Random Thoughts 27

Posted on 12/18/2000 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



December 18, 2000

Percentages For On-line Sales

USA Today recently reported that Random House is changing the percentage it gives writers

to 50% for book that are published on-line. This is up from a normal 10% to 15% royalty

that writers have traditionally received on printed book sales.

It is interesting that book publishers are recognizing that when their production costs

decrease the creators of the product are entitled to a larger percentage of the gross


Consumer Sales

Photographers have recently received sales reports from Corbis for consumer sales, and

many seem to be surprised at the low fees. One said, "Having been steeped in traditional

licensing practices it never occurred to me that an image of mine that has sold for as

much as $8,500 for an ad would become available for $3.00 for personal consumer use."

I think this reflects and attitude of many photographers. Some perspective on

"consumer use" needs to be applied. Few photographers would complain if one of their

pictures that sold for $8,500 was later licensed for a postcard or greeting card use at

about $500. Normally, this $500 fee would cover the printing of 10,000 to 20,000 cards.

Each of those cards is then sold to a consumer for about $3 to $5 at current prices. The

photographer (at a 50/50 split) would receive about $.0125 (that's 1.25 cents) per

consumer use. That is way less than 1% of the selling price of the card.

What Corbis is trying to do with these consumer sales is sell that picture directly to the

individual consumer, rather than have to print 20,000 copies and distribute them through

retail stores.

Of course, there is a risk that the consumer will lie, not honor the license and make

other uses of the picture. There is also a risk that the consumer who buys the postcard,

or the magazine with the $8,500 print ad, will scan the picture and make illegal use of

it. If the consumer makes any use of the image other than that licensed he is breaking

the law.

Far be it from me to defend Corbis, but in this case I think what they are doing not only

benefits them, but also benefits their photographers. The photographer is certainly getting a

much higher percentage of the total fee collected than he would have received if the

greeting card had been sold to a consumer. Of course, this assumes that Corbis is doing

everything possible to inform the consumer of the limits placed on use when they license a

"consumer use."

Very few of us ever got rich from licensing rights for greeting cards, and we probably

never will. But I don't know of any photographer who has told their agent that they can't

license such uses to their images.

MSN Exploiting Photography Community Members

The San Jose Mercury reports that members of the Microsoft Network "Pics From The Inside"

photography community think they are being exploited by MSN. The community allows Microsoft

to take images posted by any visitor and -- without permission of the creator -- copy them

onto T-shirts, coffee mugs, mouse pads and greeting cards.

Most participants on this site are amateurs and had no intention of allowing Microsoft to

make money off of their personal pictures in this manner.

However, the boilerplate "terms of service" agreement states that "by posting, uploading,

inputting, providing or submitting your Submission, you are granting Microsoft, its affiliated

companies and necessary sublicensees permission to use your Submission in connection with

the operation of their Internet businesses including, without limitation, the rights to: copy,

distribute, transmit, publicy display, publicy perform, reproduce, edit, translate and reformat

your Submission." Consequently, Microsoft probably have full legal right to do what they are


For more entertainment see:


Stock Market Announces Production of Catalog 14

In encouraging news The Stock Market has notified their photographers that they are moving

ahead with Catalog 14 and a companion disc called CD14 which will be released in January


One of the concerns of photographers ever since the announcement last Spring that Corbis

would be acquiring TSM was whether TSM would be allowed to continue to function

independently. This seems to be a move to aggressively market TSM as a separate brand, at

least for the time being, and is welcome news to nervous photographers.

It is unclear how many copies they intend to distribute. The co-op costs that will be

deducted from photographer sales beginning three months after catalog release is $350 for

each image in the print catalog and $30 for each image on the CD. This is markedly

different from the well over $1000 per image catalog fees that Stone is charging for some

of their catalogs. (See

Random Thoughts 26 .)

Getty Images Consolidation In Germany

Getty is in the process of consolidating their brands in Germany. They have closed the

Stone offices in Hamburg and Dusseldorf and are concentrating their operations in Munich

in the old Bavaria Bildagentur headquarters.

Getty acquired the Bavaria building when they bought VCG. Bavaria was one of the VCG

brands. The entire creative team of Bavaria was fired in October. Selection and

editing of images produced by Bavaria photographers is now being handled by the Getty

Images offices in London.

The official line is that the Bavaria brand will continue to be developed and

strengthened. However, photographers are having trouble understanding how this will


Indications are that Stone will be branded as the modern innovative cutting edge supplier

and TIB will offer more conservative classical pictures. Getty Images wants each brand to

have a distinctive visual identity from the point of view of the buyer. Photographers are

having a difficult time figuring out what this third VCG distinctive might be -- (one

where Bavaria, Telegraph Colour Library and FPG could fit in.) So far Getty Images has

given not identified a third "brand" distinctive.

One problem is that Stone, TIB and the various VCG brands have been in head-to-head

competition for years. All are currently perceived by the buyers as offering a full range

of quality imagery from innovative cutting edge to conservative classical. Moreover,

individual photographers associated with each of these brands, from time to time produce

images that would fall into the category of one or the other "new" brands.

The way the brands were organized in the past, each could potentially represent all of the

images produced by the photographers they represented. Under the new branding it will be

necessary for photographers to cross from brand to brand, if they want to continue to work

in a variety of styles and want to market everything they produce.

