Photo Licensing Done Right?

It’s always a great feeling when you sell your first image license. Whether it comes in the form of an unexpected email to your Flickr account or the result of a dedicated attempt to build a niche stock site, the recognition that someone values your photo enough to pay for it can only be beaten by one thing…

… the feeling you get when they come back for more.

That should be easy. If a buyer knows you can deliver the goods, he’s not going to waste time searching from scratch again. But customers forget. Other sellers catch their eye. If you’re not there to remind your buyers that you’re still around and tell them about the new products you have on offer, there’s a good chance that you won’t get that second (third and fourth etc.) sale.

Stay in touch and there’s a great chance you will.

It’s why stores like Borders send regular emails to their Rewards members and why Ikea keeps mailing catalogs out long after you think you’ve finished furnishing the house.

RSS — Really Simple Sales?
For photographers offering licenses online, perhaps the best tool for informing buyers of their new uploads is an RSS feed. Persuade people to subscribe to your blog feed or your Flickr feed and they’ll be informed automatically each time you make a new post.

Better still, persuade them to subscribe to every feed on every site to which you post your images and there’s a great chance that you’ll cement their loyalty.

But it’s hard enough to persuade someone to sign up for one feed, let alone several.
That’s the solution that tries to provide. Or at least one of the solutions.

The other is to make it easier for photographers (and other content creators) to offer their Creative Commons-licensed (CC) products and sell licenses. As Rudy Rouhana, one of the site’s founders explained:

“[] is centered around providing a means to make content available for reuse by others, consistent with how the web operates (sharing and attribution, which CC does well) but also allowing authors a mechanism to make it available for a fee if they desire. I think a very common scenario is one where authors are happy to allow non-commercial use of their work (provided there is attribution) but they would like to charge if it will be used commercially.”

The site is open to videographers and bloggers as well as photographers, all of whom can sign up for free, complete a biographical profile, earn “reputation” points for licensing and sales, and list the places where they post their content. That be done as easily as entering an URL.

RightsAgent will then add the RSS feed, and on blogs can even recognize the Creative Commons license, allowing users to enter a price for non-commercial use or for content whose rights have been reserved. (For images on Flickr, the process is a little different. RightsAgent can’t recognize the licenses so users will have to enter a price anyway and “if your license terms allow… RightsAgent will make the photos available for purchase at that price” the site says.)

RightsAgent Doesn’t Host Content
Unlike other photography sites then, RightsAgent itself doesn’t host any content. Instead, users register their sources, whether those are blogs, Revver or a Flickr page, and let buyers see whether that content is available and for how much. Buyers can then pay if they need to and surf to the source to collect the content.

“[W]hat makes RightsAgent unique is that we don’t have a singular focus on simply selling content,” says Rudy. “Rather, we’re trying to give authors of content (which, these days is literally everyone who publishes a blog, or hosts photos or videos) a place where they can bring together everything they publish in an organized manner for others to view, search, subscribe, and yes, even license if they want to reuse.”

Also unlike other sites, the fee set by the authors is the purchase price. Instead of taking a cut of the sale, as microstock sites do, buyers pay RightsAgent an additional ten cents for every dollar’s worth of credits.

According to Rudy, the prices shown on the site vary widely from free “to photos and videos with $100+ price tags.” The site though has been live for little more than a month and the focus has been on adding functions and features rather than on marketing to buyers, so it might be a little early to say what sort of prices buyers would be willing to pay. While it seems likely that photographers can charge more for an image than a microstock site can, the site doesn’t provide the range of licensing and pricing that, for example, PhotoShelter offers. That means that buyers are more likely to be online publishers than magazine photo editors.

The lack of marketing too means that photographers who wanted to make the most of the service now would have to let their own users know about the site and encourage them to sign up. They’re only likely to bother doing that if they’re placing their images on more than one site (Flickr and their personal blog, for example) or if they’re creating different kinds of content. Buyers are unable even to search at the moment so photographers have to tell potential customers how to find them on RightsAgent.

Those limitations may only be temporary though. According to Rudy, all sorts of new features are in the works, including the ability to see who has licensed your content, keyword searching and perhaps most interesting of all, a share of ad revenues generated by the Personal Feeds.

“However, more sophisticated monetization options (short-term auction site for ‘hot’ photos and breaking news, BMI/ASCAP-type blanket license system, etc.) is really going to be driven by market demand as those would require a serious investment of our resources to do properly.”

For the moment then, RightsAgent looks like a useful way to let people know that you’ve posted new images. Whether it will help you get the money is likely to depend on how the site develops.

Take a look at RightsAgent here and tell us what you think.

[tags] rightsagent, photo licensing, picture licensing [/tags]

6 comments for this post.

  1. rudy Said:

    I appreciate the time you took to learn about RightsAgent. One point of clarification, we do track CC license terms for Flickr, we just don't know what they are when you register your feed from there as we have to look at each individual image. So, you can enter a price but if we later discover a CC license that permits commercial reuse then we don't apply the price to that photo because you've already made it available "for free" under a CC license.

    Also, we go back on a nightly basis and check to see if CC license terms have changed on any of the content from blogs and Flickr. Revver has a fixed CC license, so it's not an issue.

    Sadly, everything related to licensing seems and often is overly complex. We're hoping we can simplify that a bit!

  2. Said:

    I've never done anything like this and I wanted to know the licensing default price (that we input) is it for web license or just any license?

    Because from my knowledge it should be different prices for different license use (web, print, product, advertising, book, magazine, ...)

  3. Said:

    If I understand correctly I'm only licensing a small image size of 160x240? So that would mean for web use? Right?

  4. rudy Said:

    Our initial license permits the licensor to reuse an image without restriction on it's use (print, on air broadcast, etc.) but requires attribution. Over time, we likely will add more sophistication to give people the ability to add granularity to the license terms, but for now we're trying to cut the confusion down.

    In terms of what you're licensing, you're giving permission to your buyer to go back to Flickr (we'll be adding more photosite support soon, but chose Flickr because of their support of Creative Commons) and download/reuse whatever resolution photo you have up there. The image on our site is just a thumbnail.

    Hope that helps, and feel free to email us directly in the future. We're extremely early stage (only been live for a month) so we welcome feedback and ideas as we move forward.

  5. Said:

    Okay, it's an interesting but I would rather sell my photos for different prices depending on the license use.

    I'm a user so please send a newsletter when you do.

  6. Karen Said:

    What if you have a contract to license some photos to someone, and the contract date is just about up, but you know the party will want to continue to use the images. How much (compared to the original cost) would you charge to allow them to extend the license?

Click on a tab to select how you'd like to leave your comment

Leave a Comment

Copyright ©2017 New Media Entertainment, Ltd.