The American Society of Media Photographers, as well as the American Photographic Artists and the UK's Association of Photographers, have called on all photographers not to sign new contracts recently introduced by Getty Images, the largest stock agency in the world.
The new contract, which were unveiled earlier this year, allows for the transfer of content, such as images, from one license model to another. For example, image places in the rights-managed collection could be moved to a royalty-free model if it has not been licensed in three years.
Under the new agreement, photographers also lose the ability to prevent their images from being licensed in multimedia products, while editorial images can now form part of subscription deals for high-volume customers.
Photographers cannot opt-out of the new clauses, and have been told that they would have to sign the new contracts to continue working with the stock agency. However, photography organisations have urged Getty Images to drop the controversial changes.
The Association of Photographers in UK, for example, has asked for clarifications over the new terms and denounced the way the changes were announced. "We are disappointed not to have been contacted for our input prior to the changes being publicised, as has been the case on the last two Getty Agreements," writes Gwen Thomas of the AoP.
In response, Getty Images says that, this year, it decided to do things "a little differently." Instead, it "assembled a cross section of contributors from various sections of the business, based around the globe (including the UK). All were given an outline of the changes we were making to the agreement and asked to provide their comments under a confidentiality agreement. All who participated provided feedback and we had many follow up phone calls as well. This enabled us to listen to their concerns first hand and ask questions to probe further--right on the spot. Their feedback and varied perspectives motivated us to make a number of positive changes before we finalized the new agreement."
Such a change is related to the movement of content to a royalty-free collection. "Removal of this opt-out was carefully debated over a number of years actually," Getty Images wrote to the AoP. "And we know that not everyone will feel comfortable with this flexibility, which is why we extended the timeframe for non-sales to three years. One year is what we would rather have seen from a business perspective, however, this is an example of where we flexed after taking contributor feedback on board."
Getty Images has also offered the possibility for some photographers to request the exclusion of some of their images from the royalty-free collections, specifically if the images include models that have refused to see their likeness use in such collections.
But, photography organisations say it's not enough, and that the new contract continues to erode the value of photography. "The stock industry has for many been a race to the bottom," says Eugene Mopsik, executive director of the Amercian Society of Media Photographers. "We witnessed significant consolidation in the stock image distribution industry and the creation of new stock models - royalty free, subscription and micro-stock - that were eroding and have continued to erode the market for original photography [...] This race has in large part been under the supervision and control of the buyers of images. It is the marketplace that has sustained Royalty Free and the Subscription models and now Micro."
And, with Getty Images refusing to respond to further enquiries, the American Photographic Artists has called for all contributors to refuse the new contracts. "While we recognize that this is an extremely difficult situation for many contributors given Getty Images' dominant position in the stock photography market, APA firmly believes 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."
It adds: "We must make clear to Getty Images that its contributors do not agree with Getty Images' vision of the future of this industry, and we will not tolerate its efforts to coerce and intimidate its contributors. If we send a clear message, we are hopeful that Getty Images will relent and engage in a more meaningful dialogue regarding this crucial issue."
The American Society of Media Photographers and the Association of Photographers in the UK, meanwhile, have called on their own members to evaluate their relationship with Getty Images.
"In the absence of further dialogue the AoP can only leave the decision of whether to sign or not to the individual, we do, however, echo the statement given by the APA to their members that 'these changes are unacceptable'," writes the AoP.
Mopsik adds: "Evaluate your current and future expected distributor relationship and see if the long term looks profitable. If not, seriously explore some of the options available," such as PhotoShelter, LicenseStream and IPN, which the American Society of Media Photographers recommends.
In a statement to BJP, Andrew Saunders, vice president of creative content at Getty Images, claims that the new contract has been "positively received by the contributor community." He says: "In response to an increasingly content-rich business environment, Getty Images is developing new ways for customers to use more of our content and, as a result, new ways to pay contributors for new aggregate sales models. Getty Images is therefore updating our creative contributor agreements so that more content can be used in more ways that help our business meet current and future customer needs and grow sales in keeping with market changes."
Saunders adds: "We've discussed the proposed changes with a cross-section of creative contributors and taken their feedback on board in several places on the agreements, which has been positively received by the contributor community. Our new contributor community website and forum are valuable resources we built for engaging with contributors, both to explain the agreement updates and to encourage a two-way dialogue on all subjects having to do with creating and licensing images."
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