Permission Machine

Posted on 4/8/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The Permission Machine (PM) is a startup in Belgium that is trying to educate social media users that they need permission to use the images they find on the web and provide them with a simple, easy way to license uses.

Right now PM is primarily geared to dealing with images found on Twitter (and soon Instagram) where the person requesting the license knows, and can provide the name of the person who uploaded the image. They tell customers, “The only way you can request a license is if you know the copyright owner and there is no charge until the license is accepted/approved by the copyright holder.”

When a customer finds an image they want to use they email PM a copy of the image, the name of the photographer, and the license type they are interested in purchasing. PM contacts the photographer, gets permission to license the image and provides the customer with a license for the use requested. The customer pays through PayPal and the photographer receives his share of the money immediately.

The photographer gets about 60% of the fee or a little less. PM gets about 25% and PayPal gets 15% to 20% depending on the image creator’s activity on PayPal. (See payment breakdown)

One of the reasons people give for not licensing uses is that it is often hard to track down a photographer, even when they have his name. They may have to hunt for an email address and then the photographer may not respond immediately. Then the negotiation starts. In such cases it is a lot easier to grab an image and hope that no one ever sees it, particularly if less than 5,000 people a month access his site.

With PM they send one email and get an answer back with either (1) a license, or (2) a message that says the photographer is unwilling to license this usage for this fee. That is a lot simpler for the customer.

PM is required to get the photographer’s permission for every license. The photographer always has the right to refuse to grant a license. At that point the customer may decide to contact the photographer directly and negotiate, or he may simply look for a different image.

If the photographer has already agreed to PM’s standard terms for use of any of the photographer’s images PM doesn’t have to contact the photographer; they can just go ahead and issue a license.

Licenses And Rights Granted

There are two basic licenses – a €10 Sharing License and a €50 Unlimited Commercial License

The “Sharing License” covers image usage on social media. This includes usage on small websites and blogs with under 5000 views per month. The license can also be used for business presentations and similar campaigns. Some examples are:
    ·  A customer shoots a great picture of your product and you want to share it on your social media accounts
    ·  You find a photo on Twitter that you intend to use it on your corporate FB page
    ·  You find a photo on Google Images and want to Tweet it
    ·  You write a post for your small corporate website or blog (less than 5000 views per month) and want to publish a photo with it
    ·  You find a photo on Google Images and want to use it in?business presentations
The PM Sharing License license is a royalty free license. This means that the one time fee you pay covers all the use you will make of the picture, forever, without the need to additional royalties or license fees, as long as none of the uses exceed 5,000 views per month.

The “Unlimited Commercial Use License” covers usage of photos in advertisement campaigns, newspapers, large blogs and websites (more than 5000 views per month). Use this license if you cannot benefit from a business presentation license or sharing license. Some examples are:
    ·  You are an media agency and want to use a photo in a client’s campaign
    ·  You are a news outlet and want to use a photo in your printed or online media
    ·  You write a post for your large corporate blog (more than 5000 views per month) and want to publish a photo with it
This is a Royalty Free license. You can use the photo in many different ways, forever.

Issues To Consider

This may work fine for images found on Twitter or Instagram. In some cases it may work for Flickr users. However, the vast majority of images found through a search of Google or Bing have no information that would enable anyone to identify the image creator.

Many of the images uploaded on Pinterest, Faebook or other social media sites have been grabbed from somewhere else. PM would not be able to issue a legal license for use of these images because they don’t know who the creator is. But they would also have no way of knowing if the person on whose site the image was found is the image creator.

To many professional photographers the prices may appear low considering all the rights being granted. Professional users such as newspapers, magazines, TV, corporations, small businesses and many non-profit organizations will probably find these prices attractive.

It seem unlikely that most bloggers looking for images for their personal blogs would be willing to pay even €10 for a “Sharing License” when they have so many options for licensing microstock images for even less, or the option to just take the images they need.
It is also worth considering that these prices are higher than Scoopshot and Foap charge.

Anyone trying to earn a living from the use of their images has to be concerned about the €50 Unlimited Commercial License. There are certain small uses where this is a reasonable price, particularly considering some of the low prices Getty, Corbis and Alamy are currently charging customers. But the unlimited aspect opens the door to many huge uses where even the microstock and subscription sites are charging more money today (Check out extended licenses).

The photographer does have the right in each case to say no. But, it is unclear whether the photographer will be given enough information about the customer’s planned use to make an educated decision as to whether to accept the €30, or so, for the use, or to say NO.  I don’t think PM plans to ask the customer anything other than “Do you want a Sharing of Commercial License.” Amateurs will probably think this is all commercial users ever pay for images and be happy to accept anything they can get.

Another feature PM offers is a javascript that can be included on your personal website to add a sell button to your photos. (See here). Paste the javascript on your blog and a 'license this photo' button appears near your photos. Clicking the button takes the use to PM where they can handle the licensing process.

Copyright © 2014 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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