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The Big Sleep

Corbis and Costco

University of Missouri Rip-Off

Publisher Faces Dozens of Lawsuits

New York Times Ethicist

Japanese Gov't To Allow Unlicensed Use of Copyrighted Works

IRS Announces 2011 Standard Mileage Rates

NPPA Independent Photographers Toolkit

Advertising Photographers of America Business Manual

Common Cents Column On The Cost of Doing Business

Small Business Administration

NPPA Online Discussion Group Instructions

Portions of this column were originally written for the January 2011 edition of News Photographer Magazine.

Mark Loundy is a media producer and consultant based in San Jose, California. Full bio.

The opinions in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily represent the official views of the National Press Photographers Association.

January 2011, Volume 98
By Mark Loundy

"Oh, you wouldn't like it. The pay's too small."

— Phillip Marlowe in "The Big Sleep"

Did you know that you can buy an original 11x14 print of a vintage New York Times photo for only $299? Did you know that you can score the same print from Costco for only $2.99? Amazingly, Corbis has licensed its collection to Costco for a pittance that allows prices ranging from $1.49 for and 8x10 to $99.99 for 24x32 high quality giclée canvas print. After the fees trickle down to the photographers, they might as well be giving them away.

The Big SleepBut don't blame Corbis. Photographers have been making this financial bed for a couple of decades. Now it's time for The Big Sleep. Because yet another nail has been driven into the coffin for stock imagery. As creative consultant Debra Weiss wrote in her blog, "Photographers, never really good at looking at the long term, threw any and all images into stock libraries never really understanding the future ramifications."

Although the declining numbers have been undeniable, photographers have continued down a clearly failing path. Weiss goes on to say, "The shrinking sales reports have been evident for years, yet photographers still willingly contribute their imagery allowing it to be consistently devalued."

Weiss fingers photographers as accomplices in their own demise, "Neither Getty nor Gates (Corbis) could have accomplished anything without the express permission and greed of the photographers."

Contributing to royalty free collections for a quick financial fix and later to hapless microstock agencies in hopes of reasonable returns has truly killed the Golden Goose.

The Good
Bullet The rock group Pink Floyd for bucking the rights-grabbing trend at their recent New York performance.
Bullet Kentucky-based BowTie Publishing, Inc. for its utterly fair and reasonable contract. Just like it's supposed to be.
Bullet Chuck Peavy of Universal Net, Inc, for trying to track down the copyright holder of an image he wanted to use in a speech.

The Bad
Bullet Denver Magazine for appealing to the vanity of "powerful women" in Denver by soliciting ads under the guise of a feature story about them. I trust that those women have business savvy equal to their power.
Bullet The Lake Champlain Regional Chamber of Commerce and Rensselaer County Chamber of Commerce, both for running photo library assemblies under the guise of photo contests.

The Ugly
Bullet The University of Missouri School of Journalism for attempting to assemble a free library of stock images on the backs of its alumni. It's one thing for the old school to ask the alums to help out, but when a J school asks for images for its alumni magazine cover, but reserves the right to use all of the entries in "various print projects" that's just wrong. Perhaps this is their final lesson in real-life business.
Mizzou grad Patrick Fallon has a lot more to say about this in his blog.

Please let me know of any particularly good, bad or ugly dealings that you have had with clients recently. I will use the client's name, but I won't use your name if you don't want me to. Anonymous submissions will not be considered. Please include contact information for yourself and for the client.

  • Publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt stands accused of ripping-off photographers, photo agencies, artists, and other contributors to its textbooks. According to Photo District News the publisher is being sued for exceeding the licensing rights for hundreds of images. According to the suit, HMH signed contracts limiting them to print runs of 40,000 and then proceeded to produce runs of as many as a million or more.
    Beware if you are a current HMH contributor. They have reportedly changed the fine print in their contracts to allow them to exceed agreed-to limits.
  • The New York Times ethicist, Randy Cohen, has won a special spot in heaven after telling a troubled magazine editor that it is not OK to stiff freelance contributors.
  • A Japanese government advisory panel has approved a plan that will allow unlicensed use of copyrighted works unless the use unduly infringes on the interest of the copyright holder. In a Kyodo News Service story appearing in Japan Today They say that the devil is in the details. In this case, the detail is the word "unduly."
  • If you shoot for Climbing magazine, stand your ground on their initial contract. Cross out the offending clauses and your next assignment from them will likely be for one-time, non-exclusive use.
  • Be careful if you're considering working for publications Courrier International of France or Internazionale of Italy. Both are said to be paying extremely slowly.
  • The IRS has set the 2011 mileage allowance as 51 cents per mile for business miles driven.