EPUK Editorial Photographers United Kingdom and Ireland. The private mailing list and public resource for editorial photographers

Alamy responds to EPUK's open letter

5 March 2015 - EPUK

Received today: Alamy's response to EPUK's open letter regarding the new contributor contract terms.

 

To: Alan Capel <alan@alamy.com>
CC: James West <james@alamy.com>

Hi Alan,

In my email on Friday I wrote that we would be writing to Alamy re the difficulties we see with the contract amendments. Since then we’ve become aware of more widespread concern among Alamy contributors in general, not only EPUK members.

Rather than keep this a conversation between EPUK and Alamy we feel that it would be better to make our concerns public and so we are publishing an open letter to Alamy on EPUK outlining the problems we see. I do hope that you or your colleagues will add your comments.

Alamy have a record of coming up with constructive solutions to impossible problems. We all hope that you can do that again!

Best wishes,
David Hoffman
for the EPUK Moderators

 

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This is Alamy's reply to our original article. We're publishing it complete and unedited.

Our view of this reply from Alamy is here.

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Alamy: Many thanks for giving us the opportunity to respond. It has been our practice since we started to have regular reviews of our contract and the recent changes are a result of such a review. We’ve made changes to reflect how we work, to tidy up language and to clarify clauses. This round of contract changes is being painted by EPUK as a fundamental shift in our approach to our photographers and that is absolutely not the case.

We believe the changes we’ve made are for the benefit of our photographers and are an honest reflection of the way we work. EPUK’s response is overwhelmingly negative and in many cases simply incorrect and we welcome the opportunity to explain our position. We’d like to initially clarify the situation with regards to some of the key points.

1) Infringements – We have listened to our photographers (who have been asking us to do more on this) and we’ve invested in this area. We are now working with PicScout to track down and get payment from infringers.

We’ve been in discussion with Picscout for many months and those discussions are one of the things that have fed in some changes for this contract update to reflect the reasonable cases where the infringer should be pursued by us.

We aren’t stopping photographers from chasing their own infringements.

We’ll show that we don’t allow retrospective licensing to be a ‘get out’ for infringers.

2) DACS – We made our first DACS claim last year. We give photographers the option to use us to claim DACS on their behalf. Many took up that offer. Many who had never heard of DACS claimed themselves for the first time. We’ve changed our contract to reflect how we work with DACS.

3) Re-uses – We’ve had clauses in our contract for many years that confirm we’ll issue reuses after images have been deleted. The only change we’ve made is to confirm that deleted images also include those deleted as a result of a photographer terminating their contract. This is not a new clause, just a tidying up of the wording to make it clearer. Again we’re not trying to bring in a change in practice.

4) Downloads – We track all downloads from Alamy and regularly undertake costly and thorough audits of our customers. Our work with PicScout will further strengthen our handle on this. It’s incorrect to suggest we’ve a laissez-faire attitude to customer downloads.

5) Deleted images – Images deleted from Alamy stay deleted, they’re not visible to customers.

We’ll respond to the specific points raised below. 

 

PROBLEMS WITH THE ALAMY CONTRIBUTOR CONTRACT AMENDMENTS 02/2015

1) AMENDMENT  6.4.1

When re-licensing Images that have been previously licensed for a particular use ("Previous Use"), if in Alamy's reasonable opinion the use to which the Image/s is to be put is the same or closely similar to the Previous Use (including but not limited to extensions of print runs and foreign language versions), Alamy is permitted to grant a re-use licence on the terms and conditions, restrictions and availability in place at the time of the original licence. This clause will remain in full force and effect even after termination of this contract or deletion of the Image/s.

Interpretation:

Alamy, it seems is trying to establish a perpetual and irrevocable contract with images that they have previously sold on our behalf at a time when this was not the case, which allows them to continue selling them even after the contract with the photographer has been terminated. While this may have advantages for Alamy it has significant disadvantages for the photographer. The provision would last for the full term of copyright and we see it as unreasonably extensive.

Alamy: We’ve always made it very easy to join Alamy and similarly we make it very easy to leave. We don’t believe photographers should be tied in to long term contracts. If a photographer terminates their contract we remove their images from our web site so customers can’t search and buy them. The implication with the above is that we will continue to distribute and sell your images that have sold after termination. This sentence is particularly misleading ‘which allows them to continue selling them even after the contract with the photographer has been terminated.’

Clause 6.4.1 is very clear that the only sales we intend to make after termination are ones where the use is a re-use, ‘the use to which the Image/s is to be put is the same or closely similar to the Previous Use (including but not limited to extensions of print runs and foreign language versions), Alamy is permitted to grant a re-use licence on the terms and conditions, restrictions and availability in place at the time of the original licence.

Re-uses are more prevalent in book publishing than anywhere so we’ll use that as our example. Any new requests to licence imagery for new projects, e.g. if the image was sold for one book and the customer wanted to use it in a different book, are refused.

Customers want to produce products safe in the knowledge that if it’s a success they can produce more copies in the future or perhaps expand it into different territories. The publishing industry has undergone dramatic changes in recent years and the reality now is that many large book publishers will either buy exclusively RF or seek assurances that reuses will be available.

