Getty Images Are Now Free For Online Editorial Use

Last week news broke that Getty Images was making the majority of its collection available for editorial and acedemic embedding as long as they can append a footer at the bottom of the picture. The Verge reported that according to Craig Peters, a business development exec at Getty Images the ship sailed long ago as far as trying to prevent unauthorized use of their images online (story here) and their “content was everywhere already”.

Peter Krogh of The DAM Book has a different take on the situation. He speculates that the Carlyle Group, the private equity firm that has majority ownership of Getty is looking to cash out before a 1.2 billion dollar loan comes due in 2016 and given that Getty’s 2011 revenue was $900 million their profit is likely a small fraction of that and so they need to do something quickly to increase the value of the company.

Peter goes on to theorize that the whole embedding business is about gathering information which I agree can be more valuable than money to investors. You should read his entire post here:

You only have to look the Facebook purchases of Instagram and WhatsApp or the stock price of Twitter to understand that users are more valuable than revenue. So I think Getty is going to get on the user bandwagon by allowing free use of their images. What’s crazy about everyone getting on the user bandwagon is they all have the same plan to make money in the end: advertising. I think some simple math will prove that adding up all the minutes spent on an application times the current ad rates does not equal the valuation all these companies supposedly have. Getty is very late to a game of chicken with companies that have a tiny fraction of the overhead. All signs point to a writedown for the Carlyle Group in 2016.

Getty Hands Google Users Free Commercial Images, Photographers Get $12

On December 6th the Google Drive Blog announced that “5,000 new photos of nature, weather, animals, sports, food, education, technology, music and 8 other categories are now available for your use in Docs, Sheets, and Slides” with no mention to how they were acquired or what type of license they come with. If you have a google drive account (comes with gmail and google apps for business) you can create a document and when you go to insert an image you can search google, life or stock. There’s a notice that the “results shown are labeled for commercial reuse with modification” but other than that you can insert the image results in your document and away you go.

It all seems quite mysterious, but luckily some istockers uncovered what’s really going on. In a forum post on January 10th an istock contributor is alarmed to find one of their images in the search results and once they place “it into my document at 1,066 x 1,600. No attribution. No meta-data. No license. No link.” This post is followed by 537 comments then the thread is locked.

On January 11th a forum post titled “Google Drive + Update” is made by mr_erin who appears to work for istockphoto with the following information:

“This is a license deal arranged with Google through Getty Images”

“There may eventually be additional content added to this pool/agreement”

“Google licensed these images for use by Google users through the Google Drive platform; Users of this platform are granted rights to place this imagery in content created using Google Docs, Google Sites, and Google Presentations, which end uses can be for commercial purposes.”

I haven’t really dug into the forum posts to see what else is being said or located other sources for the story. The photographer who emailed me about it (Don) says that Getty/Flickr photographers are being paid a one time fee of $12 for the deal.

I’m positive that Getty and Google will figure out a way to lower the bar even further at some point, but this is the lowest I’ve seen it. Gmail has 425 million active users worldwide according to Wikipedia. That’s some serious fractions of a penny for a license.

Shutterstock’s IPO Plans

Techcrunch reported on Monday that Shutterstock filed its plans for an IPO on the NYSE from which it hopes to raise $115 million (story here). IPO’s are interesting because you get to look at the financials of a privately held company that thinks it’s the next big thing. From the story:

According to its S-1 filing, Shutterstock currently offers one of the largest content libraries in the commercial digital imagery industry with over 19 million photographs and illustrations and about 500,000 videos from more than 35,000 contributors. In 2011, the company delivered more than 58 million paid downloads. The average cost per image on the site in 2011 was around $3. Shutterstock says that it had more than 550,000 paying customers in 2011.

Shutterstock is the infamous long tail in action, generating $3 here and there for its 35,000 contributors and according to the S-1 filing (read it here), reaping $120 million in revenue for the company in 2011.

Perhaps there’s a hedging strategy for photographers who see a continued decline in their own stock sales and a continued rise in micro stock?