Adding to the complexity for the photographers, each brand has different contracts and

different royalty percentages.

Getty's Special Collection strategy

( See Story 346 )

was supposed to be part of the answer

as to how photographers would cross over, but the word on the street is that the "Special

Collections" terminology is no longer being used within Getty Images. Clearly, Getty

still wants to develop a series of subject oriented catalogs and they want the

photographer royalty percentage to be similar to that currently being paid to TIB


The problem seems to be that enough photographers from other brands rejected the idea of

letting their images be used at lower royalty rates, that Getty has now been forced to

restructure the proposal in an effort to try to make it attractive to a sufficient number

of photographers.

Photographers are hopeful that Getty Images will offer one company wide contract which

would enable photographers to submit images to various brands with all royalty rates being

equal and the terms and conditions for working with each brand being the same. The

problem for Getty with such an arrangement is that they would want the lowest royalty rate

currently in use to apply across the board and for a huge percentage of their

photographers that will be unacceptable.

Getting back to Germany, TIB Germany -- also based in Munich -- continues to operate

independently as it is owned by Soyka and a group of investors. It is expected that Getty

will eventually buy control of the TIB operation in Germany as they recently did with


Michael Luigs former managing director of gettyone for Europe has left the company and

Klaus Rottger is the new man in charge.

Comstock Closes London Office

The London staff of the Comstock office is notifying customers and the press that the

office will be permanently closed as of the end of the year. Comstock entire European

operation will now be based in Luxemburg.

TIME Magazine Assignment Rates

The editors Time Magazine insists they can't afford to pay more than $400 a day for

assignments, or $500 if the photographer agrees to give them all future electronic rights

to the images.

In January 1984 the Time Magazine day rate was $300 per day. Seventeen years later it is

only $400, a 33% increase. In January 1984 shares of Time-Warner stock sold for $4.62 per

share. Since then the stock has split twice so one share would equal 4 today and the

December 7th closing price was $69.30. Thus a $4.62 investment in Time-Warner stock 1984

would have netted the shareholder $277.20 today -- a 6000% increase.

Also, given the increases in the cost of living $300 in 1984 would equal $496.63 today.

Photographers would need to be earning at least $496.63 per day from TW -- without giving

up any electronic rights -- just to have stayed even with the rates paid in 1984.

Time gets away with paying such low rates because there are so many photographers

anxiously awaiting the opportunity to work for Time. These photographers will complain,

but they work for anything Time offers them. The only thing that will bring about a

significant increase in Time Magazine assignment rates is the same thing that happened at

Business Week. A large number of photographer must simultaneously refuse to accept Time

assignments. Most people believe editorial photographers will never have the courage to

do this -- but then these same people believed photographers would never have the courage

to say no to Business Week either.


Most of my readers are well aware that the vast majority of photo contests are rip offs

designed to exploit unsuspecting photographers. Usually the prizes are minimal and the

odds of winning infinitesimal.

But what really drives these contests is the chance to get free images which the promoters

can exploit in any way they choose. The Internet also makes it very easy to conduct such

a contest. It costs almost nothing to post a site on-line, pay for a few prizes, and send

out e-mails promoting your contest. We will probably see a lot more of this type of thing

in the future. And the contest promoters may become our competitors in licensing rights

to photographs.

The FirstEye.com contest was recently called to my attention. In addition to still

images, cartoons, paintings and drawings they are also looking for short films, animations

and music videos. The first contest lasts for about two months and the prizes are: one

Sony DCR Camcorder ($2500 value) and three Phillips DVD Players ($200 value each.) It

looks like they intend to run a continuing series of contests. A complete set of the

Contest's Official Rules is available at www.firsteye.com.

The kicker is the rights the creator gives up by participating. The contest rules say,

"By participating in the FirstEye For Content Contest, where permitted by law,

participants grant FirstEye a non-exclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, perpetual and

transferable license to use, copy, publish, distribute, transmit, display, download,

reproduce, create derivative works from, modify, edit and adapt the submitted content."

Basically, they own for the purpose of licensing, not just the prize winners, but

everything submitted. Certainly none of my readers would fall for this. Warn every other

photographer to avoid contests.

New Royalty Free Catalog

PhotoAlto has added 11 new discs relating to Health and Beauty to their new royalty free

catalog. The work of five photographers are on these 11 discs. They currently have 90

CD's with 9,500 images in their RF collection. Each disc sell for $375.

"Beauty is one of the modern-day values", explains Isabelle Rozenbaum, Director of the

PhotoAlto collection. The late twentieth century is all about aesthetics, fit and healthy

bodies, organic, natural foods. Sport and health go together to illustrate this movement,

which is characteristic of our era and we have produced a collection of photos which

reflects this."

The images in this new collection include: male bodies, their silhouettes, strength and

sensuality, by Vera Atchou, a series of eyes and mouths, signed by Isabelle Rozenbaum and

Genevieve Paillo, body care and health by John Dowland, moving, warm and evocative

couples by Jean-Claude Marlaud, and women in the Caribbean sun by Pierre Bourrier.

PhotoAlto is a French company, based in Paris, and was founded in 1995 by two

photographers and a graphic designer.

Copyright © 2000 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.  


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