Pricing Images For Educational Use

Posted on 11/5/2014 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

Stock photo sellers need to join together through their trade associations and stop licensing rights to their images to educational publisher for the use in online products until publishers agree to a new compensation strategy for such products.

Historically, the licensing of photo uses for textbooks and educational materials has been treated in much the same way as the licensing for magazines and newspapers. That needs to change.

A newspaper or magazine story in print, or online may be available for years, but no additional revenue is generated from the print version of that product after the initial publication. With most online services the customer subscribes to the service in order to have access to current new information. Access to the archives is thrown in. Seldom is a customer expected to pay an additional fee for access to an archived story.

However, educational materials are different. With a printed book the publisher gets a one-time fee when the book is sold. The publisher receives nothing extra if the book is passed along to someone else or sold through a used book operation. Thus, with print a one-time fee makes sense.

Internet Changes Everything

But, in the education field the marketing strategy is changing dramatically. Image licensors need to adapt before it is too late.

The industry is rapidly moving away from printed books to online titles. Consider what McGraw-Hill Education CEO told David Kestenbaum in a National Public Radio interview.
    When David Kestenbaum interviewed David Levin, CEO and President of  McGraw-Hill Education Levin did not want to talk about textbooks. He kept talking about Electronic Interactive Textbooks (EIT) as the way out of the big spiral of rising prices (for printed books). Levin said McGraw-Hill has about 500 engineers building EITs and the company is spending about $150 million a year in electronic product creation. “We are plowing huge resources into creating a new set of instructional materials which help students and help instructors and do so at a much lower price than has ever been seen before,” Levin said.

    Kestenbaum asked, “You really don’t want to talk about books any more.” Levin replied, “We don’t. It’s not very interesting to us.” (See the full story.)
Publishers will be paid an annual per-user fee for access to the educational materials they post online. These fees will continue (and probably be adjusted upward) as long as a title is being used. Currently, publishers pay a one-time fee for each image they license for use in an online title. Instead of regularly publishing new titles content will be updated constantly depending on new developments in the subject area, or new ways in presenting the information. Some images may be changed frequently, others may remain a part of the title forever.

During the initial development the publisher may have no idea how long, or extensively a given title is likely to be used, or more to the point, how long a particular image will remain in the title.

To fairly deal with creators, compensation for a given image must have some relationship to how long the image is used and the number of users given access to the image. In the Internet environment this is easily determined and tracked by the publishers.

When an image is chosen to be included in a title, I think the initial fee should be for one-year use. At the end of each year the publisher determines if all the same images will remain in the title, or if some have been replaced. Creators of all those that remain receive a second year fee, and so on as long as they remain in the title.

Adjustments could be built into the compensation package based on the total number of users of the title in a given year. This number is likely to go up for a while after a new title is issued and probably decline significantly if the title is no longer being updated.

Getting Negotiations Started

I would suggest setting a deadline of something like January 2016. In the meantime a panel of representatives from as many associations as possible should enter into discussions with major publishers to see if some accommodation can’t be reached.

Recognizing that such a blanket work stoppage is likely to have a major impact on a few suppliers that earn a substantial portion of their income from this market it might be best to focus on one particular publisher initially, and continue supplying the rest.

While trade associations may not be able to force any of their member to comply with such a band, if it were properly publicized many suppliers might realize that it would be in their long-term best interest to withhold their material. If, after discussions nothing can be worked out then most suppliers interested in photography as a profession will realize that speculative production of the kind of imagery the education market needs is not a viable long term business. At that point they can focus their energies somewhere else.

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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