Photolibrary Under More Fire

Posted on 12/14/2007 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Photolibrary executives obviously hoped to keep the matter of unpaid Index Stock royalties on the back burner until the ethics committee of the Picture Archive Council of America finished its investigation. However, photographers have made it clear that they are not willing to wait the six or more weeks this can take.

Earlier this week, the Stock Artists Alliance issued a call for Photolibrary to answer the allegations of $2.2 million in unpaid Index Stock contributor commissions. Yesterday, four additional professional photography organizations joined SAA in its request for public disclosure.

The figure of $2.2 was offered by the short-lived Photolibrary controller Carlos Santos in an email to Index contributors. Photolibrary chairman Tim Moore has since disputed this number and suggested than Santos' intentions were less than honorable. Moore said that the paperwork cited in the now-famous email was stolen and manipulated.

The American Society of Media Photographers, Advertising Photographers of America, Editorial Photographers and the Canadian Association of Photographers and Illustrators in Communications have each issued member alerts, encouraging Index contributors to contact group leaders. The bodies also plan to file a joint complaint to PACA.

Though the matter is financial, much of the mushrooming protest is in response to Photolibrary's silence. Moore will no longer comment on the situation. ASMP points out that "the photographer/distributor relationship must be built on the cornerstones of transparency, trust and integrity." APA president Martin Trailer thinks that allegations as serious as those made by Santos justify a full review of Photolibrary's accounting practices.

On behalf of its combined members, the groups are asking Photolibrary to provide all Index Stock contributors with a full and accurate accounting of outstanding debt, promptly pay such debt and respond to the allegations of continued faulty financial practices.

The "creative" accounting methods of Index Stock, purchased by Photolibrary last year, have been the subject of industry discussion for years. Even at the time of the agency's sale, it was common knowledge that contributors were owed commissions for an undetermined length of time. Index's reporting was neither regular nor clear.

Photolibrary vowed to make good on Index commitments and has already paid out close to $1 million in past-due photographer commissions. According to an About the Image posting by Chris Ferrone, Moore's contention that Santos was a disgruntled employee seems plausible upon a close reading of the ex-controller's email. Photolibrary also has a solid reputation, but some insiders suspect that the Index accounting problem turned out to be bigger than anyone estimated. For the moment, actual numbers are anybody's guess.

Copyright © 2007 Julia Dudnik Stern. 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


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