Getty is allowing CafePress to choose from their thousands of Royalty-Free* images and authorizing them to sell those photographs on mouse-pads, coffee mugs, and other products all around the world, free of commitment. CafePress only owes Getty money on every individual item sold, essentially putting these photographs on consignment, thus allowing CafePress to increase their “inventory” of products, with our beautiful images, without spending anything out-of-pocket.

More: NEWS – Remi Thornton Photography.

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  1. Personally I don’t see there is a problem with Getty doing this – it is fairly normal business to provide images on this basis and earn a royalty on each product which is then sold featuring the image.

    I think the real issue (as with so many things that Getty and some other agencies do) is that a photographer could do this direct. The photographer uploads their images to CafePress and earns the FULL royalty from each product sale. What is Getty Images actually doing to earn the horrendous 80% cut (I guess) that they take from the royalty payments?

    • Exactly! I license my work through Getty to have access to their wide network and exposure. If I wanted to sell photos through CafePress I wouldn’t need Getty and their terrible royalty split.

      • Yes, there is a major problem where Getty is the ‘middle man’ when the middle man is not required and all they are doing is creaming off the majority of the earnings.

        And of course there is no option for a Getty photographer to ‘opt out’ of this.

        • It would be great if a Getty contract allowed you to opt in or out of it’s deals with “partners” like Cafe Press. Great idea! Some photographers don’t mind and some do, so let the talent decide!

  2. No-one has ever purchased a photo they have never seen.

  3. “Personally I don’t see there is a problem with Getty doing this – it is fairly normal business to provide images on this basis and earn a royalty on each product which is then sold featuring the image.”

    – This is extremely untrue. Stock agencies are not in the business of allowing clients to pay later when it comes to image usage. It may be normal for you to do it, but if agencies did this regularly, it would be impossible to track appropriate copyright usage and royalties.

  4. Its getting crazier by the minute. I scale that in the category batsh!tcrazy.


  5. I don’t see anything wrong with this. We (at least those of us working for agencies) are “loaning” our images to agencies, which “increase their inventory” and we get paid only for what they sell (unless you are paid by assignment). So what’s so horrible wrong with this compared to this what we do every day?
    Other thing is, if photographer chooses this “great” deal with Getty… starting with their split already.

  6. @Primoz – Here’s what I think is wrong with it from what I gather from the original post..

    The reason it’s wrong is because a photographer tells Getty it’s ok to keep our images for sale as an agency (as you said). But Getty is now sending those images to another party (a non-agency). If Cafe Press was selling the images for licensing on behalf of Getty, that would be another issue (likely an acceptable one). But Cafe Press is selling products with our images and not paying until they sell! That’s not normal. If they want to use our images on a product, they need to pay up front like everyone else.

    In brief, Cafe Press should be a client/customer of Getty, not a partner. Cafe Press is not a stock agency. If Getty is allowing companies that should normally pay a fee to use our images (up front, like a normal licensing deal), what’s to keep them from doing this for any other company. Cafe Press is stocking up on images to grow their website and increase revenues. But even though a photographers image is being used to do so, it doesn’t mean that photographer is selling anything. So these photographers are being used to earn money for Cafe Press without being paid.

    I have images with Getty (not through Flickr), and if they did this to me I would be outta there. I’m considering dropping anyway given the fees and the unethical moves towards amateur photographers like this one.

  7. Agency takes 80 % for marketing and getting the images in front of buyers. We do loan images to the agency, ok. But it doesnt mean, that agency will fullfill their part by loaning already loaned pictures to some “subagency”. And eventually “subagency” will loan them to “subsubagency” etc. and they ALL will be charging HUGE commisions and paying cents to the real creator. This approach absolutely screwed whole world economy, as the manufacturer (who does MOST of the real work) gets the MINIMUM money. Luckily internet allowed to connect buyers with manufacturers directly and these “shufflers” charging huge commisions on nothing are now going bancrupt. Or do you think that sustainable economy is possible when ONE produces, ONE buys and 3-4 middlemen CHARGE huge commisions on it?

  8. This is not uncommon in the stock industry provided that the photographer is getting a percent of every item sold it can often lead to much higher returns rather than a traditional license. As a photographer with many images in the stock marketplace, I’ve seen as much as 2000% more return on a royalty based retail deal than I would have received with a flat retail license.

    For instance, imagine your work is on a back to school folder at Wal-Mart and for each one of those units sold you get 10-cents. Now imagine the volume of folders they sell with your image. A royalty could be upwards of $10k or much, much more. A license for something similar may only be a few hundred dollars or at the most, $1500. In the end, these deals allow the strength of the photographers work to sing – the better your image and the more popular – the more sales you’ll see.

    Personally, I despise Getty but there is value in going through them vs. doing it on your own. With Getty’s massive volume of photography, they can broker better deals that ensure the products are marketed properly and have better visibility, thus providing better sales. If their royalty split wasn’t so obnoxious, this sort of program has the potential to provide a lot of value to the photographers.

    Put your pitchforks away and consider the business side objectively.

    • Mark, I replied below but thought of something else I wanted to mention. Your Wal-Mart example is a good one, but another issue with it, kinda off topic but an argument against the royalty through an agency.

      If you take a royalty as a photographer, you are taking a risk because that product might not sell. That is totally out of your hands, it’s up to Wal-Mart to market and sell the product properly. The reason the licensing fee exists (with agencies) is because it’s a fair way to reduce the risk for their photographers. They shouldn’t be allowed to decide when or when not to take that risk on the photographer’s behalf. But that’s not what Getty is doing, they are deciding with the Cafe Press example.

      If you are on your own and you get that deal, you can make the decision to take the risk or not. And in your example, I might do the same…But as your agent, because I can’t contact you on every time a scenario might come up, because I have thousands of other photographers, I shouldn’t make that call for you.

      Hope that makes sense. I appreciate the example, it made me think a lot about this great topic.

  9. @Mark Freeman

    It’s a good argument, but the chances of anyone actually selling one of their prints on Cafe Press is very unlikely. It’s not a tangible good, so a company like Cafe Press is not as dedicated promoting each individual item (as your example with Walmart as they have money invested in the folder itself so they make fewer folders and focus on selling them out). If I was one of 10 posters being sold on the site, I might be happy with that offer because I would assume there would be an effort on the company’s part to sell the damn thing.

    Instead, what Cafe Press is doing is building a larger library to become more visible and seen in searches and in their market space, thus improving their overall position and increase their overall revenues. They’re doing that without cost (in this regard), using photographers to build that library but the individual photographers are getting very little if anything at all. Therefore, Cafe Press is building a business with goods but not paying the talent that helps them build it.

    Going back to your argument, Walmart pays for the goods on their shelves one way or another. The stores are massive and offer a lot to their customers, but they also pay a lot to stock inventory. Cafe Press isn’t paying anything…Some may say that’s good business because, well, good for them! They’ve figured out a way to build inventory for free. But is it fair for the photographers that supply the images? Further, is it fair for Getty to even offer those photographs to Cafe Press to begin with? And, when will it end? Will they start loaning images to ad agencies and get paid based on revenues (back to the point of the original post)? And if that’s ok with you, what if the ad agency doesn’t earn anything and you don’t get paid at all. Is that your fault?

    Great discussion!

  10. It has been a long time since I had photos with an agency, but seems to me one of the usage categories that they charged for was “point of sale” marketing. Isn’t that what Cafe Press is getting for free?

  11. We do have control. We can stop letting Getty have our imagery. They are huge. We get nothing. They are nothing without us. Collectively, if we stopped giving our imagery to Getty, this wouldn’t be an issue.
    I don’t know, maybe it’s just me, I don’t like to work for free. Recently had a sale of an image through Getty. I made $3.50 of the transaction. Alone, I can do nothing, with a collective of others this could stop.
    Just saying.

    • Assume all professional photographers leave Getty. Well, through Flickr and other outlets, Getty is bringing on Amateur photographers that don’t really care that they are being taken advantage of. How do I know they don’t care? Because if you track the responses to the original post, those that say “so what” or defend Getty are inexperienced through their own recognition.

      And the photographs Getty are choosing are just as good as a professionals. Granted, they don’t get reliability from each photographer, if they pick and choose the images from a database of tens of thousands of photographers, you would never know whether or not the producer is a pro or amateur. I think in a way Getty is relying on partnerships like Flickr because they know they won’t have a fight, and if the pros drop off through time given new policies, it won’t matter.

  12. Getty is selling images very cheaply at Fine Art America too. Stock agencies ruining a fine art market too. With their too low prices.

  13. Many years ago a group of us quit Getty because of their horrendous exclusivity issues. FORGET groups getting together to alter the course stock is on. It will never work because there will ALWAYS be the largest number of shooters having the lowest esteem for their work to band together. Staying in this industry means being constantly beaten up. Get used to it or move on. Don’t think for a second this hasn’t been a big issue for decades. It plainly sucks. I have wet dreams thinking about what I’d do if I could get my hands on the necks of people making these decisions.

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