In a report published in October 2008, BCC Research estimated that the market for pre-shot commercial imagery was $2.7 billion in 2008 and was projected to grow to $5.1 billion by 2013. Within this market, BCC Research defines two segments: the “traditional stock photography” segment and the online marketplace segment. The traditional segment is characterized by higher-touch customer relationships, negotiated image prices, and stables of professional photographers who shoot content exclusively for one agency, some on a salaried basis. The online marketplace segment, in which Shutterstock has historically participated, is characterized by self-serve ecommerce with simple, inexpensive licensing options and a large number of contributors from around the world. BCC Research estimated that the online marketplace segment would grow 51% annually between 2008 and 2013 to a total of $2.0 billion in 2013. In the same time period, the traditional pre-shot image market was estimated to grow 5% annually to a total of $3.1 billion in 2013. As the quality, quantity and awareness of pre-shot image licensing options continue to increase over time, we believe that pre-shot images will satisfy an increasing portion of the demand for commissioned photography, which BCC Research estimates to be a $12 billion market in 2013.

Since imagery is often a component of an advertising campaign or media production, the demand for commercial digital imagery is largely driven by the global marketing and publishing industries. In 2011, more than $466 billion was spent in the global advertising industry and $379 billion in the global publishing industry (including books, newspapers and magazines), according to Zenith Optimedia and IBISWorld, respectively. We believe that disruptive technological trends are expanding the role of commercial digital imagery within these industries and driving growth in the demand and supply of images.

Getty Cuts Pay for Editorial Contributors

Getty announced pay cuts for editorial contributors and when PDN asked them if that was because they needed to lower their prices (here):

Asked whether Getty has found itself unable to compete for low-priced business without asking for concessions from suppliers, agency spokesperson Jodi Einhorn said, “No….[W]e are developing new ways for customers to use more of our content and as a result, new ways to pay contributors must be created in these situations.”

And exactly how will contributors benefit?

Getty is “making changes and improvements around how we share and license our content, which will benefit our photographers,” by providing more exposure and more potential for sales of their images.

Potential sales and exposure… photographers love that.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse over here… there’s a long thread of comments over on the PDN Pulse blog, but last time I brought up the Getty contract changes photographers found the discussion useful.

There’s no doubt that Getty has found a sweet spot in sales with their subscription model, unfortunately that means contributors are seeing lots of images sold for $5. I often get asked why someone doesn’t step in and create an agency with a better cut for photographers. Truth is, the higher priced sales are very labor intensive and require insurance. Given the choice between selling a handful of images for a million dollars and a million photos for a dollar, stock agencies will take the latter, because it can be done by a computer at no cost and no hassle.

APA Recommends That Members Do Not Sign Getty Agreement

I wrote about the new Getty contract in early April (here) and there was some excellent discussion in the comments about the whole deal, so I thought I’d bring this latest announcement by the American Photographic Artists (APA) to your attention. In a statement the APA said “Adopting baseless, self- imposed deadlines and threatening to terminate contributors who do not accept changes to their existing contracts is not acceptable. As a community, we cannot continue to ignore Getty Images’ efforts to intimidate and strong-arm contributors, and we must not allow Getty Images to force contributors into signing these new contracts under duress.”

The APA contacted Getty through their lawyers asking them to extend the deadline and make clear to all contributors that not signing the agreement will not result in the automatic termination of prior agreements or removal of all their images but Getty refused to respond.

The signing deadline has passed, so I’m wondering if the APA is going to file a lawsuit.

You can download the statements (here).

UPDATE: The AOP (Association of Photographers) agrees with APA that “these changes are unacceptable and that the ‘solutions’ that Getty Images has offered are entirely inadequate and fail to resolve even the most basic concerns.” Read it (here).

Magazine Claims Accurate Photos Are Too Expensive

Horrifying vegans everywhere it was recently uncovered that VegNews Magazine has been using stock pictures of meat and passing them off as vegan dishes. a vegan blog with the tag line “meat is murder” posted the side-by-side comparisons (here) between VegNews images appearing online and in print and the istockphoto original found on the stock site.

The magazine responded in a letter to their readers by saying that although they are “an ethical vegan magazine, owned-and-operated by vegans since its inception, VegNews is a labor of love, totally motivated by our dedication to ending animal suffering” it is not “financially feasible for VegNews” to “use custom-shot photography for every spread” and there are “very few specifically vegan images offered by stock companies” so they have “resorted to using stock photography that may or may not be vegan.” Letter (here).


