InsightaaS: To begin with a disclosure – we at InsightaaS aren’t big fans of Getty Images, who we’ve found to be highhanded and litigious. So a BusinessWeek article that highlights broad displeasure with the company’s business practices is likely to attract our attention. But there are good reasons for featuring this piece apart from our antipathy for Getty (and our appreciation of Bloomberg, which in addition to publishing BusinessWeek, employs us as Sustainable IT columnists for the company’s BNA subscription research subsidiary). The web has disrupted many business models, and created opportunities for many others – including Getty itself, which benefits from the broad reach of its stock images portal. However, it appears that as the disruption continues, it creates rifts within partnerships that sprang up in response to web-enabled opportunity. Here, Getty – which was pleased to accept work from photographers, manage the commercial relationships around those pieces, and distribute a royalty to the content originators – is looking to introduce a second model, in which the company distributes lower-quality versions of its images in exchange for information from downloaders. The issue is, of course, that the royalty on a $0 transaction is $0 – and the photographers, in addition to protesting this new no-payment distribution mechanism, doesn’t believe Getty when it says it will share any revenue arising from the new model with photographers; it quotes one source as saying “I’m not holding my breath”…and InsightaaS believes that this is a wise position, as the resulting data is more likely to support Getty’s business operations than to provide the basis of a discrete product that could generate cash for redistribution.
In the end, all content providers are under pressure from the web, which makes content ubiquitous but mitigates against meaningful payment for that content. Getty’s approach may be at odds with what the photographers are hoping for – but it’s likely that content creators of all types will continue to struggle to monitize their assets.
Getty’s decision to let anyone with a website or social media presence freely embed photographs for non-commercial use was bound to rub photographers the wrong way. Sure enough, trade groups representing people who try to make a living snapping shutters say they are at work on an alternative way to compensate photographers as their images spread around the Internet because, in their view, Getty sure isn’t going to do it.
“The person who owns the copyright–the contributor, the one whose creativity made the image–is not getting anything from this. Getty is,” says Michael Grecco, chair of the advocacy committee for American Photographic Artists, a national organization for professional photographers. Grecco, who personally specializes in celebrity portraiture, was disillusioned with Getty before this week’s announcement and had removed his photographs from its library in favor of negotiating licenses, one by one.
In an interview earlier this week, Craig Peters, a business development executive at Getty, said opponents of embedding would turn out to be a small minority clinging to a past that no longer exists; Getty plans to make money from uses that were simply not going to pay off in other ways…