Getty and Flickr deepen photo-licensing ties

Flickr photographers now can more actively try to sell photos through Getty's 60,000-image collection. Meanwhile, Toyota shows that there's a market.

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Stephen Shankland
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Yahoo's Flickr site has deepened its relationship with photo-licensing power Getty Images so photographers can nominate their own photos for inclusion in Getty's Flickr Collection.

Previously, Getty decided which images it believed were commercially viable, and since the program launched in July 2008, it has put together a collection of more than 60,000 commercial images. Now photographers, instead of just being able to indicate that they're willing to be contacted by Getty, can actively submit a portfolio of images.

"A submission should include exactly 10 images that represent what you consider to be the best of your work. The Getty Images creative team will evaluate submissions based on style, subject matter, and technical skill," Andy Saunders, Getty's vice president of creative imagery, said in a statement. "If some or all of the photos--or other images from your photostream--are selected for the Flickr Collection on Getty Images, you will receive an invitation via FlickrMail. This invitation will clearly show Getty Images' initial selection of images and introduce the enrollment process."

The partnership is an interesting confluence between the old-school world of stock photography and the nouveau era of digital photography and the Internet. With digital SLRs and the Internet, high-quality photos are easier to come by, leading to the arrival of several "microstock" companies that sell photos on a royalty-free and relatively inexpensive basis. It's hurt professional stock photographers, but it's provided extra income to any number of enthusiasts and amateurs.

Flickr never launched its own microstock site, despite an abundance of enthusiasts contributing photos, but the Getty partnership does mix a commercial ingredient into the Yahoo photo-sharing site's operations.

The easy availability of photos at Flickr and other sites can lead to copyright infringement troubles. On Tuesday, Toyota USA apologized for using Flickr photos without permission:

Toyota apologizes for pulling images from Flickr without photographer permission. Images from a handful of photographers appeared on a Toyota site for five days. We're working quickly to reach out to the individual photographers involved. Until then, the images have been removed, and corrections have been made to the process of pulling images from Flickr.

So it's clear that some Flickr photos have business value, whether for their professional quality or their everyman snapshot flavor.

Getty and Flickr won't disclose any details about their business relationship, but here's what Flickr has to say about how the finances work for photographers:

Flickr has a business relationship with Getty Images, though we've never publicly discussed the specifics of the deal. Regarding the photographers, Getty Images will be the exclusive distributor of select Flickr members' content, and in turn, Getty Images will facilitate the license of such photography and will pay the royalties directly to the members. This will be a direct relationship between Getty Images and each Flickr contributor.

Flickr photographers will be asked to sign a Getty Images contributor contract, if they agree to have their images licensed for commercial use, that will specify rates for rights-managed and royalty-free royalties, as applicable. Rates for royalty-free imagery are 20 percent; rates for rights-managed (images) are 30 percent. These are directly in line with royalty rates that (Getty's) existing contributors receive.