363 RANDOM THOUGHTS 27
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.