used for items or programs
which could be budgeted within the normal budgetary process. For any monies from
this fund, or for that matter any other monies from ASMP, to be used by MPCA, ASMP policy
dictates that a budget be in place and be approved by the Board.

MPCA should be subject to the same financial strictures any other ASMP program is
subject to - it should have a plan and a budget and should be subject to periodic
review by the board of directors. To that end, I have requested that the Executive
Director draw up a plan for MPCA and informed him that before any ASMP monies can be spent
by MPCA there needs to be a budget in place. There should be some way to compare
the benefit gained versus the cost to ASMP.

I am told that MPCA will exist for the "greater good" of all photographers. It is
not clear to me exactly what this means. I think that I (we, ASMP) have not done
an adequate job of explaining to the membership the vision of MPCA. Part of the
problem is, as has been noted, that the vision has changed from inception. My sense is that
MPCA is a benefit to the Society and the general photographic community, however,
I do not currently see it as a profit making entity for ASMP. The real value of
MPCA is in the access it grants to spheres of influence formerly unavailable to ASMP because
of our trade association status. Is this worth the time, expense, and effort expended?

Ultimately, the ASMP Board will have to decide to what extent it is willing to continue
to fund MPCA.

I do not have all of the answers to your questions; but, if re-elected to the Board,
will keep an open mind at the next meeting and see that proper financial procedures
are adhered to. I hope that I have clarified my position, and I look forward to
further dialogue on this and other subjects.


I'll be the first to admit that I know very little about MPCA. Not enough to defend
or support it. While many of the pro/con arguments seem very well justified, my
major concern is whether MPCA is shaping up to be a viable enterprise. From what
I understand, there are less than 10,000 images in the existing file and there are still considerable
expenses, alliances and logistical aspects to resolve.

I think I saw somewhere that MPCA will need 250,000 images to start yet we're not
even 5% there. Is it a good idea in concept and are the major supporters acting
in good faith? It would seem so. Until I see a business plan, it's just a nice
idea with a lot of smoke but very little fire to me at this point. What is the timetable for
a return on ASMP's investment? Are we expecting a return on the investment?

For the Biennial Conference, we were required to submit a very detailed projected
best case/worst case profit and loss scenario. Has this been done for MPCA and if
so, is it kept current? When reviewing the recent ASMP election profiles, more candidates
supported MPCA than not. They obviously know something or understand some aspect
of it better than I do, and frankly, that is what they are elected to do. Deal with
the tedious issues of the ongoing operation and future of this association.

Other than online discussions and shouting matches, I've never heard another member
even discuss MPCA. So, I still know nothing more about MPCA than when I started
writing this response and now I've proven it!!! Peace!


The decisions of ASMP have an effect on virtually all photographers. The organization
is the leading organization for legal decisions which control our industry. Obviously,
not all photographers belong to or give a hoot about ASMP but the organization still has a dramatic affect on their business. Take for example a rather uniform term
in the industry "ASMP RATES" which technically don't exist because the ASMP can't
set rates but you still hear the phrase throughout the industry.

Personally, I feel that MPCA is a travesty and should be discussed freely in this
forum (PhotoPro). I do not approve of PNI and have made my feelings known here.
People do listen and several of my posts were quoted verbatim in Photo District
News. MPCA is not a whole lot different than PNI. The organization is showing

signs of "jumping in bed" with the companies that will allow for clip art, etc. MPCA
is not turning out to be what it was designed for and further it is costing hugh
finances from every member. I say keep it in the open.

Copyright © 1996 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 301-251-0720, 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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