Getty Pays Melania Trump Royalties

Posted on 7/6/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

NBC News has reported that “News media paid Melania Trump thousands for use of photos in ‘positive stories only.’” President Donald Trump’s most recent financial disclosures revel that the first lady earned between $100,000 and $1,000,000 in photo royalties in 2017 from Getty Images. (Federal officials are only required to give an income range in their filings.

While, personally I’m no fan of the Trump presidency, I believe the NBC story is incorrect when it says that such a deal with a photo agency is an “unusual deal.”

In fact, I believe it is very common for celebrities to allow special access to parts of their private lives in exchange for control of how the images will be used. In addition, it is not unusual for major celebrities to be well compensated for certain uses.

Back in 2008 Jennifer Lopez received $6 million from People magazine for exclusive first rights to publish pictures of her with her twins. It was also reported that part of the deal was that the magazine would stop referring to her as JLo.

Later that same year it was reported that $14 million was paid for pictures of Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie’s newborn twins.

In 2005 Jolie and Pitt also sold right to the first shots of their daughter Shiloh to Getty Images in exchange for a donation to charity. In turn, Getty then licensed U.S. rights to People magazine for $4 million and British rights to London-based Hello! magazine for an undisclosed amount.

Since at least the 1980’s Hollywood agents have traded access to their stars for "good" coverage.
In 2011 Business Insider reported “The 25 Most Expensive Celebrity Exclusives Ever.

If anything, it appears that the “great negotiator” (Donald Trump) didn’t get as good a deal as might have been possible.

The Pictures

To see the 187 pictures go to Getty Images and search for Melania Trump. You’ll find 21,298 images. If the press is looking for an inexpensive shot, available without any restrictions on how it can be used, they certainly have plenty to choose from. Then go to the search filter for photographers and enter “Regine Mahaux” (the photographer). You’ll find the 187 images shot during three photos sessions in 2010, 2011 and 2016, all before Trump became president. Many of these 187 don’t show Melania. Rather, some are portraits of Donald or Barron without Melania. Others show her shoe closet, purses, jewelry and interior rooms at Trump Tower and Mar A Lago.

Unlike most of the rest of the Getty Images collection that can be licensed online, these few images are clearly marked as “Restricted assets” that cannot be licensed online. The details of the restrictions are clearly spelled out as follows: “USER WILL NOT BE ABLE TO PRICE OR DOWNLOAD IMAGE WITHOUT PRIOR NEGOTIATION. CONTACT YOUR CONTOUR REPRESENTATIVE. EXCLUSIVE ACCESS/ POSITIVE STORIES ONLY/ PREMIUM RATES APPLY/USER IS NOT PERMITTED TO DOWNLOAD OR USE IMAGE WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL/TRIPLE SPACE RATES APPLY.”

It is hard to see how any publication could have gotten hold of one of these photographs without being well aware of the usage restrictions. It is conceivable that Getty had the option, based on their contract with Melania, to make one or more of these images available at a lower price if they felt the promotional benefit of the use justified special considerations. But these images were certainly not made available to a press user under any normal subscription arrangement.

Part of the deal the photographer had with the Trumps might have been to provide them with prints that they could hand out for their own public relations purposes as they chose. It is conceivable that the Trumps might have supplied some of these images directly to certain users.

Should The Proceeds Be Donated To Charity?

In some of the cases cited the celebrities chose to donate the proceeds of the arrangement to charity, but in each case that would have been at their discretion.

Copyright © 2018 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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