An interesting article in the British Journal of Photography recently came across our path. Seems that Getty’s CEO Jonathan Klein is out doing some PR including addressing the ever plunging prices by charged by stock agencies including his own.  The current state of affairs in the stock photography industry comes as no surprise to us as were have been discussing and predicting this market, in this space and elsewhere, since Ed had hair. Shocked, we are not. Take a look and read his interview here.

As a litigator who has represented thousands of visual artists, Ed has sued Getty (among others) on behalf of more than a few of them and dealt with Getty personnel on other matters more times than he cares to recall, Ed suggests that Mr. Klein run for public office. Truth is no more the coin of the realm in the stock photography industry than in say, the political arena. Mr. Klein is smooth enough to sell a bridge in Brooklyn to the unknowing. And at a good price to boot.

The two of us have been lecturing, dissecting and analyzing business practices in the stock world for years.   Ed has had the added treat of litigating quite a few cases against stock agencies both large and small. As a result we are more familiar than we care to be with the business practices engaged in by stock agencies both alive and long gone. While Getty is by no means the sole villain in what we like to call, “The War Against Photographers”, it is very much a major player.

Mr. Klein’s statements and quotes are in apposite to Getty’s policies and treatment of visual artists over the years.   Believe his Getty proclamations at your financial risk.  If in doubt, ask any shooter about the monthly statements received from Getty, Corbis and their competitors. The prices being received by contributors for the licensing of their work by these experts at licensing are lower than ever. Photographers pleased with the manner in which they have been treated by Getty and Corbis seem hard to locate. Ed heard a barrage of new complaints about some current methods of statementing engaged by stock agencies while we both lectured at PhotoShop World in Las Vegas. Jack has one good friend who was a top stock shooter for many years. His monthly checks are now less than 90% of what they were just five years ago, let alone from his heydays.

Lacking the space here to address all of the issues raised by Mr. Klein, suffice for now to say that while Getty is not solely responsible rendering the notion of earning real money by shooting stock an anachronism, it has earned its spot as one of the pall bearers at the funeral of professional photojournalism.  We have seen many a royalty statement reflecting licensing fees actually paid to photographers in amounts of well under $5 per use.  One prominent shooter provided Ed with a copy of his Getty statement reflecting payment to the photographer in the grand sum of $1.87 – NOT a misprint – in payment for a photo journalistic image licensed by Getty to one of the major newsweeklies.

Most photographers can net more money by licensing their own stock via their own sites than by supplying it to one of the major stock agents who will license it out at Wal-Mart prices, take a 60 or 70% cut and a piece of any copyright infringement revenue to boot.

We offer an open invitation to Mr. Klein. Any time he would like appear on a public panel with Ed whether at APA, The School of Visual Arts, The Hallmark Institute of Photography, any similar neutral venue or even a local watering hole, to discuss how Getty’s role in the industry all he need do is call us and we will make arrangements with his people. A public forum could only serve Getty’s interests.

We can discuss the obtuse nature of stock agency accounting, onerous contracts and repugnant terms.  Perhaps Mr. Klein can explain why when the relative cost of business for stock agencies has decreased, its percentage take of the gross has increased. The business model formerly employed by stock agencies purportedly “no longer works” largely because the agencies have sucked the well dry by turning the product into a commodity and thus lowering the prices charged.

Having bilked the system of its last dime, photographers and illustrators are now being told that a new business model is needed by the owners of Getty – the only persons still deriving a meaningful income from the hard work and risk taking of photographers both past and present. Photographers and illustrators need only provide “content”, stay silent and remain compliant.