The uproar continued after their non-apologetic statement so they finally issued a real apology (here): “We screwed up. With regard to our use of symbolic imagery in VegNews, our readers got it right. We wholeheartedly apologize. We assure you that we will never again use non-vegan photographs in VegNews.” And, there’s a new Vegan Stock photo agency: that formed after the controversy.

Using stock can be convenient and cheap, but magazines need to maintain the trust of their readers, so a little fact checking will keep you from getting burned down the road. Obviously Veg News knew they were deceiving their readers so that’s different than not checking to make sure an image is accurate, but if I was forced to buy cheap stock for a magazine I would at least use TinEye to see where else the image was being used.

thx, Matt

New Getty Contract Met With Apathy

The new Getty contract finally arrived and while there’s nothing outlandish in the new terms, there seems to be a continual slow creep towards selling images for whatever price they would like. Long ago Getty bought into the long tail business model, which means it’s easier to own 10 million images that sell for a dollar than 10 images that sell for one million dollars. For contributors this means, “we are removing the ability for contributors to opt out of images moving from RM to RF” and “Getty Images would be able to include RF content in subscription products.”

A reader wrote and told me that “none of the photographer advocates seems to think this is worth fighting” and “few contributors have responded on the contributors site [for] fear of retribution from Getty.

I have been told by many people that the pricing has been in a downward spiral for a long time now with things like the Premium Access subscription model that companies like NBC use to get images super cheap where photographers will see $0.35 sales and any sales coming out of China will be less than $5. One rumor I heard recently was that photographers were seeing Worldwide Advertising going for $100/year. This is all just the long tail hard at work collecting money for the bottom line.

I know I’m beating a dead horse with this post and most photographers have soured on Getty and stock photography many, many years ago but some wanted to discuss so I thought I’d put it out there.

You can download the contract (2011 contributor agreement v.4.0 (d) sample-english).

Stock Photography Rumors – Destroying Film And Contracts

A rumor has been floating around that images held by Corbis-Sygma will be destroyed unless the owners can be found. The British Journal of Photography spoke with Stéphane Gorrias, the lawyer charged with Corbis-Sygma’s liquidation–Corbis abandoned Sygma after a they were fined 2 million dollars for losing 750 images belonging to French photographer Dominique Aubert (under French law, a photographer retains his rights on all of his images, including when he works for a press agency)–and she told them there are currently no plans to destroy any images. Regardless if you shot for them and have not had your images returned contact her here:
Maître Stéphane Gorrias SCP BTSG
1 place Boieldieu
75002 Paris — France
Read the full story (here).

The rumor about destroying the images may be completely true regardless of the statement made to BJP, because who’s going to pay for their continued storage in the state of the art archival repository in Garnay, France? Not a company that wishes to avoid further lawsuits.

In other news “Getty Images will be launching an updated contributor agreement” that is a complete mystery but sounds super ominous, because they are saying “you will need to sign the new agreement in order to continue to submit images because it will contain important changes that will support our forward-looking objectives.”

I assume those “forward-looking objectives” include some kind of sliding commission scale similar to what they implemented over at istockphoto that had the micro-stock community up in arms.

I have a question from a reader if anyone would like to help them out:

Has anyone ever left Getty and gotten all of their pictures back?

Microstock Unsustainable According To iStockphoto

A recent announcement by the COO of iStockphoto that pay cuts were in order for their contributors because, “as a business model, it’s simply unsustainable“was met with a hailstorm of anger from their contributors on the forms (here). You can read an excellent write-up on the whole ordeal at Jeremy Nicholl’s, The Russian Photos Blog. It’s not really a topic I’m interested in, but what really caught my eye was the bit of schadenfreude pro photographers must be feeling about the whole deal, indicated by this post in the iStockphoto forum:

“All of you have been so happy to undercut traditional stock photography, copying the best selling images, shooting every hamburger you ever ate, and now that the traditional photographers (often derided as ‘trads’ by you) have come in to beat you at your own game, you’re shocked- yes, shocked!- to find out that this is a business, not a little happy family giving each other muffins and logrolling in the forums. Well, welcome to the real world- the one that you made for yourselves. 145 pages of whining and wanting things to go back to the way they were- it’s so pitiful. Face it. You aren’t going anywhere. You are going to stay here, and do what the man says. You are getting the bed you made yourselves, so go lie in it. Or go back to what you do best- arguing over the color of your little ribbons.”

Trying to be the cheapest is a miserable business to be in.


Thx for the tip John.

Flickr Adds Getty Licensing

This seems like a good development for the photography biz:

Starting today in the Flickrverse, Flickr members and visitors can work with each other through a new program with Getty Images called “Request to License”. We’ve built this program on the success of our launch of the Flickr Collection on Getty Images just over one year ago.

So, how does it work? Under the Additional Information heading on your public photo pages you’ll see a “Want to license” link. Only you see this link. Visitors to your photos won’t.


Clicking the link will take you to your settings page where you can decide if you’d like to join the “Request to License” program. Choose the option that best suits your needs and “Save” to remove the “Want to license” notice from your page. If you join, visitors to your public photo pages will see a Request to License link.


I suppose, if you are holding out hope for some kind of resurgence in the stock photography business it looks like they’ve opened the floodgates for everyone, but the reality is one click licensing for content (license stream, picscout) already exists and is considered a holy grail for companies that can leverage millions of small sales into large profits for them. Giving people the option to buy instead of steal or CC license images is a good thing. It’s only a bad thing if you’re a Flickr photographer who thinks selling images to Getty actually leads somewhere (see BBC Story).

Now when companies go trolling for images on Flickr there’s the possibility that they will run into a real license for something they want to use. For most major advertising companies the liability is too great to dip into the found photo pool so this is not a huge chunk of the pro business we’re talking about.

Bohemian agrees.

Looking For Photography Projects Related To The Economy

There used to be a service for photo editors where you could tell them what kinds of pictures you were looking for and they would blast it out to all their freelance photographers. It seemed like a good idea, but ultimately what ended up happening is you would be crushed by submissions, many of which had nothing to do with the request list and you had to wade through all of it to find your shots. I’ve often wondered if there was a better way to do this with technology that made it easy for the photo editor to review the images and vet the actual list and easy for the photographer to make the submission. One of the cool things I saw while working in NY was a system used by US Weekly and People where photographers could submit their images via ftp and they would be entered into an image database by a photo editor.

Anyway, I was wondering if I could post that kind of thing here and people would respond with their own work or point us in the right direction?

I have a photo editor looking for projects related to the economy: foreclosure, stimulus construction, homelessness, unemployment. It’s quite a big project so if you have a body of work in one of these areas or know where one exists leave a comment or send me an email with a link.

PicScout Joins LicenseStream In Push To License Images Anywhere

PicScout just announced a new product that will allow photographer to attach some sort of one click licensing to their images (here). This is the same as what LicenseStream has been offering for almost a year now and so there’s nothing revolutionary about it, but it will be very interesting to watch as more companies adopt this business model. There are many people who believe image licensing has a similar problem to what music had, in that people want to license images but there’s not an easy way to do that, so they steal them instead. It’s hard for me to believe this type of licensing amounts to much more than beer money, unless of course you’re handling the transactions and then those pennies add up to millions of dollars as Getty and Corbis discovered in the micro stock business. I do think that it’s good to teach people that images cost money and provide them with an easy way to license them, I don’t think this does much for professional photographers. For pros the more exclusive the image the better.

Selling Stock Independently

I think for many photographers the ability to license their images as stock without paying a huge commission to some middle man is the ultimate dream. And, to be honest I don’t think it matters a bit to buyers whether they get the image from Corbis/Getty or directly from the photographer as long as the transaction is fairly seamless (e.g. prices are fixed, high res download available, images are captioned). Photoshelter has a solution with a new feature that allows photographers to form virtual agencies. Art Wolfe, David Doubilet, and Thomas Mangelsen formed a new agency called Wild (here). Art thinks the big agency model is dead and you can read more on that in a story he wrote for Outdoor Photographer (here).

