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« Searching for Truth #11--Have We Saturated the Market? | Main | Searching for Truth #12--An Interesting Alphabet »

August 28, 2006


Granville Bennett

Can a CD from Tower Records be used to entertain a football stadium or to sweeten a radio promotion WITHOUT asking for permission and WITHOUT paying further royalties to the artist or rights owner?
Business to Business contracts and negociations are in most industries (e.g. car rental or leasing) at least as (or even more) complex/complicate as licensing a rights managed picture. For a somewhat professional image buyer it's part of the trade. (Even ordinary people are expected to tell their car insurance the mileage the expect to drive per year). The above comments quite ignore an important value advantage rights management offers - knowing WHEN was the image used by WHO for WHAT purpose. A future based on mass downloads will see a good number of competitors ending up with exactly the same picture in their presentations (and yes, readers and customers do recognise). Stock photography prices are small expenses compared to other production costs and esp. the costs of ad space. A certain amount of exclusivity or at least not getting a worn-out mass product could soon be worth again a bit of extra money and effort to picture buyers who value their projects more than just a Dollar.

Jeff Greenberg

Subdividing RF as follows might allow price increases:

RF1 -- RF for one year
RF3 -- RF for three years
RF5 -- RF for five years
RFU -- RF for unlimited years

(make RF3 or RF5 equal to current RF pricing)

Tim McGuire

When you write about buying CD's of music, Newspapers, and the watching of a television show you are talking about media marketed to the consumer market. Stock photography is largely licensed into the Business to Business market where complex licensing is the norm.

Surely if you were Starbucks and you wanted to make the New York Times available to all your customers in your stores, let's say you pasted it on your walls so customers of Starbucks could read it without paying, surely the New York Times would demand to license that right to you based on very specific numbers of stores, regions and time limitations.

If Starbucks wanted to play rolling stones CD's in all their stores surely Mick Jagger would negotiate a deal with Starbucks based on very complex set of use parameters.

And surely if Starbucks wanted to show a television show on a big screen in their stores this right would have to be carefully negotiated with the television shows producers on a complex set of rights allowed including duration, territory, and size and scope.

Art buyers are far different from teenagers at the local CD store buying a cd to RIP to their itunes. Professional art buyers buying for companies who spend thousands and millions of dollars in order to use stock photographs can handle a certain amount of complexity in the licensing process though maybe they tell you otherwise in order to get you to give it all away for almost nothing.

Bahar, in my humble opinion and with all due respect I think your comments are dead wrong and do a diservice to this industry that long suffers from a lack of professionalism in it's licensing practices!

Thanks for listening.

Tim McGuire

Bahar Gidwani

Thanks to the folks who have commented on this so far. I don't have answers, but I have responses (if you know what I mean!).

Re Granville's comment re a risk of overlap. I agree that this is a concern for the high end of the market. If an image licensor is going to spend $1,000,000 on a marketing campaign, he or she won't care about an extra $5,000 to protect an image and make sure the whole campaign is not ruined by an overlap. That client is also quite likely to assign the image--same money and she or he gets complete control. Remember, 95% of all images used are RF (this data from client surveys I have done). So 95% of the market already doesn't care about overlap and probably will like to get each image for $1 instead of $399. (They are already getting most of their RF images for $0, from previous jobs and from CDs or subscriptions, they have already purchased.)

Re Jeff's suggestion for a better RF pricing system. I'd vote for it...but I don't think customers will. It is like asking someone to vote to raise taxes. We all know that we need better schools, fewer potholes, and better social support systems. But, we'd rather have someone else pay for them. Customers will keep voting for whatever system is cheapest and simplest--regardless of whether or not it is good for artists and the overall health of our industry.

Finally, re Tim's comments. I've been fighting the good fight regarding prices for fifteen years. In general, our agency has won those battles, and kept our average prices at or above those of most of our competitors. However, when we get new competitors who are pricing at $1 or $0.50, it is unreasonable to blame the change on existing agencies like us! We can't stop progress or change the market--even though many of us tried to do it for years, when faced with royalty free and fixed price contract demands from book publishers, etc. I think it is a disservice to the industry to label those who tell the truth as the cause of the problem. Remember Cassandra and the battle of Troy...

Hope I'll get more input on this one. Thanks again for your comments.

Tim McGuire


Again, it may be true you've fought the good fight for a long time. I hope it is true. My point is that stock photography is licensed to other businesses not "Joe Consumer". Other businesses, unlike "Joe Consumer" can and will put up with a certain amount of complexity in the licensing process just not unneccesary complexities.

I do not label you or the company you run (Bahar)as the cause of the problem. The cause of the problem falls directly on the heads of photographers and their collective unwillingness to demand and uphold any professional standards of licensing for their work. A lost cause, yes, but the cause none the less.

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