Random Thoughts 105

Posted on 7/11/2005 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)



July 12, 2005

Getty's Acquisition of Digital Vision and Photonica Examined by Office of Fair Trading

The Office of Fair Trading (OFT) in the UK is currently considering Getty's acquisition of Digital Vision and Photonica West under the merger control provisions of the Enterprise Act of 2002. The OFT is collecting information and seeking third party comments from customers and competitors to determine whether this merger should be referred to the Competition Commission for further investigation. They are particularly interested in how these mergers might affect competition in the UK.

Due to the deadline on this case parties interested in making comments should contact Juliet Young either by email at (juliet.young@oft.gsi.gov.uk) or telephone (0044-20-7211-8567) by Friday 15 July 2005.

Getty Applying Pressure On Suppliers

As I reported in Stories 722 and 736, Getty has been pressuring its "Image Partners" not to work with either of its two major competitors - Corbis and Jupitermedia.

Now sources tell me that Getty has formalized this prohibition by inserting new language in its contracts with partners. I am told the language reads as follows:

    Licensor agrees that for the term of this agreement and subsequent renewals of this agreement, licensor shall not enter into or renew any agreement that will result in any affiliation with, representation or distribution of licensor's images by Corbis Corp, or any of its affiliates, successors or assigns; and Jupitermedia Corp. or any of its affiliates, successors or assigns.

This presents many partners with a serious dilemma. In most cases Getty is only willing to represent a portion of the partner's work. Under the old agreement images that Getty refused to represent could be placed with other marketing outlets. Under this new agreement the partner cannot market other images that Getty refuses to represent through the other two most productive portals. Thus the partner's ability to grow revenue is severely limited and controlled by Getty. It also seems likely that if Getty is able to enforce this provision the minute any other portal is viewed as a serious competitor it will be added to Getty's list of prohibited distributors.

It is not clear whether this language is being added to all agreements or just those of Rights Managed suppliers. If it is being added to agreements with RF partners, it could lead to a drastic change in the way RF distribution is handled.

It also seems likely, given this new language, that Getty will kick the PictureArts brands - Brand X, FoodPix and Botanica - off the gettyimages.com site in the near future since PA was recently acquired by Jupitermedia. This will mean that Getty has chosen to give up approximately $42 million in annual revenue to support this principle. It seems obvious that Getty believes its customers will purchase alternative images that are on its site and will not bother to search for the new location of these brands. It will be interesting to see if that happens and how effective Jupitermedia will be in bringing customers to its new location.

E-Data Suit Of Getty and Corbis Tossed

In the UK E-Data lost its patent infringement suit against Getty Images and Corbis when a judge ruled that the two companies did not infringe. In 2004 E-Data commenced litigation against Getty and Corbis (See stories 618 and 648) claiming that each was in violation of E-Data's "Freeny" patent that appeared to cover the downloading of digital files from the internet and the recording of that information.

Getty and Corbis prevailed because they convinced the judge to take literally two terms in the Freeny patent: "material object" and "point of sale location." They argued they were not selling "material objects" but licenses to reproduce objects that resided elsewhere.

Regarding the point of sale issue, the judge cited a previous case that determined the material object must be offered for sale at a particular location, and, specifically, did not include the hard drive of a computer. Because users of these services download digital files onto their hard drives, the judge found that there was no infringement. The judge also revoked the patent that was granted to inventor Charles Freeny in 1985.

E-Data's similar claim against Getty Images was dismissed on May 25th in a Washington State federal court but the Washington case against Corbis still has to be resolved.

Proprietary RAW Formats

The American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP) and other industry leaders are expressing deep concerned over the current state of the RAW digital file format. They point out that because there are over 163 different RAW formats, each proprietary to a particular manufacturer, and because any manufacturer may decide in the future not to support a particular RAW format, there may come a time when it is impossible to open certain raw files.

Consequently, the OpenRAW Working Group (www.openRAW.org)has been formed to encourage camera makers to adopt a policy of open documentation of RAW formats past, present and future and to cease developing proprietary and encrypted formats. They point out that if the current practices of hiding data and dropping support for older models of cameras continues countless images will be unreadable with no software to decode them. This could result in the loss of much of our photographic heritage.

RAW files are becoming a popular choice of many photographers because they have the advantages of:

  • Preserving the maximum amount of original image data.
  • Allowing greater creative control of digital images.
  • Enabling the highest possible image quality from each file.
  • Providing the flexibility of setting such things as exposure and white balance after the exposure is made.
  • Removing the limitations of fixed in-camera processing.
  • Improving image quality over time as RAW processing software capabilities advance.
  • Providing an archival image format that could potentially rival the usefulness and longevity of film.

Many have suggested (and Adobe has created) a common, open file format for RAW image files for all camera makers to use as a solution to the RAW problem. While this would fulfill many of the goals of OpenRAW it is likely to face significant resistance from manufacturers who feel their "creativity" and ability to innovate would be constrained. The best solution seems to be the open documentation by manufacturers of of all RAW formats.

For more information see:





(A RAW file is a digital format to store light-sensor data from a digital camera. Like film, a RAW file must be "processed" in software before it can be viewed as an image. Unlike TIFF or JPEG files, which are the same everywhere and are defined by published standards, RAW files are defined differently by each camera maker. Some manufacturers are willing to reveal how their data is structured, but others keep that information secret.)

PicScout To Monitor Magazine Ads

PicScout has entered into an agreement with Inquiry Management Systems of Toronto to search magazine print ads in an effort to uncover unauthorized use of stock photography.

The Canadian firm searches 3,000 magazines and captures over 150,000 images each month to determine where, when and how often various ads are run.

The PicScout technology will be used to compare the images collected by Inquiry Management Systems with the images from various agencies that are in the PicScout database. This will make it possible for agencies to track actual use and determine if it conforms with the license.

Stock photography distributors including Getty Images, Superstock, Masterfile, Zefa and others use PicScout to protect this rights-managed stock photo collections.

Browntrout Publishers Slow On Payment

Photographers report that Browntrout Publishers in California, a major publisher of calendars, seems to be falling behind in its schedule to pay for images they have used in their 2005 line of calendars. Payment was promised in writing by March 31st, but still has not appeared. The company also does not seem to be responding to faxes, e-mail or voicemail.

Copyright © 2005 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


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