We’ve a long and proven track record of listening to our photographers and our customers and we try to get the balance right.

a) Amendment 6.4.1. (last sentence: “This clause will remain in full force and effect even after termination of this contract or deletion of the Image/s” means that the photographer, having left Alamy will never regain full rights over an image that Alamy has previously sold. Such images may never be sold with exclusive rights because Alamy retains a perpetual right to re-license the image to previous buyers. The contributor has no way of knowing to which images this applies and so their whole collection is devalued.

Alamy: The suggestion that this means Alamy removes the ability for you to control the rights to your images is incorrect as you already have all the information available regarding how the image was originally sold. When managing rights in the future you’ll be aware that re-uses of past sales may occur. This clause is required for the exception rather than the norm. In reality, the majority of books have a short shelf life and will not be re-published.

 b) It opens up the potential for litigation if the photographer licenses an image to a client on terms which a subsequent Alamy sale may violate and, as the agreement between the photographer and Alamy has ceased, there would be no way of finding out what those terms may be.

Alamy: The rights originally sold will inform the photographer as to the possible rights issued in the future. For example, if the image was sold for an editorial book, the re-use would be for an editorial book.

c) Because of Alamy’s policy of allowing some of their clients unlimited downloads while refusing to identify to the photographer to whom sales are made it would become very difficult to identify illegitimate uses of images and would often make enforcing  photographers’ intellectual property rights impossible in practice.

Alamy: Customers can’t download imagery that has been deleted or is from a terminated account. If they require access to an image that they previously used because they need it for a re-use, they have to come through Alamy. This gives us the point in the process to determine that the re-use is exactly that.

d) Where infringements are found, the provisions of Clause 6.4.1 offer the infringer the ability to purchase a retrospective licence with the specific purpose of avoiding litigation by the photographer.

Alamy: No, this is not what this clause says at all and we will show that we do not work in this way later on in our response.

One Alamy member said –

“The contract allows them to issue licences to restore legality to forgetful and cheating customers, and to keep on issuing licences on photos that clients have downloaded and kept on file even where you've subsequently withdrawn the material.”

Alamy: This is incorrect, as per above it’s only for re-uses, any new uses would and have to be refused.

e) The new terms also appear to apply to all the images that were ever downloaded from the Alamy servers. Not just to those that remain once the new contract takes effect.

Alamy: No, this is not the case and not what the contract says, the clause applies for any images that were downloaded and used.

2) RETROSPECTIVE LICENSING

Alamy seems to have a policy of issuing retrospective licences to cover past unlicensed publications of images sourced from them. Alamy should NOT be issuing a retrospective licence after the infringement has been reported. There is no legal basis for such a licence. The earlier publication was unlawful and the issue of a licence later cannot make that earlier unlawful act lawful.

Alamy: Regarding ‘Alamy should NOT be issuing a retrospective licence after the infringement has been reported.’ We agree and will demonstrate that isn’t what we did. In the stock industry granting a licence after an image has been used is nothing new. From the earliest days of stock, companies such as Tony Stone would track down customers asking them to confirm use. In many cases the customer would have already used the image. So from Tony Stone to Getty the industry has relied on trust, but has also had to fall back on chasing and tracking down to try to keep track of usage. Microstock chose to solve that problem by charging for any download.

In some cases Alamy has also issued retrospective licences for images that they hold but which were sourced elsewhere by an infringer. One Alamy member has related the following - 

I was chasing after a company who were using my image without my permission.

In the emails I received from the infringer, they said we have now found your image on Alamy and have just bought it for £39.00. The infringer went on to say they were proving a point on how much my image was worth.

During the emailing, the infringer sent over a copy of the online chat between themselves and Alamy.

Here is a part of it:

Infringer: One of our interns used a helter skelter image on Facebook (but when we found out we took it down). Nonetheless, would it be possible to retrospectively purchase the rights to use the image so we avoid an infringement?

Infringer: We're a small company (5 employees).

Alamy: Thanks for letting us know ****, it wouldn’t be a problem to retrospectively license the image

Alamy: as for the licence would it just be used for website?

Infringer: It was used on Facebook, Twitter and a blog (all are currently removed). They are the only places. It also was edited to include some text. Can I send you an example through this chat feature to check it's acceptable?

Alamy: if some text has been added which isn't defamatory or derogatory that's fine as we allow minor edits to the images.

Alamy: I'll just check the best licence for you, wont be a minute

Alamy: When the image was used over the different sites had the design changed or was it all in the same context?

Alamy: so essentially was it used for the same campaign

The online chat goes on and the Infringer is ultimately buys the image online and then requests the invoice is backdated.

Infringer: It says that it's valid from 3rd Sept, but we really would like it to cover us retrospectively

Alamy: ah sorry my mistake

Alamy: i'll change that now

Alamy: Ok the way need to get this done from February is you'll need to purchase the image as it currently is

Alamy: Once the invoice has been raised for the purchase I can then go in and change the invoice details so in the additional notes would be “Retrospective licence to run from 1st February 2014 - 30th January 2019.

The result was a licence purchased solely to block ongoing litigation even though the infringed image was not obtained through Alamy in the first place.

