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August 15th, 2012

Getty Images Sold to Carlyle Group for $3.3 Billion

Getty Images, the largest stock photo archive, has been sold to private equity firm the Carlyle Group for $3.3 billion, according to Bloomberg, Reuters, and other sources. The sale comes three months after Hellman & Friedman, the private equity firm that has owned Getty Images since 2008, began preparations to sell the stock agency.

According to a statement released today by the Carlyle Group, Getty co-founders Jonathan Klein and Mark Getty will invest “significant equity” in the company.

Hellman & Friedman was reported to have paid $2.4 billion to buy Getty in 2008. According to news reports back in May, the firm was hoping to get as much as $4 billion for the agency.  (Full disclosure: Hellman & Friedman also owns Nielsen, parent company of PDN.)

In the past year, Getty Images has taken several cost-cutting measures. These included introducing  new terms to its contracts with photographer/contributors, cutting back royalties it pays to photographers,  and telling contributors that rights-managed images that had not sold well would be moved to royalty-free collections, while the royalty-free images would be sold as part of subscription packages. Through a statement, Getty Images told PDN that changes to its contributor contracts were needed “so that more content can be used in more ways that help our business meet current and future customer needs and grow sales.”

Related Stories
Getty IPO On Hold as $4 Billion Private Equity Sale Looms

Getty Images Preps for IPO?

ASMP to Getty Photographers: Time to Bail

July 18th, 2012

Celebrity Smackdown II: Shirley Jones Consented to Red Carpet Images, Appeals Court Affirms

A federal appeals court has upheld a decision to dismiss a lawsuit against Corbis by actress Shirley Jones, who charged that the photo agency violated her rights of publicity by marketing images of her without permission. The appeals court also refused to vacate an award of attorney’s fees to Corbis totaling $357,533. The decision was handed down Monday by the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Pasadena, California.

Jones originally sued Corbis in November, 2010, arguing that by offering images of Jones for license on its web site, the agency was making commercial use of her likeness without her permission, in violation of California state law.

In throwing out Jones’s claim last year, a federal district court in Los Angeles signaled that celebrity photo agencies can carry on business as usual, without worry that celebrities can sue them for displaying images for license without consent. (Users of those images still have to get consent if they intend to use the images for commercial purposes, such as to promote products or services.)

“The district court found that Jones consented to Corbis’s placement of sample photographs of Jones on its web site for the purpose of selling copyright licenses to those images,” the appeals court wrote, on its way to affirming the decision from the lower court. “Jones admitted that she intended for the photographs at issue to be distributed to media outlets and was not surprised that the photographers would use a third party distributor. She also admitted that she had not placed limits on how such photographs could be distributed…Jones provides no reason why Corbis should have questioned her apparent consent to her photographs being distributed.”

The appeals court judges didn’t bother to address other defenses Corbis had raised before the district court–including First Amendment rights, Copyright Act pre-emption and public affairs exceptions to right of publicity–because Jones failed to prove Corbis distributed the red carpet images without her consent. In other words, Jones effectively gave Corbis consent, so the court did not have to consider other defenses that Cobis had raised.

When the district court originally dismissed Jones’ claim, the judge ordered her to pay the photo agency’s legal costs. Jones challenged the lower court’s award of $357,533, but the appeals court let the award stand, explaining that the photo agency’s accounting of its costs for defending against the actress’s claims were reasonable.

Related story:
Celebrity Smackdown: Walking the Red Carpet Is Consent, Judge Says

July 5th, 2012

Getty IPO On Hold as $4 Billion Private Equity Sale Looms

Earlier this year Getty Images, the largest stock photo agency, retained Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to evaluate the possibility of a sale or an initial public offering (IPO). According to reports published yesterday by The Wall Street Journal and Reuters, Hellman & Friedman, the private equity firm that owns Getty, is preparing for the second round of a bidding process that would see the stock agency sold to another private equity firm for between $3.5 and $4 billion. (Hellman & Friedman also owns PDN parent company Nielsen.)

Unnamed sources for the Wall Street Journal said the IPO was on hold while private equity firms Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. L.P. and TPG, among others, evaluated their interest in purchasing Getty. Earlier this year KKR invested $150 million in European microstock agency Fotolia.

Hellman & Friedman was rumored to have paid $2.4 billion for a majority stake in Getty Images in 2008, which was publicly traded at the time.

According to the Reuters report, Getty “has seen little growth in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) since Hellman bought it but has enjoyed increasing demand for its online imagery products and services.”