The big hurdle of course is figuring out how to get your material in front of buyers if you’re not 3 of the most famous wildlife photographers in the world. PS has a Q&A with photographer Randy Santos, who now makes a living independently licensing his images as stock (here). He uses SEO and direct marketing to reach potential buyers. Here’s his tips from the piece on how to sell stock independently:

  • Listen. Talk with your potential customers, listen for the void, and then fill it.
  • Show the client you understand their perspective. Art buyers certainly care about quality images – but their favorite photographers also provide assurance and convenience.
  • Specialize and build a full collection. My work may not be groundbreaking, revolutionary, or even the best photography in the world. But, there is value in that this is well-defined, well-organized, searchable collection of images.
  • Differentiate yourself. Set yourself apart from the masses. Clients need to remember you for something special.
  • Learn and practice good business. Professionalism is essential in every aspect of the how you conduct business.
  • Work really hard on your website and SEO. Sure, you want to be creative and get personal fulfillment, but you need to get your work out there in a way that buyers will find it.

When I worked as a photo editor I competed with other publications for advertising and readers. I always needed to run the best unpublished stock photography I could find. That usually amounted to calling photographers directly and cajoling them into sending me outtakes from a shoot I found on their portfolio. I see no reason why solutions like this can’t be the future of high quality stock.

Getty Bullies Photographers After Buying Agency

In this example Getty buys Mediavast (Wireimage) where photographers have a 50/50 royalty split more or less and after several months realizes that’s not their standard split and that they’ve been “overpaying” all this time. The solution of course is to charge them 80/20 until you recoup your money and then apply the standard 60/40 (as far as I can tell because these agency terms are not easy to interpret). I love how they say “If you prefer to pay off the overpayment in a lump sum” …cause we know how you can’t wait to pay us back.

Dear Contributor,

Our internal audits and reviews recently identified an error in how we calculated the royalty rates and home territories used in reporting and paying your Getty Images royalties, since our acquisition of Media Vast.

As a result of this error you were overpaid royalties on previous statements. To correct this situation we will begin deducting the amount due as a result of the overpayment, from your January 2009 royalties, at 20% of the royalties due to you for that month, and from future royalties, until the overpaid amount is fully recouped.

Section 1 – Corrections

Our system reverses (reporting a negative amount in parentheses) all transactions prior to January 2009 that have been reported and paid at an incorrect royalty rate on previous royalty statements.  Each transaction is then re-reported on this statement as a positive amount at the corrected royalty rate.  Since the total for the negative transactions is higher than the royalty rate for the positive transactions, the result is a negative balance, or the amount we have overpaid.

Section 2 – Jan 2009 Royalties

January 2009 royalty transactions are reported in this section and separated into US and Non-US sales and totaled.

Earnings Summary

A summary is provided at the end of the statement to show that 20% of your royalties (total of section 2) are being applied to the corrections (total of section 1).  The remaining overpaid balance will be added to your next royalty statement as an advance and 20% of royalties will be applied to reducing the balance each month until it is zero.  The remaining 50% of the royalties will be paid to you according to the normal royalty payment schedule.

If you prefer to pay off the overpayment in a lump sum or at a higher monthly percentage, we are happy to accommodate you.

If you have any questions, please contact

With apologies for this inconvenience,


Email 2:

Hi all,

Thank you all for your understanding in the matter.  There was a lot of deliberation among [redacted] at what a fair recoup amount would be.

Granted this was not easy news to give and likewise for you to receive.  It is our hope that 20% is fair and won’t be felt negatively in your monthly earnings.

There was a typo in yesterday’s communication in the below paragraph.

Earnings Summary

A summary is provided at the end of the statement to show that 20% of your royalties (total of section 2) are being applied to the corrections (total of section 1).  The remaining overpaid balance will be added to your next royalty statement as an advance and 20% of royalties will be applied to reducing the balance each month until it is zero.  The remaining 80% of the royalties will be paid to you according to the normal royalty payment schedule.

Best regards,


Getty Uses A Nefarious Tactic To Raise Rates

In this letter to a photographer Getty claims the 50% split was a typo and should have been 60/40 in favor of Getty [correction] claims the 60/40 split in favor of the photographer should have been 50/50 and justifies taking the extra 10% due to a typo. Seems like a slimy tactic to me.