Picture library giant Getty Images may have taken its deal with image sharing website Flickr a step too far as a storm of protest rages about its potential implications for amateur and professional photographers.
Amateur photographers can now indicate on the Flickr website whether they want their uploaded pictures to be available for sale by Getty to third parties.
Flickr is understood to have 40 million registered users and a library of four billion images.
In a controversial extension of a deal announced two years ago – which only affected Flickr users specifically chosen by Getty’s editors – photographers fear that Flickr users may inadvertently agree to hand Getty the rights to all their pictures and sign up to accept fees lower than their professional counterparts.
Getty Images has confirmed to Amateur Photographer that ‘Getty Images has the exclusive right to license a member’s images, and images substantially similar to those, once they [have] accepted their invitation (and signed the Getty Images Contributor Agreement)’.
However, Flickr users have to agree to indicate whether they want all their photos to be licensed by Getty, or none at all.
This has led to concerns that Getty is exploiting photographers’ rights by not explicitly stating they can opt out for individual images that they may be able to sell for a higher fee elsewhere (where an agency does not take a cut of the fee, for example).
Threat to amateurs and pros
John Toner, freelance organiser at the National Union of Journalists, told AP: ‘We would certainly be seriously concerned that this could be an attempt to exploit amateur photographers.
‘Amateurs are not necessarily au fait with the value of their images and could be persuaded to license them to Getty for low rates, thereby undermining the rate that professionals work so hard to achieve.’
Also concerned by the Flickr deal is What Digital Camera Editor Nigel Atherton who said: ‘This move is simply Getty?s latest attempt to monopolise the visual media by snuffing out, or buying up, any competition to its stock library, and represents the commercialisation by an avaricious multi-national corporation of what has been up to now a hobbyist community website.
‘The fact is Flickr users have always been able to sell their images to those who want to use them. Potential buyers simply have to contact the photographer through Flickrmail and negotiate a mutually agreed fee.’
In the new ?Request to License? programme, potential picture buyers will see a ?Request to License via Getty Images’ option.
However, Getty’s Images UK office told us that if a third party is interested in a particular image then the photographer will be able to refuse permission for picture use once contacted by Getty.
Getty’s UK spokeswoman added this afternoon: ‘Flickr contributors will receive 30% of the fee and the average price for RM [Rights-managed] is [around] $500. RF [Royalty-free] images are licensed at set prices based upon the file size the customer purchases. Flickr contributors will receive 20% of the fee and the average price for RF is [around] $200.’
Meanwhile, opening up a wider market for photos captured by amateur photographers may pose a further threat to the livelihood of professional photographers, in a recession-hit industry already affected by lower fees.
Since the original Getty/Flickr project launched in March last year, more than 100,000 Flickr images have been made available for sale.