Since Getty became private, the agency has made several moves that may have been geared to making the company look more attractive to potential buyers in the lead up to a sale or IPO. The cost-cutting measures have affected its contributing photographers, and the agency has also gone through rounds of layoffs. For instance in November of last year, Getty introduced tough new contracts, cutting back royalties it pays to photographers, telling contributors that rights-managed images that have not sold well will be moved to royalty-free collections while the royalty-free images would be sold as part of subscription packages. The move drew the ire of photographers’ trade associations ASMP and APA, as well as a lengthy string of comments on our blog.

May 22nd, 2012

Getty Images Preps for IPO?

Reuters reports that Getty Images, the largest stock photo agency, has retained Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan Chase to evaluate the possibility of a sale or an initial public offering (IPO). According to a source cited by the Financial Times, a sale or IPO could value the company at $4 billion.

Since 2008, the stock agency has been owned by private equity firm Hellman & Friedman. (Full disclosure: Hellman & Friedman also owns Nielsen, parent company of PDN.) Hellman was reported to have paid $2.4 billion, or $34.00 per share, for the agency which had previously been a publicly traded company.

Since Getty Images went private, the company has not disclosed any financial data to the public. The agency has made cost-cutting measures in the past year that have affected photographers who contribute to the agency. For example, last year Getty introduced tough new contracts, cutting back royalties it pays to photographers,  telling contributors that rights-managed images that have not sold well will be moved to royalty-free collections while the royalty-free images would be sold as part of subscription packages.

Related articles:
ASMP to Getty Photographers: Time to Bail

Getty Cuts Pay for Editorial Contributors

May 16th, 2012

Shutterstock IPO Prospectus Reveals Market Value of Stock Photos

Microstock photo agency Shutterstock has filed a business prospectus with the Securities and Exchange Commission, announcing its intention to sell shares through an initial public offering “as soon as practicable.” The filing sheds light on Shutterstock’s revenues, and the surprisingly low average price for the millions of photos in its database.

The business prospectus is incomplete, so Shutterstock has not yet specified the number of shares it intends to sell or the price. But for the purposes of its filing the company estimated it would raise no more than $115 million.

Founded eight years ago by CEO (and majority shareholder) Jonathan Oringer, Shutterstock was one of the first microstock agencies to offer subscription-based pricing. That allows users to download up to 25 images per day for a flat fee of $250 per month, or $2559 per year. Users can also license image on demand, for prices starting at about $10 per image.

Last year, Shutterstock’s total sales revenues were $120 million, a 45 percent increase over 2010 revenues of $83 million and nearly double the 2009 revenues of $61 million. The average price users paid per image download last year was $2.05, according to Shutterstock’s SEC filing.

Meanwhile, net income–which is income after administrative, marketing, and research and development costs are subtracted from total revenues–has hovered around $20 million for the past three years. Income has remained relatively flat despite the rise in revenues because Shutterstock’s operating costs have increased by about 50 percent per year since 2009. Operating costs were $97 million last year.

The company says it plans to use the IPO money for operations. Shutterstock says it plans to invest in new technology, and in its sales and marketing efforts to attract more contributors and customers. Most customers are small and medium-sized businesses, but Shutterstock says it hasn’t fully tapped that market. It also wants to increase revenues from large businesses, which currently account for just 10 percent of its revenues.

Shutterstock claims an image database of more than 19 million photos and illustrations and 500,000 video clips, provided by more than 35,000 contributors. The vast majority of contributors are amateur photographers.

January 24th, 2012

Comparing Notes, Photographers Turn on Retna

An apparent administrative slip-up has stirred an uprising at music and celebrity photo agency Retna, with photographers complaining that the agency is failing to report sales, pay royalties, or respond to calls and e-mails from frustrated contributors. Retna’s CEO acknowledges the problems, but blames them on his predecessors, and has told contributors he is correcting them.

Photographers started comparing notes last week after an agency employee sent notification about the agency’s change of address in New York City. Instead of copying photographers in the blind carbon copy (BCC) field of the e-mail, the agency employee distributed the names and e-mail addresses of dozens of photographers so all could see who had received the e-mail.

Read the full story on

November 18th, 2011

Getty Cuts Pay for Editorial Contributors

Getty has announced a take-it-or-leave-it rate cut for its editorial contributors under a new contract that specifies 35 percent royalties for all sales. Under current contracts that will soon expire, Getty pays photographers 50 percent for some sales, and 35 percent for others.

