Licensing A Getty Image Found On Someone Else's URL Isn't Easy!

Posted on 4/1/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

Licensing RM images from Getty isn’t always easy. This may go a long way to explaining why Getty’s RM sales revenue is declining.

I republished a story about Rolf Sjogren’s career as a stock agency picture editor and art director. The article was first published on and I wanted to include 4 images from the Getty collection that Dismagazine used.
I contacted fnyrf@trgglvzntrf.pbz with the following request.

    Subject: Use of Images
    I will be reprinting a story published on in my online newsletter Selling Stock ( Selling Stock has a subscriber base of about 400. I would like permission to include the four images that appeared in the original article with my story.  The URL for the original story by Rolf Sjogren is: I have attached screen grabs of the 4 images I am interested in using.

    Please advise me of the fee for this minimal use.

    Thank you.
I received an immediate Auto Reply from Getty that said:
    Getty Images thanks you for your email. We strive to respond to all email inquiries within 1-2 business days (emphasis mine).  If your issue cannot wait that long, please click the 'contact us' link at the top of any of our web pages, or follow the link below to find the phone number to call for your local Getty Images sales office.

I could have called, but I wanted to see how long it would take Getty to respond to a non-emergency request. Twenty-seven hour later I received the following response with a series of additional questions. My answers are supplied below the questions.
    Hi Jim,

    Happy to provide you with a quote for the following four images. First can you tell me which username you prefer to use, since you have three accounts? 

    Please use the username "xxxxxxxx". I think you can probably cancel the other two accounts as I don't think I have ever purchased anything with any of the accounts and there will probably be very little future activity.

    Username- xxxxxxxx
    Username- xxxxxxx3
    Username- xxxxxxx1

    (I’m not sure how I got three usernames since I have never purchased anything from Getty before. However, I may have used a username to search for and price image usages.)

    Secondly, do you have the image numbers for the 4 images you would like to license???

    I do not have the image numbers. I got the images by right clicking on them in the original story. There is no information about the image in the IPTC File Info. As far as I know there is no way for me to easily do a visual search of to find images with the same visual characteristics. Hopefully, you have some way of doing that.??

    The original story appeared at the following URL and it is my understanding that they licensed rights to use the images. I would suspect that you would be able to determine the image numbers by accessing their account.
    As far as licensing goes can you answer the following questions?
    ·         Will these images appear on the interior or cover of your book/article?
    The pictures will be used inside the story and will not appear anywhere else in the online publication.
    ·         What is the start date of publication?
    I publish new stories daily. The story will probably be published early next week (April 2nd estimate). The story will only be promoted for 1 day, but will be available in the archive of the online publication. The publication is:
    ·         Do you need electronic distribution as well?
    The only distribution is electronic. There is no print distribution. There are about 400 subscribers that receive the information I publish electronically.?

Two hours later I received the following email from a Getty researcher.
At this point I still haven’t been given a price for the usage. It is interesting that the four images are now available to me, but not one of them has any information in the IPTC File Info folder. This is a major problem for Getty’s future licensing.

With the explosion of images on the Internet more and more people are finding images they would like to use on the sites they visit, not by going to one of the major databases to search for images. The initial user may have been properly licensed the image for the use he made of it.

But if there is no hint connected to the image as to where this new potential user might need to go to license a future usage. Thus, there is a powerful incentive to just grab it and use it.  In effect, Getty is “orphaning” every image it licenses because it fails to provide a way for another user to know where to go to license an additional use.

Creators have a right to complain if image users are purposely stripping information from the IPTC header when they post images they purchase. (See this story where a study by The International Press Telecommunications Council (IPTC) finds that many social media sites strip information.)

But Getty doesn’t even put information in the IPTC header in the first place. At the very least one would think that there should be a notice that indicates the image could be licensed by going to If they would also include an image file number it would make it a lot easier for a potential customer to find the image on Getty’s site and use Getty’s pricing template to determine the licensing fee. It would also be nice if they included in the IPTC header photographer’s name, capition information, and the name of the image partner agency that supplied the images to Getty. But, it they won’t even put their own name in the file they supply customers then we can’t expect much else.

