Thursday, July 08, 2010

Copyright Keepers Earn 33% More Than Those Who Give It Away

A recent report on the EP/UK web site quotes a new survey by the British Photographic Council which, among other things, shows that, "photographers who follow industry best practice on (retaining) copyright earn on average 33% more a year than those who routinely give their copyright to their clients."

I think I've probably mentioned this before. If not here, on a photography forum or two (or maybe three), that photographers who cede their copyright interests... give all rights to the client... leave a lot of money on the table. Clients who require all rights in your images ought to be charged a lot more. Add zeroes is typically my advice.

The request for outright ownership is becoming more and more common. Theoretically it's not a problem, but in reality that request is usually made for all rights at the same price as limited rights, a big problem, because the client can usually find a short-sighted photographer who will acquiesce to their demand.

So... add zeroes. Practically, if you would charge, say $1,200 to shoot a job with limited rights then you should charge $120,000 for (lack of a better term) a buyout.

My experience over 24 years in business as a photographer has shown me the earning power of a great image. Consider that an image in a stock collection, long-term, can be used by a variety of clients in a variety of industries in a variety of geographic areas and languages in a variety of media, etc, etc... it all adds up to what one client might do with a given image over the same period of time.

Look at the pictures shown here. Do they look like blockbuster images to you? I made these for the Tokyo Electric Power Company corporate magazine, Illume, in July, 1989. It was a four day shoot on location. I charged TEPCo $750/day plus two travel days (plus production charges) to do the shoot. They could use as many of the images from the take as they wanted in one issue of their magazine, one-time rights.

While on-location, a representative from the subject company asked the magazine's editor, who owns these pictures? He was inquiring about using the images after the magazine was published. I jumped right into that conversation saying, I own the images.

From that shoot, the two images here became best-sellers, each earning me a substantial six figure sum over the past 21 years... hence, add zeroes!

Remember Chuck O'Rear? He made what he thought was a good but not necessarily spectacular image of a grassy knoll with a cloud overhead in a clear blue sky. It was eventually sold (all rights) to Microsoft to promote their Windows software product for a very hefty sum of money, if my memory is correct about $135,000. That's what all rights is worth, maybe even more. Add zeroes!

Take a lesson from our colleagues from across the pond: keep your copyright, it's worth big money.


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