Photographers who don’t sign the contract will be terminated when their current contracts expire.

The agency notified photographers of the changes on November 9, giving them 30 days to sign the new contract. The agency told photographers that the new contract terms will enable Getty “to more easily modify content use across more and new license models, products, services and selling environments, including subscriptions, high-volume customer deals and new or emerging pricing, licensing and payment models.”

In other words, customers will be paying less for images in some cases. By cutting photographers’ rates, Getty will be able to offer images at lower prices with less negative impact on its own bottom line.

Asked whether Getty has found itself unable to compete for low-priced business without asking for concessions from suppliers, agency spokesperson Jodi Einhorn said, “No….[W]e are developing new ways for customers to use more of our content and as a result, new ways to pay contributors must be created in these situations.”

One way photographers benefit from the new contract, Getty says in the November 9 memo, is that photographers will now be paid in 60 days rather than 120 days. Einhorn also told PDN that Getty is “making changes and improvements around how we share and license our content, which will benefit our photographers,” by providing more exposure and more potential for sales of their images.

Einhorn did not say how many photographers are affected, or whether they are resisting the changes. But she did say, “It is totally normal for those affected to have questions. So we are responding to questions we receive and our team are always available to discuss any changes with our photographers, to help them understand these changes.

August 26th, 2011

Friday Pre-Hurricane Fun: Blog Reenacts Silly Stock Photos

It’s Friday and everyone here in New York City is more than a little on edge because of this supposed “Storm of the Century” that’s headed our way.

To take our mind off fast approaching Hurricane Irene, we’ve been getting a few laughs from this Tumblr blog entitled “Stocking Is the New Planking” where stock photos are reenacted for fun and general amusement.

We really know what the point of it is but that’s probably the point.

Stay dry, friends.

(Via psfk)

August 23rd, 2011

Associated Press and Corbis Combine Collections in Distribution Deal

The Associated Press and Corbis Images have announced a partnership to distribute each other’s images. Customers will have access to a combined collection of more than 10 million news, sports, entertainment, archival and commercial stock images at the web sites of both companies.

The partnership “provides a perfect marriage of choice for our customers,” said Tom Curley, AP president and CEO, in a prepared statement. “It means unprecedented access to the most far-reaching, complete collections available anywhere.”

The complete news story, including reaction from AP Images VP and the workings of distribution deals such as this one, is now on

May 23rd, 2011

Time to Quit Using TwitPic?

Twitpic, the picture sharing service of Twitter, has signed a deal that allows a third party agency called World Entertainment News Network (WENN) to license images posted on Twitpic, according to The New York Times.

Under the terms of the deal, the celebrity news and photo agency would be allowed to authorize uses for photos it doesn’t own, and take legal action against anyone who uses Twitpic images commercially without the agency’s permission. Whether or not WENN will share revenues with the owners of the images is unclear, but it apparently has no obligation to do so. (CEO Lloyd Beiny did not immediately respond to questions about whether WENN would share any revenues.)

How could this be, you might wonder? Well, the Twitpic terms of service–which users agree to when they sign up for a Twitpic account–give the photo sharing service “a worldwide, nonexclusive, royalty-free, sublicenseable and transferable license to use, reproduce, distribute, prepare derivative works of, display, and perform the [images uploaded to Twitpic] in connection with the Service and Twitpic’s (and its successors’ and affiliates’) business.”

In short, if you upload your images to Twitpic, you are are agreeing to make them available for license without any promise of compensation, or control over how they might be used or distributed.

For the record, Twitpic account holders retain ownership of their images. And WENN says that it is primarily interested in pictures uploaded by celebrities with Twitpic accounts, according to the Times story. But as the Times story notes, the Twitpic terms of service “do not distinguish between the rights of celebrity and non-celebrity users.”

Coincidentally, the Twipic terms of service are at the center of a legal dispute between photographer Daniel Morel and two other photo agencies: AFP and Getty Images. They distributed Morel’s exclusive images of the Haiti earthquake without his permission, after he uploaded them to Twitpic. They claimed they did nothing illegal on the grounds that Twitpic terms of service allow Twitpic users to reproduce and distribute images uploaded by other Twitpic users. Morel’s lawyers counter that the Twitpic terms of service give only Twitpic and its business partners the right to reproduce and distribute Twitpic images, and AFP and Getty are not Twitpic business partners. That case is still pending.