Why RM?

Posted on 7/11/2016 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (2)

One of the principal reasons for licensing images as Rights Managed rather then Royalty Free is to insure that the customer pays additional fees whenever they reuse an image. With RF, once purchased, the customer can use the image as many times as they want. But how often do such multiple uses occur?

Getty Images and Alamy ought to check their records and see how often they license the same image more than once to any specific customer. Then they should make that information available to the photographic community at large. My bet is that such uses almost never occur.

Yes, we see many cases where there are multiple uses of a particular image. But each one of those uses is by a different customer.

Twenty to thirty years ago textbook customers often paid additional fees to reuse images. At that time the standard license was for a print run of under 40,000. Publisher would print 40,000 copies of a book to test the market. If it sold well they would go back on press and print more copies. They paid an additional fee for each new print run.

But, as publisher began printing more and more copies of the same book they began demanding higher and higher print limits for the same relatively low one-time price. Now, the standard license allows a publisher to print 1,000,000 copies, and the number of years before they must renew that license gets longer and longer. In effect, no one ever has to make a second payment.

For the most part newspapers and magazines want to publish new images, not use the same pictures over and over. Occasionally a publication will do a retrospective of an event that occurred years earlier. In such instances they will re-publish the original picture. Such well known events include the Iwo Jima U.S. flag raising, and the collapsing of the World Trade Center. Such images may get used often by the same publication, but very few images fall into this category. There are also likely to hundreds of use of such images by different publication, each paying a separate fee for the use.

If the RM license rule was changed to allow any publication that purchases an RM image to use it as many times as they want without paying an additional fee very little revenue would be lost.

That is basically what an RF license allows. In fact, technically if an art director working for a company purchases an RF image the only person in that company who can reuse the image is that same art director unless the company has paid and additional fee for a seat license that allows multiple art directors to make use of the same image.

If a freelance art director purchases an RF image for use in a project for a particular customer, and later the art director decides he wants to use the same image in a different customer’s project, then the art director needs to pay an additional fee for the new use.
Technically, an RF image purchased for use by one company or organization can be used multiple times by the organization for whom it was originally purchased, but it cannot be passed around to any other user without all the different users paying additional fees. That is one of the reason why many RF images have been used thousands of times. And a new fee is paid each time those RF images are downloaded

Customers who purchase RF images cannot legally pass them around to others. They cannot say, “Here’s an image I bought and liked. If you like it, you can use it for free.”

In fact, without question, the images that get used the most are RF images, not RM. And while the RF images may earn less per use, many of them earn much more in total revenue for the image creator than popular RM images.

Something for RM sellers to think about.

Copyright © 2016 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.  


  • GEORGE MCGINN Posted Jul 12, 2016
    When RF first came out, it was nothing more than the rejects of RM images.

    I shot for Getty Images as both a stringer and contributor (Pay is very different) which both is RM.

    As a contributor, I get a percentage of image sales everytime it is sold as a contributor. As a stringer, I shoot for an assignment fee.

    Before RF became the dumping ground of some talented photographers who either didn't make the cut as a professional photographer or many the standards of buyers have dropped, but I have been getting less sales for my contributor images now.

    I noticed that the more RF sites popped up, the more images a client has to choose from.

    It makes me wonder back then when everyone was saying that shooting for an assignment fee cost me more in the long run never saw RF coming.

    I wonder if shooting for an assignment fee is a better option than taking a commission on sales as a contributor?


  • Jim Pickerell Posted Jul 12, 2016

    In today's market I think shooting as a stringer or on assignment is probably much better than shooting stock -- if you can get the assignments.

    One big advantage to assignments is that you have a much better idea of the revenue your working hours will generate.

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