Alamy: We agree that the above is a true transcript of part of a number of conversations regarding this transaction. EPUK are not sharing the whole story though. It’s clear from the above at no stage did Alamy see this as a being an image subject to litigation. An intern using an image is entirely plausible and by no means unheard of. On face value, this was a user of an image wanting to pay for it which is very different than a deliberate infringer trying to get away with not paying. In this case we initially decided to grant a licence and proceed as we’re now engaging with a customer. We‘re committed to having a business built on selling our photographers’ images and making sure when images are used, a photographer gets paid.

So whilst the above snippet shows we’re happy to grant a licence, we feel it is a dangerous misrepresentation of the reality of this particular case and our approach to infringements in general .What your member may or may not have shared with you is the following.

Once we were told via the photographer that they were already pursuing the user of the image Alamy stepped aside, immediately refunded the sale and told the user of the image that we weren’t going to licence the image so they could avoid litigation. Your suggestion that we’re comfortable licensing images to avoid litigation holds no water as a result.

Here’s a copy of the email we sent to the user of the image upon being told the photographer was pursuing the user.

-----Original Message-----

From: Charlene Campbell - Alamy

Sent: 04 September 2014 11:20

To: 'hello@XXXXX.com'

Subject: Image CxxxxA purchase null and void

Hi

The recent purchase of image CxxxxA has been cancelled due to a legal dispute. The licence purchased yesterday is null and void (credit note attached).

The photographer/copyright holder of this image has already been in contact with you about the unauthorised use. Please contact the photographer/copyright holder to arrange the correct licence.

Alamy cannot prove you with a licence for this image.

Charlene Campbell
Customer Service Manger

Therefore we feel we have actually acted in a manner that EPUK would agree with, rather than criticise.

3) TERMINATION OF CONTRACT

CLAUSE 20 TERMINATION

  20.1 You may terminate this contract:
     20.1.1. on 45 days prior notice to Alamy at any time; 
     20.1.2. Immediately by written notice to Alamy if Alamy:
       20.1.2.1 breaches any terms of this Contract which breach is not capable
       of effective remedy or;
       20.1.2.2. breaches any term of this Contract which is capable of remedy
       but which is not remedied within 30 days of the date of a notice specifying
       the breach and requiring that party to comply with that term.
       20.1.2.3 enters into insolvent liquidation.
       20.1.2.4. ceases to carry on its business of operating the System.
       20.1.2.5 where Alamy gives 45 days notice to vary the contract pursuant to
       clause 19.1, by written notice to Alamy at any time during that 45 day
       period expiring at the end thereof.

Interpretation:    

A contributors contract with Alamy can be cancelled subject to 45 days notice.

A member cancelled their contract with Alamy. Under clause 20 the last date when images could be sold was 20.10.2014. They wrote –

The last day for selling and displaying my images was the 20th October 2014. Looking through the Alamy website,(four months later) my images are still being displayed, even though it says above all images ‘not for sale’.

Alamy: We’re aware of this case and it’s an anomaly and we hold our hands up to this one. The images weren’t left on sale and they weren’t searchable but if (as the photographer) you had an existing URL to the image that still took you to the image. We’ve now rectified the error and learnt from it. We’ve apologised to the photographer.

Over the years we’ve had to delete images and terminate contracts and we’ve never had an issue like this before. It’s not representative of the norm and we’re sure you have many other members who can testify to Alamy’s efficiency and also, at times, our understanding and accommodating approach in deleting imagery.

Another image of mine was sold end of Jan 2015, Again, Alamy stated that the buyer was in talks prior to my contract terminating.

Another member has also raised this same issue. While Alamy has the right to continue and to renew deals that were already in place at the time of termination it seems wrong to display the images after deletion. It also seems wrong for them to interpret a use following termination as widely as they do. Reprints or run extensions might be reasonable but not new editions, different media or other publications. 

Alamy: Regarding ‘it seems wrong to display the images after deletion.’ We do not display images after deletion.

This is not a new clause just a strengthening of the definition to make it clear how we are working.

In terms of our interpretation of a re-use, we don’t see it as a ‘wide’ interpretation, we treat each case on its merits and regularly suggest to customers that the use they are asking for is not a re-use and that the image is no longer available.

 4) SECONDARY RIGHTS & COLLECTING SOCIETIES

   CLAUSE 28. Collecting societies

  You agree that where you cannot claim yourself for sales made by Alamy
  but where we can claim on your behalf including, without limitation,
  through collecting societies, that you give us the right to collect
  any money due to you. Where there is the option for you to claim
  yourself, you may opt to do so or for us to claim on your behalf.
  Where we claim on your behalf you agree that we will recoup our
  external costs (if any) then share any remaining amount equally with you.

Interpretation:

Alamy wish to make a DACS claim on behalf of its members if they are unable or do not wish to do so themselves.

Because Alamy refuses to identify individual sales to members it is impossible for individual members to make a full and accurate claim to any collecting societies.

Alamy: With regards to DACS, we do understand the issue, our policy of not giving out customer info is not something that came in with DACS; we’ve never shared that information.

