Use-Based Pricing Needed

Posted on 2/2/2009 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (8)

The industry needs a new pricing model. The models we have include rights-managed, royalty-free, subscription, microstock and rights-ready, which is about to become extinct. What is needed is use-based pricing, or UBP.

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Copyright © 2009 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:  


  • Grant Faint Posted Feb 2, 2009
    useful suggestion....however problem is image buyers have for too long been given easy access at low prices. How do you get them to "go back" to a more expensive and somewhat more restricted setting.


  • Mark Turner Posted Feb 2, 2009
    To my mind, we already have Use Based Pricing in the rights-managed model. One flavor, the highest-paying, of rights-managed is some form of exclusivity. I can recall making only one exclusive license in the last 15 years so all of my business has been use based. For most customers it really isn't complicated -- editorial folks don't need to think about commercial uses and vice versa.

  • Don Farrall Posted Feb 2, 2009
    Sounds good in theory, except for the fact that most people when given the opportunity to cheat, will. Policing usage is very difficult. It would take an across the board industry move to make something like this work and I can't see that happening. It does make sense from an image providers perspective, and it highlights the main problem with miocrostock,( that commercial users who could and would pay more don't have to) but implementation is a pipe dream I'm afraid.

    Don Farrall

  • Tim Mcguire Posted Feb 2, 2009

    It might seems to many this could all be done under traditional RM non exclusive licenses... BUT the big problem is the perception / image problem the "Rights Managed" brand has amongst a sizeable portion of the buyer side of this industry. For many RM in any form has an image / perception problem (real or otherwise they have it). They think RM is old complicated, slow, and expensive. Perhaps by giving it a new name with new images and marketing it as a "new" licensing model you could then license images in a use based price (UBP)way and avoid the old negative preconceptions. Of course then, the new model would actually have to dispell these negative preconceptions and actually perform as something useful and easy for clients to use.

    I know you've been writing about this idea for a while but no one seems to do it. I'd love to see it.

  • Betsy Reid Posted Feb 2, 2009
    We have an opportunity to create standardized licensing models through the PLUS Coalition. PLUS has a model for a streamlined and flexible form of use-based licensing called PLUS Packs. Jim's "MMR" model bears some similarities to this standard.

    Distributors, buyers, photographers and their trade associations all support the mission of PLUS. Why aren’t we working together to fine tune one universal standard to improve use-based (RM) licensing, rather than creating even more variations?

    Download SAA’s Intro to PLUS Packs (and SAA’s Calculator)

    PLUS Packs Quick Reference Guide:

    PLUS Coalition web site:

  • Betsy Reid Posted Feb 2, 2009
    Information on PLUS Packs here:

  • Jagdish Agarwal Posted Feb 3, 2009

    Wonderful idea. Let us know if it takes shape.

  • D. jake Wyman Posted Feb 3, 2009

    You know that as suppliers, we have very little input as to how our stock is priced by the agencies; apart from opting-out of certain models. I agree with your assertions, but I wonder if/how you are getting this proposal in front to the decision makers?

    Also, I look forward to your ideas in response to Betsy's question:

    "Why aren’t we working together to fine tune one universal standard to improve use-based (RM) licensing, rather than creating even more variations?"

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