Stock Photographers’ Advocacy Group SAA Shutting Down

The Stock Artists’ Alliance has informed its member photographers that it will be dissolving as a trade organization next month because “resources to keep [it] vital are diminishing.” SAA made the announcement today in a letter to members that was signed by former officers including Roy Hsu, David Sanger and Betsy Reid.

SAA blames competitive pressures in the stock photo industry for squeezing the organization’s resources. “We have seen a dramatic downturn in stock licensing revenue for most photographers and a steady decline in SAA membership,” the group told its members.

Over the past six months, SAA has been weighing its options for the future. SAA officers concluded that “the best choice is for photographers to consolidate their affiliations in support of larger, established organizations, which are in a better position to address a broader range of image licensing issues.”

The SAA formed in 2001 to advocate for Getty Images photographers, who were under pressure from the agency to accept less favorable contract terms. More generally, SAA’s mission was to protect the interests of photographers shooting traditional rights-managed stock photography.

At the time, the royalty-free stock photography model was driving down prices of rights managed stock. That reduced  profit margins for photographers and agencies alike. Getty used its clout to press photographers for contract concessions.

Microstock, a business model that drove stock photo prices down even more, made the rights-managed stock model even less sustainable. SAA moved its line of defense, eventually accepting royalty-free photographers as members in 2007. But by then even that business was eroding under the downward pricing pressures of microstock, forcing many stock producers out of the market.

In addition to advocating for photographers on contract issues, SAA says it helped photographers retrieve unpaid royalties, brought internet infringement to the industry’s attention, educated photographers, and helped them resolve disputes with distributors.

“We are proud of SAA’s accomplishments,” SAA officers said in their prepared statement. “It have proven that even a relatively small organization, driven by passionate and dedicated leaders and supported by members, can change the status quo.”

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