The reasons are; we don’t want to release competitive information and risk it getting out into the public domain, in some cases data protection laws may stop it and we respect client confidentiality (a lot of our big customers do not want their commercial dealings being made public so require us to sign confidentiality clauses). So it’s not that we are keeping the info to ourselves to prevent photographers from claiming, it’s more that legally and practically it’s not something we’re in a position to do. We’ve reviewed it many times, but always come back to the same conclusion. It’s not a mechanism we’re using to hinder photographers.

With DACS we were very upfront about the options available to photographers and we received a lot of thanks from photographers who had previously been unaware of DACS and we helped them understand how they could claim themselves.

5) AMENDMENT 4.1.2

Where Alamy has Licensed an image to one of its Customers or if an Image has been sourced directly or indirectly from the Alamy System and or if the image is solely available via the Alamy System and the systems of its Distributors, You agree that you will not contact the Customer or user of the Image for any reason pertaining to this sale or the use of the Image. This includes, without limitation, in relation to copyright Infringements where the Image was sourced from Alamy.

Interpretation:

Alamy want to prevent photographers contacting their customers over copyright infringements or for any other purpose where the image was sourced via Alamy or its distributors.

This may have been acceptable if Alamy had retained a tight hold in controlling access to downloads and maintained metadata integrity. However, without consultation, Alamy diluted that over time to the point where very large numbers of files (estimated to be in the millions) have been freely downloaded without checks as to usage, instead simply relying on clients (many of whom have been known to reproduce images without reporting that fact) reporting each use properly.

Alamy: With regards to metadata, we include a significant amount of metadata in our images and our terms and conditions with customers are very robust on requiring that they retain the metadata in the images.

Alamy: In relation to ‘if Alamy had retained a tight hold in controlling access to downloads and maintained metadata integrity’ We’ve a record of every download and we do have sophisticated processes for follow up and monitoring. We undertake lengthy and costly audits of our customer base looking at download and sales activity. We track our downloads to sales ratio and it’s at a level that doesn’t give any cause for concern and the suggestion that millions of images have been flooded onto the market by Alamy unchecked is simply untrue. It’s true that we have sold millions of images for our photographers but we haven’t achieved this through an uncontrolled stream of images onto the market.

This has put our ability to take action over the infringements of our work that we find published on the web very largely into Alamy's control. This is particularly egregious where no paid publication has occurred or where the infringement has been copied (and sometimes re-re-re-copied) from an unpaid or low paying Alamy related source.

Alamy: With regards to infringements, we recognised that we weren’t doing as good a job as we’d like to so we’ve invested in this area and Alamy is now working with industry leader PicScout on a programme to track down infringers and that’s why we’ve introduced this clause.

We need to have processes in place which can maximise the likelihood of us finding and generating revenue from infringements where the image originated from Alamy. This seems entirely reasonable as the infringement has taken place as a result of the image being on Alamy.

We are most definitely not saying that photographers cannot chase any infringements.

The example EPUK refers to above shows that we are not seeking to licence images that are subject to ongoing infringement so we hope this illustrates that we don’t intend to hinder our photographers in their own pursuit of infringements.

What we can’t see is a situation where everyone pursues each infringement and whoever gets their first or who has the biggest pockets for legal fees wins. A good lawyer could tie everyone up in knots if it’s very unclear who should be seen as having the legitimate infringement claim.

We’ve a process in place where our photographers can report an infringement and we can check the facts at our end. Has the image been purchased or downloaded? Do we know the user? The spirit of our approach to infringements is to be efficient but collaborative where necessary.

We want to concentrate on generating revenue for our photographers and we believe that PicScout will help us do that. We’ve open channels of communication so any confusion can be cleared up well before any suggestion of breaching of contracts, etc. That’s not the way we work.

We believe we’re taking a sensible approach. We completely understand the frustration felt by photographers when it comes to infringements and as a result we’ve upped our game this year.

As one member wrote –

I am not supposed to contact anyone that has downloaded an image from Alamy, to chase up infringements. But if Alamy is not my exclusive agent (it isn't) and does not tell me who has downloaded images (it doesn't, nor who the legitimate downloads and users are), and also refuses to tell me these (it won't, I've asked), then how am I supposed to know if I am breaching my contract with Alamy?

Alamy seems to simply rely on clients to report their image use honestly when many have been known to reproduce images without reporting their publication.

This is a very different way of working from that in place when Alamy began and it has led to a very large number of members’ files having been distributed to an unknown number of Alamy clients. Many of these files had their metadata removed by Alamy before distribution. Many of the clients will have redistributed those files outside of their organisation. No matter how remote an infringing use may be from the client originally downloading the file Alamy prevents us from taking any action to protect our copyright.

No notification to us that this was occurring has ever been given. We have no way of knowing which files have been distributed, to whom or who now has copies. We are unable to control infringement when the file came from Alamy and our ability to identify and follow up on infringements when the file was sourced elsewhere is seriously undermined.

 

6) CLAUSE 15.1

You agree that the Images may be used at Alamy's option without charge and without prior consent or approval from you in Promotional/Marketing material designed to promote sales of Images and/or to enhance awareness of the Alamy name/brand or that of the individual Contributor. You agree that any such promotional items may be distributed by Alamy worldwide for up to two years, notwithstanding the earlier termination of the Contract for any reason. For the avoidance of doubt Promotional/Marketing material also includes articles and interviews featuring Alamy and/or its imagery, social media and search engine listing and promotion including but not limited to 'Google Images'.

