50 Year Licenses For Rights Managed

Posted on 7/13/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (3)

After reading my story on why usage fees will continue to decline Larry Minden wrote:
    “Is there no one among the thousands upon thousands represented by Alamy who will stand up to those idiots and tell them a 50-year license is unneeded and an absurd bastardization of an RM license?

    “Do photographers themselves not understand that they themselves are to be blame if they do not do so much as question the policies of their agents?”
I’ve been asking James West, CEO of Alamy, for more than three months for an explanation, but he seems to be too busy to answer my requests. Others at Alamy have told Cheryl DiFrank, CEO of Stock Connection, an agency with a large collection of images on Alamy, "This is what we have to do to be competitive."

Thus, I can only speculate at what is happening. My guess is that in their effort to raise their position as a preferred provider Alamy felt it was necessary to offer publishers a better deal than Getty was offering. I don't know what Getty's price per image use was, but let's guess at $90. If Getty is offering a 20-year license then Alamy needs to do them one better. Alamy figures that in order to go to first place they must either go to $85 per image used, or offer a longer license for the same $90 price. Maybe their thinking was that images purchased today probably won’t be used for more than 20 years anyway so maybe extending the license to 50 years isn’t really giving away that much more. To their way of thinking offering a 50-year license (effectively unlimited) is better than lowering the price even further.

Whatever their reasoning it seems it may have worked based on their report that they grew sales in the U.S. (I assume that means revenue) by 30% in the last year. Of course, a 30% growth in the U.S. probably only means 3% or 4% overall since their U.S. sales were such a small percent of their total business before they opened their U.S. office in 2010.

Now, if I'm right, Getty will want to get back on top. So they will either lower their price by a few dollars or offer 100-year licenses. At some point the publishers will say, "The licenses are more than long enough. If you want to improve your position then you have to give us a better price."

Minden makes the point that if a few contributors would complain and refuse to allow their images to be licensed to textbook publishers for 50-years it might put a stop to this practice. However, if even half of Alamy’s contributors refused to allow their images to be licensed for textbook use that would still leave Alamy with 12 million images to offer their customers.

Those who refuse to let Alamy sell for textbook use, or pulled their images from the site, would hope that the publishers would come to them directly and purchase images from them on more reasonable terms. However, I doubt that would happen very often.

Researchers for the publishers might like to use the images of certain photographers or agencies, and they might have built good relationships with these creative sources. But these researchers have been instructed by the “bean counters” at the company to start every search by going to the cheapest supplier on the “preferred provider” list and working through all the preferred providers before going to any outside source. In most cases, if they use an image that is not from a preferred provider, they must justify why that is the only satisfactory image for the use.

In the long run I think there will be very few agencies of individual contributors that will actually benefit financially from withholding their images from preferred provider networks. Photographers may feel good about standing for their principles, but such a stance is unlikely to earn them more money.

Unfortunately, as long as there are at least two sources of images I believe publishers will continue to demand more and more and play one off against the other.

I am reminded of a statement made by Jonathan Klein at a PACA annual meeting in the mid ‘90s shortly after Getty Images entered this industry. He said, “The customer is always right.” Taken to extreme, that means that whatever the customer wants you have to give them, even if it eventually drives you out of business.

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.  


  • Danita Delimont Posted Jul 13, 2011
    I too asked Alamy's NY office about the 50 year license and they told me it was because their drop-down pricing menu hadn't been adjusted to the longer terms being requested...thus it jumped to 50. "They were working on the back end of the pricing menu and would adjust it shortly". Clearly this hasn't happened and they've taken another position.

  • Charles Cecil Posted Jul 13, 2011
    About three years ago, when Alamy licensed one of my RM images to a publisher in a Middle Eastern country for $10.00 I protested. While not unique, it was an uncommon image and not likely to have many others competing against it. Alamy blew me off with a "competition requires it" and "volume buyer" response. However, they told me if I didn't like the sale I could prohibit the licensing of my images to that country in the future. They did not allow me to prohibit the licensing of images to that particular buyer; it had to be a country-wide ban. That was using a meat cleaver where a scapel was required, but I was so annoyed by the $10 sale that I requested such a prohibition. The result was that every image in my collection (probably over 4000 back then) was labeled in red with a "This image has restrictions" tag. Over the next six months there was a small decline in my weekly number of images licensed. I couldn't tell if this was a cause-and-effect relationship or not, but I speculated that most photo researchers are in a hurry and don't want to be bothered with having to check to see what the restrictions are, or simply don't want to have to worry about any complications any restriction might give rise to. After six months I lifted the restriction, fearing it was hurting my overall sales. The lesson for me was that while I could prevent future sales to low-paying countries while still leaving the image in the collection, there could be other, unintended consequences--but difficult to prove. I've been submitting fewer new images to Alamy this year as their prices continue to decline. Chuck Cecil/Cecil Images

  • Peter Dazeley Posted Jul 14, 2011
    what an amazing quote from Jonathan Klein. I cant think of another prestigious brand that sells its premium product at rock bottom prices.If you have the best search engine and the best content, surely you should be much braver.

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff