Getty Images to go entirely royalty-free

Recently, one of the world’s largest stock image libraries, Getty Images, announced that it will soon be phasing out its rights-managed content and transitioning to a business model based solely on royalty-free (RF) content. The company’s announcement of a ‘phased retirement’ of rights-managed creative content was made by Paul Banwell, Senior Director, Contributor Relations. The full statement can be viewed at this link.

In a move that is likely to reap considerable benefits for the company in a market where the demand for rights-managed stock has been in decline for sometime, the main losers here are likely to be professional photographers making a significant portion of their income from stock libraries.

In their statement, to support the move away from rights-managed, Getty claims that “Complicated licensing models create friction and customers demand simplicity—they want the most simple and most flexible access to relevant, authentic imagery." By the end January 2020, Getty will remove all rights-managed images, however photographers may opt to have their images available as royalty-free.

Photographers shooting for stock typically prefer a right-managed model as it allows them control over how, where, and for how long their images can be licensed. The exclusivity of images generated around this approach will no longer exist. With a rights-managed model, photographers could define how their images were used, setting limitations on exclusivity, number of uses, length of use, and other parameters. Setting restrictions on images meant that photographers could potentially earn more from the images. The shift to a royalty-free model will mean all images can be used without restriction for any purpose and for any length of time, with no stipulations on use. 

The significant decision made by Getty comes as a result of “extensive customer research and testing on RF versus rights‑managed (RM), including Market Freeze.” The Market Freeze introduced by Getty sought to “differentiate rights‑managed (RM) from RF Stills by including a base level of exclusivity with RM licenses. This has not seen the customer interest we had expected, and RM licenses and revenue continue to rapidly decline.”

On the flipside, those clients that value fresh, original content may no be more likely to commission a photographer to produce content for exclusive use by them, so this move is not necesarily all doom and glom. Only time will tell. 

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