Interpretation:

Alamy request the right to use members’  images to promote Alamy and/or a photographer whom they no longer represent without their prior approval/permission.

This presents a problem where Alamy are not the sole distributor of a member’s images. A scenario could present itself where the member has agreed a sale outwith Alamy on exclusive terms and where usage by Alamy for promotion may violate this.

An ex-Alamy photographer may be exclusively represented by another agent and use of their material to promote him/her or Alamy would be deceptive and may breach the agreement between photographer and new agent.

In any case the period of two years is unreasonably long. Three to six months would be more appropriate.

 

Alamy: This clause has been in our contract for over 10 years and to our knowledge our use of images in promotion and marketing hasn’t ever caused a problem. The only change has been a slight change in definition.

With regards to ‘Alamy request the right to use members’ images to promote Alamy and/or a photographer whom they no longer represent without their prior approval/permission.’ The interpretation is incorrect as the clause only applies to images already used in marketing pieces.

When selecting images for marketing pieces we only look at imagery that is currently for sale and not already deleted or subject to a deletion in the future for any reason. 12

We need confidence when working on marketing pieces. Imagine Alamy produces a print run of promotional coasters, featuring 12 images, 2,000 coasters per image printed. One day after printing a contributor terminates his contract and the image is then deleted. Alamy would then have to throw away all the coasters with that image on. We need to be sure that we can use the pieces for their natural lifespan (we’ve specified up to two years but in reality it’s usually far shorter).

Photographers want exposure and are invariably delighted for us to use their images to promote Alamy. It’s impractical to expect us to ask permission each time we use images. Our photographers will be pleased to hear our marketing activity is ever increasing, but it simply wouldn’t work to involve the photographers in the image selection process.

7)  PERSONAL USE LICENSING

The facility for (presumably) non-professional image buyers to download digital images for personal/home own use creates a real danger of infringement. How long would it take for something licensed for home use to appear on social media, then scraped from a Google search and then subject to a commercial infringement?

Additionally it undermines the quality control that members may usually insist on if the file is printed out and may undermine the photographer’s own print sales.

The low pricing makes it a very attractive option for dishonest buyers, especially if there is the ability to download 50 megabyte files..

Alamy: This seems to be a side issue from the contract changes but in response, we’ve sold images for “Personal use” since we began and the number of images we’ve sold for this use is miniscule compared to all the licences we’ve granted so we don’t feel this is a well worn route to cheat the system.

8) CLAUSE 1.3.4

Delete any Images after one hundred and eighty (180) days notice. On image deletion Alamy will cease to grant Licences for the Image so deleted (but without prejudice to any Licences which may subsequently be granted for Images already downloaded, or where any Image is re-used or where Alamy entered into negotiations to licence an Image prior to deletion).

Interpretation:

Alamy will delete images upon request after 180 days notice but will continue to grant licences if a customer has at any time entered into negotiations to buy.

Alamy: This clause has been in place for over 10 years and we’ve reworded to make it clearer. This way of working hasn’t caused us problems in the past. If a customer is in negotiations or has asked us about the image or has downloaded the image with our permission we will continue and make the sale even if the image has subsequently been deleted. Customers need confidence that once embarking on a purchase and mocking up designs etc, they won’t have the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute.

9) CLAUSE 12.6

Amounts due to you where you are not paid in US Dollars shall be converted from US Dollars to the currency for payment at the rate provided by Alamy or Alamy's Payment provider on the date of payment or the preceding UK working day. If the rate is provided by Alamy it will be within 2.5% of the spot rate on that day.

Interpretation:

If Alamy does not pay you in US dollars, Alamy may increase the currency conversion charge to the contributor from 2% to 2.5%, a 25% increase.

Alamy: Correct, we periodically review this figure and try to set it at a rate so that we don’t lose or gain money on currency conversion.

10) AMENDMENT 16.2.3

If you take action then Alamy's sole obligations shall be to at your request and cost, provide testimony in any action which may be brought by you by verifying the terms of the contract entered. Prior to giving this assistance Alamy may require you to have indemnified Alamy for all of the costs and expenses of any such action including at Alamy's discretion providing and securing the costs of Alamy's legal and other advisers.

Interpretation:

Unlike under the previous provisions Alamy will no longer provide the member with information from its records should the member find themselves taking legal action against the Alamy customer.

This seems to set Alamy and the contributor in conflict with each other, with Alamy siding with the customer in the event of a dispute.

Alamy: We’ve many examples where we have worked closely with photographers and have a proven track record of collaboration, we don’t intend to change this. We can’t commit to simply making all relevant information available, as with the question before, in some cases we need to be sensitive to data protection law and confidentiality agreements we may have with our customers. We’ve changed the wording to reflect that we can’t guarantee that we can provide information. We hope we’ll be judged on our actions and not hypothetical assumptions when it comes to disputes.

