Sunday, October 26, 2008

Corbis Lines Own Pockets On Backs of Photographers

Yes, let's call it what it is. Corbis, not content with taking 50% of a stock sale for housing images on it's servers, has decided that that's not enough, and they now want another 10%. What with Bill Gates having retired from Microsoft, he's likely paying more attention to his other daliances, and now his attention is directed more towards Corbis, which he wholly owns.

This won't happen overnight, but when a Corbis photographer's contract comes up for renewal, they'll get a letter dictating that they'll be earning less during the next contract cycle. As laughable as it sounds, the man charged with delivering the news, Don Wieshlow, conveyed, as reported by PDN's Daryl Lang (Hard Times for Stock Continue: Corbis to Cut Royalty Rate, 10/25/08):
... he {Wieshlow} stressed that royalty rates are not the same as revenue. He said Corbis hopes the change will eventually lead to higher payouts for photographers – as Corbis invests in growth, expands its market share, and earns more revenue.

(Continued after the Jump)

I wish I had been inside the room where that sentiment was conveyed. Anyone I spied nodding their head in agreement to that malarky I would have shared with them my super-secret deal on Florida Wetlands, before loading those bobble-heading onto a bus so I could show them what piece of the Brooklyn Bridge I was offering for sale as well. Other than preserving their own salaries and bonuses, what goes through these executives' minds when they decide to take more money from their content producers?

The one upside is that the contracts were fortunately written so that the percentage was not changable during the duration of the contract. So, those of you who have 6 months to three years to get out better start looking for other platforms to license your work. Hopefully, in a year or two those platforms will mature more and produce substantive revenue for stock sales.

Then, as Lang reports, Corbis CEO Gary Shenk said “This is not our company” and gestured to the four other Corbis execs. He then gestured to include the audience. “This is our company together.”

Actually, no, it's Bill Gates' company. More specifically, it's Gates' servers, desks, and chairs, and the valuable content is owned by the photographers. Unless, of course, the new contracts will actually give photographers an equity stake in the company. That remark was an attempt at a kumbayah moment that really sounds more like psyco-babble. Paul Melcher has a comparable take on Shenks remark that's worth a read here.

I call shenanigans on this one folks. Be thankful that Corbis' legal department was incompetent enough to write a contract that precluded them from lowering these percentages during the term of the contract, or you'd all be stuck with a change effective immediately. Get while the gettin's good folks.

Please post your comments by clicking the link below. If you've got questions, please pose them in our Photo Business Forum Flickr Group Discussion Threads.


Post a Comment