New Contract For TSI Photographers

Posted on 8/13/1998 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



August 13, 1998

Tony Stone Images is circulating a new three year agreement to their contributing

photographers and is asking that all contracts be signed before September 15th and

prior to the launch of their new web site in October.

Photographers will receive 40% instead of 50% of all digital sales. Their images will not

be included in the on-line database unless they agree to the new contract terms.

The following is a preliminary report with the most complete information we have been able

to obtain as of this date. We will update this story as we obtain additional information.

Most photographers we have talked to believe the intentions of the Tony Stone managers are

good, but there are some points in the contract that need clarification. Photographers

should examine their version of the contract closely before rushing to sign.

To begin, not all contracts are the same. I have learned of at least three versions of addendum

2.4 in the back of the contract and Patrick Donehue says there are many more versions. "The

intention is to mirror, as closely as possible, the current version of the photographer's current

TSI agreement," Patrick said. To summarize, the terms I have been made aware of include:

  • photographer exclusive (not allowing the photographer to offer any part of their

    work to any other stock agency other than Tony Stone.)

  • image exclusive (exclusive only for the selected images and all "similars")

  • image exclusive, but also allowing the photographer to independently make small

    editorial sales from images similar to the accepted images, but not to include editorial

    sales for full pages and covers.

On the other hand, many photographers are being asked to sign agreements that are much more

restrictive than their current contracts. When individuals challenge TSI on this point

the response seems to be, "Oh, we made a mistake and sent you the wrong version. We'll

send you the correct version today."

These mistakes may well have been honest, but it is a standard strategy in many businesses to

offer a very restrictive version to everyone the first time out and see how many people you

can get to

agree to it. For those who complain you have a second version and you give on a few points.

And maybe there is a third version and so on. When Time Inc. was revising its photographer

contract recently, it was reported that every photographer got the most restrictive version

first, but that there were actually six different versions ready to offer when photographers


Photographers should carefully examine their agreements and not be steam rollered into

signing something that is not in their best interest just because they have been presented

with a tight deadline.

Another point about the "image exclusive" contracts is that they are conditional on the

photographer giving TSI first look at everything they produce. A problem arises because TSI

is also telling photographers that they don't want to look at everything the

photographer produces. They only want to see a tightly edited sample of the "best". Thus,

in order to satisfy the requirements of their editor, photographers must tightly edit their

submissions. It is unclear whether a photographer who signs one of these contracts can

legally attempt to market any of the situations not shown to TSI.

Under the new agreement the photographer is not paid in the month after the invoice is

paid , but within 120 days from the date the client invoice is issued , regardless of the

location of the sale. If the sale is eventually uncollectible, TSI assumes the entire risk

and the photographer is paid even if TSI never collects on the sale.

At first look this is a pretty good offer, even though most agencies usually have very

little problem in eventually collecting from clients. Occasionally, agencies have trouble

collecting large blocks of money from other sub-agencies. TSI had an experience a few

years ago when the Japanese agency they were dealing with owed them well over six figures,

and many of their photographers had sales that were booked well over a year before they

were eventually paid. This kind of thing would not happen under the new contract.

On the other hand, for sales made within the photographer's territory 120 days, if they

stretch to the maximum on every sale, could be longer than it takes to be paid under the

current system. Currently, photographers are paid monthly in the month after the fee is


According to the TSI press release, "There will be no changes to any financial arrangements

for the marketing of images in analog format where Tony Stone's rates are 50% for an in

territory transaction and 30% for an out of territory... For the first time, the new

contract sets a rate for online sales at 40% for in territory and 30% for out of territory


Some photographers have asked why sub agencies or wholly-owned offices should be receiving

a percentage of the on-line and digitally fulfilled sales when they do absolutely nothing to

earn their commission, and are not involved in the sale in any way.

Patrick Donehue points out that TSI has to be careful not to undermine existing relationships

with local offices in various countries around the world. They will rely on marketing and

support from these offices to encourage local users to begin using the on-line systems. It

is anticipated that this will be very expensive. Getty Images has allocated $13 million for

digital development this year alone and much of this is earmarked for the development and

launch of the Tony Stone Images electronic commerce enabled website.

Another complexity, the details of which are still being worked out, is to provide 24

hour-a-day, 7 day-a-week negotiating service because these right-controlled images will be

licensed based on the usage. This service will have to be available in many languages

because the requests could come from any country in the world. In all likelihood the

local offices will be involved in some way in many of these sales.

The bottom line for photographers seems to be that the promise of a few years ago that

digital marketing would make it easier for them to distribute their images worldwide and earn

a greater portion of the gross sale fee seems to have been a false hope. Worldwide

digital marketing needs as many middlemen, if not more, and seems to be more expensive,

not less. So it looks like photographers will have to accept a lesser percentage of

the gross sale fee if they expect to participate in digital marketing. And there is

no assurance that there will be enough increase in volume to make up for the lost fees.

TSI has made it clear that if a client in the photographer's home territory finds an image

on-line, but then requests film rather than a digital file, the photographer will receive

50% of the fee rather than 40%. If it is an out-of-territory sale the photographer gets

30% either way.

The new contract has been endorsed by the Tony Stone Images' Photographers Advisory Group

(PAG) whose member include: Ed Honowitz, Ed Prichard, Laurence Monneret, Ken Fisher,

Andreas Pollok, David Madison, Dennis O'Clair, Doug Armand, Deni McIntyre, Nick Dolding,

Tim Davis, Tim Flach, David Joel, Julie Fisher, Chris Wahlberg, Paul Harris and Garry

Hunter. But, other TSI photographers should remember that these photographers are endorsing

the version they received, not necessarily the version other photographers have received.

Copyright © 1998 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:  


Be the first to comment below.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.