Alamy has clarified a few aspects of its arrangement with the Copyright Clearance Center to create the new ReadyImages service that was announced yesterday. The company’s Rachel Wakefield said the ReadyImages offering is quite different from CCC’s past photo-industry activities, which concerned many photographers.
CCC and the photo industry
CCC had a long history of licensing rights to thousands of corporate users to photocopy images found in various publications. This was in the period before the Internet, when it was much more difficult to track specific image uses and their owners. Seldom did any portion of the fees collected for such copies make their way to the creators of the works.
In 2001, photographers Seth Resnick, Michael Grecco and Paula Lerner filed a class action lawsuit against the CCC for copyright infringement. They lost the case and could not afford to appeal; however, they were able to introduce some evidence that unauthorized use of images was, in fact, occurring.
Some time later, the Authors Coalition of America—which united about 20 independent creator associations—was able to quietly work out an arrangement whereby a portion of the monies generated from photocopying American works abroad was paid to the Coalition instead of the CCC, with the stipulation that the funds be used in educational and advocacy activities. In December 2007, the American Society of Media Photographers received $1.3 million from this arrangement.
New distribution channel
With ReadyImages, the CCC is offering its existing clients a new service: a subscription scheme for obtaining rights to photos for internal use. Alamy CEO James West said that with ReadyImages, “CCC has used its experience in licensing all types of content to solve a big headache for large corporations. It has recognized that businesses want a safe way of sourcing pictures online for internal communications.”
ReadyImages offers Alamy photographers a new distribution channel. Though specific financial details have not been disclosed, the scheme’s contributing photographers will receive a 50% share of the total paid by the customer—not 50% of the Alamy share, which is standard practice of most third-party marketing arrangements. How Alamy and the CCC will share the remaining 50% is not known.
If CCC wants to add images from another source, Alamy has ensured that its agreement with the company provides for the fair distribution of royalties, reflecting the buyers’ actual use of each participating rights-holder’s images.
As with all such arrangements, ReadyImages subscribers are allowed to download a generous number of images for an annual fee. Many of the images downloaded will never be used. Still, the photographer royalties will be based on their images’ proportional share of the total downloads by a particular client—regardless of whether they are used.
Wakefield said: “We have taken cautious steps forward to ensure the copyright owners’ rights are carefully considered. We are brokering this deal with the usual Alamy ethics of ensuring the contributors are getting a fair representation in a new market.”