We’re a business reliant on our image suppliers and our image buyers. We consider both sides when making key decisions and we seek to strike a balance that allows photographers to trust us with their work and gives buyers a trustworthy and efficient source of imagery.

 

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SUGGESTIONS

1) Amendment 6.4.1

Re-licensing rights on terminated Alamy/photographer contracts and/or on deleted files should only be permitted for a period of six months after termination and where the sale process was already under way before termination/deletion and after that only with the specific permission of photographer/copyright holder.  

2) Retrospective Licensing

Retrospective licensing should cease immediately other than in exceptional circumstances. Discounts on licence fees should be conditional on full and timely reporting of the relevant use. 

3) Clause 20, Termination

i) Ensure that cancellation rules are applied so that the display of former members’ images and/or deleted images   ceases as soon as is practicably possible following deletion or termination.

ii) Licensing for new editions, different media or other publications in respect of terminated members or deleted images ceases.

4) Secondary Rights & Collecting Societies

Sufficient disclosure by Alamy of information relating to members’ sales to allow claims for secondary rights payments to be made to collecting societies.

5) Amendment 4.1.2

i) Amendment 4.1.2 is removed and Alamy, while retaining the right to pursue all infringements stemming from their supply (as is the case now) adopt the default position that, unless having a specific need to pursue these themselves, instead offer the contributor the opportunity to do so and provide such information that they have to assist the contributor. Any fee that would have been due to Alamy to be paid to them out of the proceeds.

ii) Alamy re-establish positive control over download privileges.

6)  Clause 15.1

Alamy contacts the member before use and gives them the option to decline.

7) Personal Use Licensing

Allow members to opt out of Personal Use Licensing. 

8) Clause 1.3.4

A clear definition of "entered into negotiations" is required otherwise this is too vague. ‘Negotiations’ could be just a vague licence quote obtained for guidance many years ago. Simply allowing a download could be claimed to be the initiation of a negotiation. 

9) Clause 12.6

Alamy should explain why they have increased their charge on currency conversion by 25% when overall bank transfer fees have become much cheaper.

10) Amendment 16.2.3

Alamy should assist the member in providing reasonable information on the customer from their databases as they did under clause 16.2.3.1 (If you take action then Alamy's sole obligations shall be to at your request and cost supply you with the information on its database relating to that Customer).

 

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Note added March 13, 2015: If you are leaving Alamy we have a step by step guide here.

Want to contact the EPUK Website editor? editor@epuk.org

Comments

Don’t believe a word Alamy said, the reason for this I remember when they got caught out trying to sell pictures cheaper than microstock.

Remember the statemement ( We can cannibalize microstock ) ? When questioned on this they said it was only for encyclopedia publishers and only takes up about 1% of our customer base.

And then a few months later those images were being sold not just to encyclopedia publishers but to major publishing houses. Now a few years later RM images are being sold effectively as RF images with 5 or 10 year licences.

Alamy were making the same pathetic excuses back then and are doing so again now, but Alamy know there suppliers put up with anything and already have their trousers ready to be shafted yet again.

Comment 1: john, 5 March 2015, 10:26 PM

I appreciate the point that publishers want to keep their options open in case a book becomes a resounding success. I note that Alamy says that this is the exception, not the norm. But to leave the option open-ended is obviously a bit of a sticking point with photographers. The uncertainty does not allow them to issue an exclusive licence in the future and they have no way of knowing or confirming whether an image is likely to be reused or whether it is essentially free to license unfettered.

Surely it would not be too difficult to either:

(a) put a clause in the buyer’s contract saying the reuse option lapses if not exercised in, say, two, three or five years depending on what is reasonable in the circumstances; or

(b) contact the buyer in say, two years to ascertain whether they intend to republish – a negative answer freeing up the image with the photographer being advised as such.

Option (a) would involve no further checking up by Alamy except, perhaps a courtesy email to inform the client of a pending lapse and an offer to relicense. The photographers would know the cut-off point based on the date of the sale.

Comment 2: Martin Cameron, 6 March 2015, 09:59 PM

“Downloads – We track all downloads from Alamy and regularly undertake costly and thorough audits of our customers. Our work with PicScout will further strengthen our handle on this. It’s incorrect to suggest we’ve a laissez-faire attitude to customer downloads.”

“We’ve a record of every download and we do have sophisticated processes for follow up and monitoring. We undertake lengthy and costly audits of our customer base looking at download and sales activity. We track our downloads to sales ratio and it’s at a level that doesn’t give any cause for concern and the suggestion that millions of images have been flooded onto the market by Alamy unchecked is simply untrue. It’s true that we have sold millions of images for our photographers but we haven’t achieved this through an uncontrolled stream of images onto the market.”

The above two paragraphs are from Alamy’s reply. My experience is that this is pure bullshit. In my experience Alamy had no proper record of downloads and no method of chasing uses against downloads. If they did have a robust system why, on three occasions, did they require copies of tear sheets from me to show uses they had not billed for? I have communicated with other photographers who, like me, have waited over six months with no follow up between download and use. In one of my cases the image was the cover of the Guardian’s g2. How hard to spot is that?

Alamy also quote Tony Stone in reference to retrospective licences.

