Click to recommend this page:
A few days ago, Getty and Flickr announced a new level of their working
relationship, where Flickr members and visitors can work with each other
through a new program with Getty Images called “Request to License”. The
details of this program are listed here.
From that page:
When a prospective licensee sees an image marked for license,
they can click on the link and be put in touch with a representative from
Getty Images who will help handle details like permissions, releases and
pricing. Once reviewed, the Getty Images editors will send you a
FlickrMail to request to license your work, either for commercial or
editorial usage. The decision to license is always yours.
For years, I've been proposing that precisely this model be implemented.
Most of my blog entries in 2007 and 2008 articulated this very model. The
first was on Feb 13, 2007, in an article titled, "The future of photo
sharing sites and agencies". There, I predicted the inevitable convergence between
companies like Getty and Flickr:
I believe it will invariably happen that major photo agencies
like Getty and Corbis can (and should) move into the consumer market.
Consider what would happen if major stock agencies expanded their
businesses by opening the flood gates and letting everyone in. By removing
the barriers that require photographers to "submit images," and having a
separate portion of their sites be entirely open, much like other
photo-sharing sites are, they would give more options to buyers, and
provide more opportunities (and greater incentive) for photographers to
join at all levels. Getty owns iStockPhoto.com, which is a microstock
agency that sells images for much less, but this is not a consumer-based, social
networking style photo sharing site like flickr is.
The key here is in italics: microstock agencies are not social networking
sites, they are therefore limited by both buyers are sellers than the
social-networking sites. My premise for this logic is based on my years of
research showing that 80% or more of licensed images is peer-to-peer,
directly between buyers and photographers, not among agencies. You can
read this research in the article, "The Size of the Photo Licensing Market". The summary of that
research is this basic truism: Most
buyers find images on non-stock agency websites.
Phase One of this business will be where a photo-sharing site
merely allows visitors to license images directly from the site. Phase Two
will involve the distribution of the same photo assets to other sites,
much the same way online ad sales are hosted (or "published") on other
websites. ... For the sake of discussion, I'm going to assume that the
approach ultimately adopted is the one I've suggested in the past: make it
pure and simple by giving the user a toggle for setting whether his photos
are (or aren't) permitted to be "sold".
And that's exactly what Getty and Flickr are doing now. Over four years
You may note that I said there was a two-phased approach. That second
model will eventually become part of more photo-licensing business models.
(In fact, it already exists, but among companies too small to get anyone's
attentionpartly because the technology and business models they've
adopted do not properly understand and implement the true nature of photo
licensing, copyright issues, and potential target markets. This is an
aside for the moment; it may come up again when larger players eventually
begin to consider the opportunities.)
Speaking of predictions, I remain steadfast in my opinion of the
inevitability of what happens next:
In July, 2007, my blog post titled, "The Solution to Getty's Woes" explained how Getty can get out of its
financial troubles by simply buying Flickr directly from Yahoo and using
it as the main stock licensing engine. The article got into exceedingly
detailed analysis of Getty's financial model (and troubles) combined with
the explosion of available imagery on sites like Flickr that make this
solution not only obvious, but inevitable.
On a directly related note, I called into question the life expectancy of
the Creative Commons in this article (2008), where I again proposed that Flickr allow
users the option of choosing
between allowing their images available for free via CC, or to get income
from their images. I said,
...it begs the question about whether enough people would
choose the option to "make my images free"(CC) if it were next to the
checkbox that says, "pay me a quarter if someone's dumb enough to buy it."
And then there's the buyer. If they were given the choice between "free
images, with disclaimers and risks" and modestly priced images without
such risks, it wouldn't be very likely that the "free" versions would be
chosen very often.
The concept of CC would never survive under these two conditions.
Without getting too far afield, I have no qualms with the CC, per se. It's
more about how simplistically it's been designed and deployed. It's just
not sustainable in the real world business market. The problem is not the
"license terms" and the structure of the legal contractsthose are all
just fine. It's the fact that the system can be gamed so easily by both
buyers and sellers, that it's too unreliable to be sustainable beyond a
small handful of casual users (by comparison to the larger market of stock
The true protections for both buyers and sellers is to leverage
the copyright registration mechanism. That is, creative commons images
that are also registered with the copyright office lowers the risk for
both buyers and sellers, as explained in that article. Since no one is
building copyright registration into their online business models, and the
CC itself has a fundamental objection to the concept of copyright in the
first place, the CC will be relegated to an historical footnote,
bringing strength back to the for-fee licensing model. And which brings us
back to why I'd always argued that Flickr should have enabled image
As more companies engage in the business of licensing images,
photographers with credibility will gravitate to the sites that offer a
better return on their money... In a way, this is how photo agencies
started in the very beginning, only better: because photographers don't
have to be "accepted," the playing field is much more level, and the
market forces can be more free to let the money flow to those who really
do merit the higher earnings (rather than at the whim of photo editors).
The buyer, it turns out, is the best photo editor, and it will be pretty
clear in short order which sites are hosting genuinely good content.
I summarize with another excerpt from that article:
...the most basic, fundamental truism about photography remains: there are
more people who have it as a hobby than as a profession, and the barrier
to entry is low... the honeymoon period for Getty will end once
photo-sharing sites become new outlets for photographers where the open
market can decide their rates.
Click to recommend this page: