The Battle Comntinues - ASMP/PACA

Posted on 6/5/1999 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



June 5, 1999

The war of words between ASMP and PACA continues.

A problem for both organizations in our rapidly changing marketing environment

is that the interests of their respective memberships have become so diverse

that each has difficulty in defining a coherent policy that represents the

interests of all members.

An increasing number of ASMP members earn some of their income from Royalty

Free, and yet in their public statements ASMP is vehemently opposed to RF.

Clearly, on this issue, ASMP doesn't represent the "undivided interests" of

all its member photographers. On the other hand, PACA has some member

organizations that have removed the term agent from their contracts. These

companies clearly do not want to accept the fiduciary responsibilities of

being an agent, and prefer to deal with photographers as suppliers.

Currently there are ads on TV for a forest products association that

stresses their interests in protecting the environment. They point out that

companies that failed to agree with their clearly defined policy were ejected

from their association. Don't expect to see either ASMP or PACA

taking policy positions that require them to eject members.

After the smoke settles, the battle between ASMP and PACA is unlikely to

result in any changes in photographer/agency relationships. On the whole

agencies will not become any more

"photographer friendly" than is currently the case.

As has been the case for some time, photographers need to recognize that not

all agency agreements are equal. Most agencies are willing to negotiate

on certain points within the agreement. Photographers should carefully

examine every agency agreement with a critical and skeptical eye and have a

clear understanding of the downside risks before signing.

The following is Victor Perlman's response to the PACA public statement

concerning the May 3rd meeting

(See Story 223) . Perlman is

ASMP Managing Director and General Counsel. Below that is PACA's response

to Perlman.

ASMP Response To PACA

On May 3, 1999 representatives of ASMP and PACA met at the request of PACA

to discuss some issues relating to the relationship between photographers

and stock agencies. At that meeting, ASMP presented PACA with a draft of an

open letter to PACA, but indicated that distribution of it would be withheld

for the time being. On May 10, PAGA issued a "Statement Regarding ASMP" in

a memo addressed to its members. This letter is provided in response.

The PACA statement is so self-serving as to be fundamentally inaccurate, and

some of its basic premises are absurd on their face. PACA claims that "ASMP

was to have provided" a statement of the photographers' responsibilities to

agencies. This is simply not credible: PACA, not ASMP, is the entity that

would know what stock agencies want from photographers.

Further, the agreements with photographers that PACA has recommended, and

the agreements used by most of PACA's members, already contain virtually all

of the responsibilities that photographers could possibly owe to stock

agencies, and far more than photographers should owe. Suggesting that it

was ASMP that had the obligation to find out what responsibilities the

agencies wanted or expected from photographers simply does not fly.

The points that ASMP made at the meeting, and the points that PACA has

markedly ignored, are:

    1. that most agreements between photographers and stock agencies are,

    at their core, unfair to photographers, and

    2. that ASMP is demanding that PACA take some action to correct that

    situation and recommend agreements to its members that provide at least some

    minimal fairness to photographers.

The fact that PACA agreed to do so in 1992 and has ignored that agreement

and the basic elements necessary for a minimally fair agreement is really

beside the point. All we are asking is for contracts that provide at least

the minimum rights necessary for some fairness to photographers. If PACA

needs to know what those basic elements are, it need only look at the five

points that it agreed to in 1992. Or, if PACA wants a truly, not just

minimally, fair agreement, we would be happy to provide a copy of the

standard MPCA photographers contract for its consideration.

PACA has suggested that ASMP is not doing its job when it says that "ASMP no

longer represents the undivided interests of the working professional

photographer-" In fact, that is precisely what ASMP is doing when it

confronts stock agencies and their trade association over business practices

that have eroded to the point where photographers are considered mere

service providers and most agencies have become the masters instead of the

agents. It is therefore no wonder that PACA feels so threatened that it has

refused to deal with the issue of fairness,- it obviously feels that

fairness to photographers is contrary to the business interests of its

members. If PACA wishes to prove ASMP wrong in that conclusion, it need

only live up to the commitment it made seven years ago and recommend that

its members give photographers at least certain fundamental and essential

rights. PACA need only respond in positive actions instead of negative


Victor S. Perlman, ASMP Managing Director and General Counsel

PACA Response

ASMP has once again indicated their refusal to engage in meaningful

conversation about shared concerns, the censorship of information provided

to stock photographers through local chapter meetings, exaggerated

misinformation about agencies in general, and ASMP's direct public promotion

and recruitment of photographers for a PACA agency competitor and

ASMP-founded agency, Mira/MPCA. It is extremely unethical toward PACA

agencies and ASMP's member photographers for ASMP to attempt to play the

roles of both competitor and critic. The criticism leveled at PACA is done

so under the guise of the best interests of the ASMP membership, rather than

joining PACA in the common issues that affect all aspects of the industry.

Once again, ASMP refers to the seven-year-old claimed "Joint Statement."

Once again, PACA questions the validity of this "Joint Statement." It must

be admitted that, at best, it is a disputed, incomplete document. However,

ASMP's position that the current needs of stock photographers are

represented in this "Joint Statement" has been taken into consideration.

PACA has referred the list of five issues to the PACA Legal Committee for

consideration in their continuous evaluation and updates of all documents

contained in the PACA Legal Handbook. Of course, it should be understood

these issues are currently addressed in varying degrees by individual PACA

agencies. PACA advises that photographers should carefully examine contracts

and business practices before joining or re-signing with any agency.

Copyright © 1999 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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