Masterfile Drops First-Refusal

Posted on 8/3/2002 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



August 3, 2002

Until recently Masterfile had been one of the last major agencies to insist that every
photographer they represented be exclusive with them. "Artist exclusivity was one of
Masterfile's cornerstone principles for 25 years and it served us well, but it was an idea
whose time has gone," said Steve Pigeon, President of Masterfile.

Earlier this year they moved to an image-exclusive contract with all their artists, but they
still insisted on the right-of-first-refusal. Now they have eliminated the first-refusal
requirement as well.

It is now possible for top producing photographers to be represented by Getty, Corbis,
Masterfile and maybe other agencies. They can choose to show any particular shoot to any one of
these agencies. If the first agency refuses to represent the images they are free to take them
to any of the other agencies. Each agency wants image-exclusive rights to the images they
accept, but that is all.

One of stock photographer's biggest complaints in the last year or so has been that not enough
of their images are being accepted for marketing. When these photographers were represented by
a single agency this presented a major problem. The move by Masterfile opens up a very
important additional outlet for many photographers.

Steve Pigeon says, "the right of first refusal provision made it impossible for some
established artists to join Masterfile without breaching other agreements, and we won't subvert
anyone's contract under any circumstances."

He continued, "Masterfile's image collection has grown dramatically in recent years and we're
adding a lot of new images every month, but it's not enough. Clients are demanding more from us
at a time when many artists around the world have scaled-back their production of stock images.
No matter how valid the rationale for artists who want to cut costs, I can assure you that our
clients are not interested. They'll simply go to the company that has the pictures.

"Masterfile represents some very productive stock photographers but we need more. It's no
surprise that the best stock photographers outside of Masterfile already have agency
affiliations which they can't or don't want to terminate. Following the nasty consolidation
stories of the past few years, photographers are understandably nervous about making an
exclusive commitment to one company... and I can't blame them.

"Masterfile has been approached by some incredibly talented and productive photographers who
would love to work with Masterfile - and could do so quite openly under their existing agency
contracts - but our contract prevented that."

Thus, Pigeon, with ratification from all the company's managers, decided to change the
Masterfile contracts for all artists and removed the right of first refusal. "With one stroke
of the pen we have eliminated any barrier to bringing on more of the finest talent in the
world," he said.

"We are still very concerned about exclusivity and rights control. We absolutely insist that
the images represented by Masterfile - and all similars - be exclusive to Masterfile so we can
continue to give real meaning to the term 'Rights Protected'," Pigeon continued.

"Although we expect to add a good number of photographers in the coming months, we remain
committed to giving each of our contributing artists the personal attention they deserve - and
that Masterfile is known for. And, of course, we want to build revenues even faster than the
number of photographers to make sure that all of our contributors benefit from our expansion."

Copyright © 2002 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:  


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