Why Is Veer Licensing Rights to Images Supplied By Getty Images?

Posted on 5/13/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Have you given Getty Images exclusive rights to represent some of your images? Are those same images available for licensing on Veer or Corbis under the brand name Ocean Photography? Many photographers will be surprised to discover the answer is YES.

Photographers who produced images for PhotoDisc and Photographer’s Choice RF have recently found some of their images on Veer being marketed through the Ocean Photography brand. If you happen to know a photographer’s name you can search for it, but the name does not appear in the information supplied to the customer about the image. Thus, the customer is unable to credit the photographer and can only credit “Ocean Photography.” In addition the numbering system is totally different from the numbering system used on Getty. On Corbis the metadata has been changed to list Ocean/Corbis as creator and copyright holder.

This is not just a case of a few images slipping through the cracks. On Veer there are 271,675 images and 264 discs listed under the brand “Ocean Photography.” Very few of these images have anything to do with water or oceans. This is a broad, general collection of all types of subject matter.

Go to Inmagine and many of the same images are available under the brand name “Aspireimages RF.” Again, there is no photographer credit and the images are numbered using a unique system that does not seem to relate to the Getty numbering system in any way. On Fotosearch the collection is listed as “Fotosearch Stock Photos” and the disc collections are called “Fotosearch Gold.” Fotosearch has more than 100 brands on its site and while the appropriate brand name is listed beneath each image individual photographer names are never identified. The Fotosearch numbering system is unique to Fotosearch and there is no photographer credit supplied with the images. Since it is common for Fotosearch to credit brands on its site Getty Images must have specifically requested that its PhotoDisc brand name not be used on Fotosearch.

Go to F1 online and you find some of the same images under the copyright “Topaz” and others with a copyright “Sapphire.” There is no photographer name on this site, and of course the numbering system for the images doesn’t relate to the system used on any of the other distributor web sites.

This raises a host of issues.

1 - Under contract Getty has the right to move images to any of its “house” brands. Consequently some of these PhotoDisc images appear on Punchstock and Jupiter Images with the same image numbers. In some cases the images have the proper photographer credit, but in some cases there is no credit. It is unclear why Getty has allow the use in other brands of images belonging to contract photographers without proper photographer credit.

2 – Currently, there are 272,953 images in the PhotoDisc collection on the Getty Images website. Thus, I presume that most of the images in the PhotoDisc collection have been made available to Veer and Ocean Photography, as well as many other brands.

3 – It appears that Getty has allowed these other brands to undercut its own prices. For example, on GettyImages.com an XSmall file for web use of about 337px by 506px costs $35.00. On Veer.com an XSmall file for web use that is about 286px by 400px, usually is priced at $20, but sometimes is as low as $5.00. At Veer it is possible to get a 724px by 482px file for $34.00. Clearly, if someone wants to use a PhotoDisc image it makes more sense to purchase it at Veer than at Getty. I haven’t checked how other distributor price the PhotoDisc images.

4 – When the image is not credited to the photographer, and tracking numbers are different, what confidence does the photographer have that he/she will receive a royalty payment when the image is used?

5 – Considering that Veer and the other distributors probably keep 60% of the gross fee collected from the customer, and Getty keeps 80% of the remainder, the photographer probably receives about $1.50 each time a customer pays $20.00 to use an image. That is 7.5% of the gross sale price.

6 – If Getty is going to license images through its major competitors why is it necessary for them to have exclusive rights to the image – particularly if the image is being licensed as Royalty Free. If an image is going to be licensed by Veer why can’t the photographer be paid directly by Veer and not forced to give up a second cut of the gross fee to Getty.

An argument might be made that Veer (and other distributors) don’t want to incur the administrative costs of dealing directly with photographers. They want someone to consolidate collections from individual photographers, provide some editing services and deliver images from several photographers as one package. That is a service that Getty Images performs and for which they should be compensated. But, is the percentage that Getty takes for performing this service justified?

In the microstock arena Rahul Pathak CEO of Lookstat, provides a service of preparing and uploading digital files in the distributor requested format to a number of microstock distributors. This service benefits the distributors because they get a volume of imagery in just the format they need. It benefits photographers because they don’t have to deal with multiple uploads. Pathak provides this service for a lot less than the percentage Getty is taking.

7 – Under the terms of the new contracts Getty’s RM photographers can expect to start seeing their images appear on Ocean Photography, Aspireimages RF, Fotosearch Stock Photos, Topaz, Sapphire – and probably many other newly created brands.

Copyright © 2011 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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