“In the stock industry granting a licence after an image has been used is nothing new. From the earliest days of stock, companies such as Tony Stone would track down customers asking them to confirm use. In many cases the customer would have already used the image.”

Tony Stone never waited months to chase clients over uses. TS, Zefa, Image Bank and other ‘proper’ agencies would chase as soon as a publication date was reached. Often they would demand voucher copies to be sent by motorbike messenger that day for uses to be verified and invoices to be issued. Never would they wait six months or more before writing licenses.

In my short period with Alamy I found them to be lacking in any proper sense of RM licensing.

I left some time ago.

Bob Croxford

Comment 3: Bob Croxford, 7 March 2015, 01:17 PM

As a supporter and defender of photographers’ rights, ImageRights laments the continuing erosion of the rights and protections afforded photographers by their commercial distribution partners. These rights and protections are critical to the livelihoods of photographers individually and to the vitality of the profession and to the arts overall. Yet, perplexingly, the terms of service that their selling agents are forcing upon them (for example, retroactive licensing of infringers, and retention of licensing rights in perpetuity) effectively degrade – not by law but in practice – the copyright status of their works to that of public domain or creative commons works.

We see firsthand the damage these increasingly industry-wide, retroactive licensing practices wreak upon photographers, in some cases costing them thousands in damages, not to mention losses after the infringement due to the time and resources spent by both themselves and their legal representatives on the undermined claim. Clearly such distribution industry participants have opted to mollify their customers (and conveniently brand new customers in some cases) at the expense of the contributors who make their business possible.

As a result of these pervasive but unwritten historical practices, and now as we see here in these brazenly codified policies, ImageRights has been and will continue to be forced to turn away photographers with copyright infringement claims, not based on the lack of wrongful conduct, but merely because the image at issue has been distributed via a particular commercial conduit.

As in the case of Alamy, most agencies are run by decent people who quite often are photographers themselves. ImageRights understands that agencies are subject to competitive and financial pressures and must adapt to sustain and grow their businesses. We are disappointed though that too often such sustenance and growth comes at the expense of the product creators for the benefit of product consumers. We implore those involved in setting policy and terms of service to reconsider the larger, potentially devastating impact that such practices have on the rights and indeed on the very outlook of the photographers they serve.

Comment 4: Joe Naylor, CEO of ImageRights, 7 March 2015, 02:32 PM

I’m at a loss to understand why any professional photographer would surrender control of their pricing to an agent.

In this internet age, every individual photographer has the ability to sell directly to clients anywhere in the world. It appears all the agents are only in the business of obtaining market share by being cheaper. This is not surprising as they have little or no quality or rarity differentiation. The only way big agents can compete with each other is by being cheaper. This is easy for them to do as the cost of the product they sell is Zero.

Unfortunately the people bearing the brunt of this price war are the photographers who actually have to buy cameras, run cars and pay money to take photographs.

Any photographer who can differentiate his work from the micro-stock mass market should sell directly. Any photographer who cannot differentiate his work from the micro-stock mass market should either change his photography or give up and accept that it is a hobby. That isn’t meant to be critical as I myself take many photographs that have little chance of a sale but I take them for artistic rather than commercial reasons. I still wouldn’t give my non sellers to an agent though!

Fortunately these days services such as photoshelter and photodeck make selling directly a doddle. Its no more work to open your own photodeck website than it is to upload to an agent. The the only difference is you set the price and you keep 100% of the sales.

Sell direct, its a no brainer really !

Comment 5: Jonathan Webb, 7 March 2015, 03:07 PM

Alamy will and have issued licenses for work no longer available.

Four years after downloading an image from Alamy I discovered a publisher using an image. The publisher had been invoiced for then actively sought and was given a refund.

Discovery of use was over one year after cancelling a contract for Alamy to license my work.

The publisher went back to Alamy, who were more than happy to sell a license, one that was impossible for them to sell.

So in my experience Alamy do not police downloads, requested refunds or use.

Nor do they honour a reasonable timeframe to recognise when a contract to sell the photographers work is truly over.

Never again would I deal with them. The new contract reinforces this decision as being correct.

Comment 6: Simon, 7 March 2015, 04:00 PM

Having recently terminated my relationship with Alamy prior to these changes coming into effect, this response only reinforces my decision. Especially when I read the following:

“Alamy: The rights originally sold will inform the photographer as to the possible rights issued in the future. For example, if the image was sold for an editorial book, the re-use would be for an editorial book.”

My issue with this is that it is not publication title specific, by not stating a publication title it gives Alamy and the publishing client an open ended conduit to buy/resell our image/s to that publisher. Whilst still remaining within the remit of editorial. At the very least any resell should be confined to a resell within a month of the end of the original licence period. And again, this then leads to the topic of ridiculously long licence periods of five and ten years and more. I have worked extensively in the wider licensing world and these wide, non specific licenses would get licensing execs fired and licensing agents sued by rights owners.

“Alamy: Regarding ‘Alamy should NOT be issuing a retrospective licence after the infringement has been reported.”

This is reliant upon a free flow of information, how are Alamy to know that an image bought this afternoon has not recently become the subject of an infringement claim. The only way to police this is to put a tab on the image manager for a photographer to say an infringement has occurred and for Alamy to contact the photographer should a purchase be imminent, this would allow both parties to manage the system. In reality it would be difficult to enact.

