Just as the month of April 2014 began the news circled around the web that Getty Images had just made some 35 million of its images free to the public. Yes you can go onto the Getty web site and find any one of their millions of images held on file for sale for photographers and artists and many can be downloaded into a web page at no cost now. So what does that do to the value of the image for the photographer who made the image? Virtually it reduces the value of those 35 million images Getty has given away to zero for each of the creators. That is a massive loss to many independent photographers if their individual portfolio of images for license through Getty Images has so drastically been reduced to nothing for the creator photographer.
No its not an April fools bad joke, it really happened. Can the photographers on the loosing end sue Getty? Not really, if you cannot prove you have actually lost anything, how can you convince a court to award you value when the image no longer has any worth. Maybe what this says is if there are so many images photographers have made to choose from, maybe they are not worth much individually any more except for a few rare exceptions. Maybe Getty made them free because it is no longer worth the cost of listing or supporting all those millions if most of them are not in demand and being paid substantial fees for their use. But of course making a gift to user of images sure can’t hurt Getty Images reputation with media users.
I am a photographer so this news about the Getty giveaway was shocking, but for me it just confirmed what I have learned being involved in photo magazine publishing since 1975. There are now many more thousands of photographers active than when I began working as a photographer back in 1952, and the result is they have produced countless numbers of images. There isn’t much today of interest that hans’t been photographed. So I wouldn’t want to be starting out again fresh at it today, and I sure wouldn’t expect that doing stock photography would afford much in future profits.
THE GOOD NEWS THIS APRIL
It’s called a new image licensing marketplace, called pixels.com. What it makes me think of is when I was a child growing up in Canada, my father worked for what then was known as the world’s largest cooperative. Hundreds of farmers were members and used the cooperative to a large organization capable of selling wheat, oats barley, flax and all kinds of grains to the world’s markets. So each farmer maintained independence and individual freedom to farm in their own way, while the cooperative acted as every members sales agent for the products grown and harvested by the entire cooperative membership.
To some extent pixels.com is just that, it allows each individual to participate in a large group web site along with many others attracting media buyers by its size and diversity, while preserving each participants identity and ownership of the images free to set their own prices to license their images. Pixels.com suggests it has 10 million visitors which would bring it close to the volume of agencies like Getty Images.
Now that pixels.com is open and operating I visited to look it over and found that it offers a variety of services a photographer can advantage even if their interest is just offering a fine arts image for printing, or to participate in social media image sharing. In other words many of the internet functions of interest to photographers of all kinds can be met by one of the many features that have been brought together by pixels.com. And most important, unlike private business agency representation, each photographers individuality and independence of image ownership remains in their individual hands. You don’t lose control of what happens to your images, they are not taken over and controlled by a business, but remain the sole property of each photographer who can set the fee and terms of usage that is provided to purchasers. Unlike what happened for many photographers by Getty Images giving rights and use of image away free, because if you join pixels.com your image ownership remains in you the photographers hands and cannot be given away. www.pixels.com