Getty Images’ decision last month to slash prices for Web use of stock photos has sparked an escalating PR war with its photographers — one that we expect, as has been the case in Apple’s misstep with consumers over iPhone pricing, will be a no-win situation for Getty.
The stock image market is in turmoil today, largely because of the disruptive forces of crowdsourcing — microstock, citizen journalism and Flickr. Getty has responded by buying up startups like iStockPhoto and Scoopt, and now is looking to cannibalize at least a portion of its traditional business to increase its long-term competitiveness.
As Black Star Rising reported on Aug. 29, Getty specifically announced
a new Web-use price of $49 for a 500k 72DPI file of any of its images, regardless of brand or pricing model. This fee entitles the purchaser rights to use any selected RM image on any commercial or editorial Web site, e-mail, mobile devices or multimedia project for one year. RR buyers get the same rights for up to 10 years and rights to use an RF image in perpetuity.
That compares to a “minimum price of $315 per usage” before the price cut.
Although Getty has tried to mollify its photographers by promising a promotional push to help sell more images and justify the lower cost, Getty image suppliers have been outraged by the change. The latest volley came today in a missive from the U.K.’s Association of Photographers (AOP), which has joined trade associations organized by the Stock Artists Alliance to fight Getty’s plan. Says the AOP’s press release:
It’s widely recognized that Getty Images are seen within the industry as being the leading supplier of stock images. We expect other image suppliers will quickly follow suit and are deeply concerned about the impact this model will have on those Members who rely on stock.
The launch of such a model means that photographers who currently have work with Getty will see a cut of around 95% on a like for like basis … such cuts do not represent a viable or sustainable business model for our Members…
AOP Members who contacted us have been vocal about expressing their disagreement with Getty’s move and the long-term effects it will have on our business. Many of them tell us that they no longer want to submit to Getty…
AOP Awards Gold Winner and IPA Professional Photographer of the Year 2007, George Logan, said:
I have been becoming increasingly disenchanted with Getty for some time and this $49 ‘promotion’ is the final straw. I find it truly insulting that I might receive approx £12.50 per image sold. I do not want to be associated with a company who would sell off my work in such a cheap and crass manner.
This is not what I got into photography for and I know I am not alone…every other photographer I have spoken to, including many of their major contributors, feels the same way. I shall no longer submit images to Getty and will withdraw my existing collection at the soonest opportunity.
Several other noted photographers make similar proclamations in the release.
Recently, trade groups and others successfully organized — largely via the Internet — to reverse planned restrictions on photographers by the city of New York. Getty Images, however, may be a tougher nut to crack — it has a history of tamping down photographer rebellions.
But in a competitive environment where a new player seems to emerge daily to take another bite out of the stock photography pie, avoiding PR firefights and making nice with loyal contributors might be the smarter long-term strategy for Getty.