The End Of RM

Posted on 3/11/2019 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Getty Images personnel are telling some stock agency image suppliers that in 3 to 5 years there will be no more Rights Managed licensing. Everything will be RF. Currently, only 21% of the images in Getty’s Creative collection are RM. That is down from 55% in 2007, the last time Getty supplied detailed figures on gross sales of the various collections. Getty is also putting pressure on individual photographers to switch their RM images to RF.

In addition, Getty has told some of the agencies whose collections they represent that they must either switch their RM images to RF or Getty will stop representing the RM images.

In addition, most of these agencies have co-exclusive agreements with Getty which allow the supplying agency to continue licensing the same images as they have supplied to the Getty collection to their own clients.

Under co-exclusive agreements if one of Getty’s customers is interested in licensing Exclusive or “Market Freeze” use of an image then Getty must call the supplying agency to determine if such a license is available and there are no other restrictions on use of the image. Getty wants to avoid this hassle in the future. If the agencies refuse to give Getty total exclusive rights then their images are out.

The supplying agencies look at how much the Getty share of their revenue has fallen in the last few years and often decide, “We don’t want to give up any revenue, but losing the revenue Getty provides is less of a problem than losing revenue from the customers we deal with directly.”

In recent years it has become clear that customers don’t always demand total exclusive use of an image they have chosen for a major project. They just want to be sure that the image has been taken off the market for the period of time while they will be using it. Customers are willing to use RF images for such projects. It doesn’t bother them that others may have licensed the image previously and have the right to continue to use it simultaneously with their use, as long as a new customer, possibly a competitor, can’t get access to the image. A few customers are willing to pay significantly more for such “Market Freeze” uses of an image. (See Stocksy pricing)  Getty want to make it possible for their customers to automatically license Market Freezes without the necessity of talking to a Getty sales person.

Getty feels they don’t need RM anymore in order to make these higher priced sales. They can get along fine with only RF images. Shutterstock and other microstock agencies are making some sales of this type. We have no idea how much revenue such Market Freeze sales may generate for these other agencies, or for Getty.

Revenue RM Represents

It is unclear how much revenue RM licenses represent for Getty. Even back in 2006 Getty was earning more per-image-in-the-collection from RF images than from RM despite the fact that the average price to license an RM image was about twice as much as an RF image, and there were those occasional extremely high license fees for RM images.

In 2006 Getty had 973,933 RM images in its collection and earned $325,930,000 from those images during the year. That works out to an average of $334.65 per-image for the year. There were 787,281 RF images in the collection which earned $308,170,000 during the year. That works out to an average of $391.43 per-image. Even at that time revenue from RM was declining quarter by quarter while RF revenue was steadily increasing. While the RF images were sold for lower prices they represented almost twice the volume of sales of RM.

However, at that time both collections were well edited. Today Getty accepts anything into its RF collection and lots of similars. The total Creative collection has over 30 million images and 79% of that number are RF.

List pricing on the site for both RM and RF is totally out of line with what 99% of customers pay for the images they license. Most of the customers can purchase RM for the same price at RF through Premium Access deals. Such deals give them access to any image in the collection for a fixed monthly fee. 74% of the images are licensed for fees of under $20 (based on analysis of sales of some of the major contributors).

A couple years ago Getty made RF the default search on the site. Many customers never even saw the RM images. Now it is possible to set the search to either RM, RF or Both. However, if you were searching for RF on the last session before you moved on to something else, the default search when you re-open using the same computer will be RF. Thus, today, in all likelihood very few customers are even see the RM images.

Many RM producers have insisted on licensing their images as RM because prices were much higher. Now, prices on everything are low and many of the photographers who used to produce RM have stopped producing stock images altogether. While there are still some great images in the RM collection, fewer and fewer of the new images being produced today are offered as RM. At one point photographers insisted that the best images were RM. That is no longer the case. There are some great RF images.

If would be very helpful if Getty would supply some detailed figures on the percentage of total sales that are RM and the percentage that are RF and the gross revenue generated by each collection. Don’t hold your breath.

Photographers producing new images and hoping to license them as RM need to think hard about whether to produce such images if the market will be dead in 3 years. With all the RF images available through the leading agencies can they ever hope to license enough uses to cover their costs? Is it better to go to RF? At today’s prices can they sell enough of anything to make it worth their time?

Copyright © 2019 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, 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:  


  • Anne Rippy Posted Mar 16, 2019
    Of course Getty is making more revenue with RF than RM, not only due to RF being the default search but Getty pays a lower % to the photographer for RF sales thus receiving a higher % of the sales. That's the primary reason I've submitted most of my images as RM. It just gripes me no end for them to promote RF at the expense of photographers.

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