In examining the Getty/Flickr deal, it is hard to understand how the Flickr managers could have given so much to Getty for so little.
Flickr gets nothing in the way of a fee-per-transaction. It also appears that Flickr gets little or nothing for giving Getty exclusive access to its contributors. If the company is getting anything, it isn't apparent and probably not in the best interest of its contributors. Up to now, Flickr has always been open and transparent in its dealing with contributors. That may no longer be the case.
Flickr GM Kakul Srivastava told PDN, "From our perspective, on the Flickr side, we're not expecting this will be a huge stream of monetization for our members. The relationship, in the licensing piece, is purely between the photographer - the Flickr member - and Getty Images itself."
It is interesting that Flickr's founders, Stewart Butterfield and Caterina Fake, resigned shortly before this announcement. Butterfield said in his resignation letter: "I don't know what you and the other executives have planned for this company, but I know that my ability to contribute has dwindled to near-nothing... Therefore, with a heavy heart, I recognize that it is time for me and the company to part ways."
For a couple years, Flickr has been looking for a way to monetize its 2 billion image collection and assist photographers in earning revenue from their images. It would have been easy for the company to establish a marketing site competitive with iStock. But it walked away from that opportunity and gave Getty Images -- the company that demands the most from the photographers it represents and pays them the lowest royalty in the industry -- the exclusive right to communicate with its photographers.
As one Flickr blogger said, there is "no particular harm in Getty scouting for talent on Flickr," but if Flickr was going to choose the route of letting outside sources mine its collection, wouldn't it be in the best interest of its contributors to give every stock image distributor an equal opportunity?"
Given Flickr's resources, everyone thought it would build its own commercial site rather than giving everything away. Flickr was concerned about being forced to establish a call center (like Getty's) to deal with negotiations. However, there are plenty of experienced negotiators who would have been more than happy to take on that responsibility on a contract basis. Building a site that contains all the features widely accepted by buyers should have been easy.
Now, Flickr contributors will deal with the fallout.