In my case I knew that the images came from Getty because Rolf Sjogren told me.  Otherwise I would have had no way of knowing. I could have contacted DisMagazine and asked where they got the images, but how many web site operators would bother to respond to such a question.

In the early 1990s the ITPC establishing standards for imbedding information in image files. But if no one, not even major image suppliers, takes advantage of placing information in the IPTC header then we only have ourselves to blame when customers make unauthorized use of our images.

Getting A Price

About two hours later I receive the actual quote with this note.
    Hi Jim,

    Great. I just sent you an email with your appropriate license for an editorial web use for 3 months duration.  One image you chose is a royalty free image, therefore, you have perpetual rights to that image and just pay for the file size you need.

    Everything is ready to go in your shopping cart under username- xxxxxxxx  Let me know if you would like me to process this invoice for you, if not, you can do so yourself online.
Three of the images were RM and the quote was for $49 each. One was RF and the price for it was $62. Thus, the total for everything was $209.00. The license was for Up To 50,000 Circulation and 3 Months Duration.  It was also noted that, “This use covers: For editorial web and/or app use only. No advertising, promotional or commercial use of any kind. Coverage includes the right to archive the image in context of the original scope of use for up to 5 years.”

I responded:
    Thank you for the quote. I will not be using the images you sent. Given the size of my readership I can’t justify paying more than $50 for all four images ($12.50 each). I will need to find some other solution to my image needs.

    Jim Pickerell
I heard nothing else.

In this case I wanted to use specific images that had been used in the previously published story. To solve my budget problem I simply linked to the previous story. But, if I had just been looking for good images on the same topics I could have gone to Shutterstock, purchased the right to download 5 images for $49 and had my choice of over 24 million images. How many web users are going to bother with Getty RM?

Things To Consider

Since I charge customers to read my stories it could be argued that this use is a “commercial use” -- which would also be true of the vast majority of all editorial uses. Considering the minimal use, I was surprised not to hear a counter offer from Getty. If $49 really was their bottom line for what they charge it’s understandable that they could not go lower. But we know from photographer’s sales statements that they charge fees lower that $49 for at least 25% of the RM images they license. (See here).

I suspect that it is the customers that do a high volume of business with them that get the lower fees, but from the individual photographer’s point of view it makes little difference whether the customer buys 1,000 images from Getty, only one of which is the photographer’s, or whether the image is one of four that a customer purchases in a year. A low fee is a low fee either way. And no fee is no fee. For the photographer there is no guarantee that he will benefit from Getty’s sales volume.

Recently a stock agent complaining about low prices said, “A salesman from one of the big gorilla agencies told me that their orders are: we don’t want to lose a sale for a pricing issue.” Clearly that’s not what happened in this case. Getty was willing to lose at least this small sale.

But when Getty gives volume discounts to its best customers, these customers get more images for significantly less money – or the same number of images for a lot less money. Selling to its best customers for lower prices does not enable Getty to broaden its market and reach out to new small user because they continue to ask the small users to pay much higher prices than they can afford to pay. Image suppliers see a lot of small sales on their sales reports, but not enough volume increase to offset the lower prices. (See information on Getty’s Creative Stills trends.)

Another factor for RM sellers to consider is the length of time an image can remain in an archive. Getty’s license says, “Coverage includes the right to archive the image in context of the original scope of use for up to 5 years.” No one is going want to take on the responsibility of continually, monitoring and deleting work from its archive. If the customer decides to use the image in conjunction with a different story that is another use. But with the Internet and the Cloud everything stays in archives indefinitely. In addition, creators of new stories will often link to old archived stories and as long as nothing is changed in the archived story that should be allowed, indefinitely. If those who want to use RM cannot be allowed to archive work indefinitely more and more of them will turn to RF that does allow it.

Copyright © 2013 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:  


  • Art Minds Posted Apr 7, 2013
    Jim, you make a very astute observation that Getty is actually orphaning the images it markets by omitting IPTC info from the image.

    The actual image data displayed on the Getty web site is maintained in a database apart the actual digital image file, to enable easy update and rapid searching of millions of images. The alternative is to create an "index" from the IPTC data in the image, an unworkable concept for a library of millions of images.

    But at least the creator/copyright owner name should be embedded in every version of an image available online, even though complete IPTC info is not.

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