“Alamy: With regards to infringements, we recognised that we weren’t doing as good a job as we’d like to so we’ve invested in this area and Alamy is now working with industry leader PicScout on a programme to track down infringers and that’s why we’ve introduced this clause.”

I believe what a lot of people would like to see is agencies such as Alamy publicise that if an infringer/non reported use is proved, that the min price payable by the client would equate to the full calculator price or a multiple of, after any fees for the likes of picscout/legals I.e no discounts. If something like this was promoted on the home page perhaps non reported use would reduce.

The key thing is that like some of the licenses Alamy have given out, the clauses in this contract are not specific enough and open to interpretation, any contract that needs the level of debate and justification that this one appears to be drawing has to be viewed as being in question.

Just my thoughts,
Ian

Comment 7: ian shipley, 7 March 2015, 04:14 PM

One other key element not covered in this, is the transfer of payments to photographers who have left Alamy when a picture is re-licensed. Will payment be paid in full and at the time of payment or will it still be subject to the minimum payment threshold of c75 dollars. This could build up to a tidy little sum sitting in the pot. Again things like this need to be covered off to make this a robust and credible contract.

Comment 8: ian shipley, 7 March 2015, 04:24 PM

Alamy have got back to us with a ‘thats not what we meant’ statement.

I'd say close to 100% of the arguments in court are due to ‘thats not what we meant’ as opposed to ‘thats what it says’. If they had said this and worded this all better we wouldnt be having this argument and alamy wouldn't have lost a hell of a lot of goodwill.

The Alamy statement does nothing to address any of the concerns. James/Alan may interpret their contract wording as one thing, I may interpret it as another. That’s not a contract that’s heresay.

If they had announced they were putting a 10 quid personal payment option and giving us the opt out (yes it was in there before but was for substantially more) then there wouldn't have been an issue. I now have to go and apply restrictions to every image.

Unfortunately for reasons unsaid, that will rule me out of the distribution system and the magical 20% raise that they touted on a recent blog. My stats don’t back that claim up so its no real loss.

The great thing about this debate is that it has got a lot of people off their asses and started the gears moving into what we all do post-Alamy.

I am genuinely sure that Alamy mean well, I notice a lot of other top sellers have seen huge cuts in income from sales recently and perhaps they are feeling the pinch but we will have to wait on their published accounts to discover that.

I’m sure the last thing they wanted was a contributor rebellion from the precise area of sales they tend to neglect and brush over but who genuinely keep the lights on at Alamy but some simple forethought and an explanation of the change of terms along with the wording would have helped. I’m sure running it past a lawyer would also have helped.

I have still had no response from Alamy regarding my request in writing to see who have legally licensed my images and any outstanding sales/downloads. I have fulfilled my legal obligations in making the request and as Alamy have as yet failed to comply with that request I doubt there is a court in the land who will uphold any change of contract that requires me to be psychic.

This is a huge black hole and not to supply it hiding behind data protection etc is just bullshit of the highest order. Other agencies supply it and I'm registered with the ICO as a data controller and this is business critical information. These are my copyrighted images after all. I own the IP. Alamy don’t. This is business.

Alamy has also included a term in the contract about small recovered damages being donated to Charity. Alamy is closely linked with charities so perhaps that could be seen as a conflict of interests.

I’ve recently emailed Alamy about keyword plagarism which is mentioned in the current contract and allowed under the new one. They have refused to take action under the current contract (is the new one in force yet?). Small change except I’ve emailed them about the same user a few years ago and others have. There’s written evidence that Alamy don’t enforce their own contract rules.

I genuinely do like Alamy but this coupled with the recent changes to default every search to a hand picked ‘creative’ set of images, some of which break the terms of the previous contracts - which has perhaps led to the massive decrease in recent sales - does leave a very bad taste in the mouth.

At the end of the day it’s business and I earn a significant amount of income from Alamy but as this drops and as the goodwill to send them new material has all but evaporated beyond already scheduled and costed work.

It will be interesting to see how the Alamy running total decreases but more interesting to see if/how their returns are affected in their annual accounts. Perhaps we all aren’t that big a deal, perhaps we won’t make much of a difference and perhaps they think we need them more than they need us… …we will see.

Comment 9: Joe, 7 March 2015, 07:08 PM

What is an “Alamy Customer”?

I supplied clients with images many years before Alamy started. For a few years, when I was with Alamy we both supplied those clients.. Since I left Alamy I have again supplied some of them.

In my book only the licences that Alamy actually made during the course of my contract should be subject to any control by Alamy whatsoever. No licence should be renewed by Alamy after the end of the contract.

Comment 10: Bob Croxford, 7 March 2015, 07:33 PM

Joe, I agree with you. The keywording issue is a bigger issue for those of us who take the time to research and keyword images correctly. To then have someone do a cut and paste is akin to a kick in the teeth. Now I can clearly see that it is in Alamy’s interest to allow this plagiarism, as it then presents a wider selection of possible images to the buyer, but it is at the expense of my research and time for no return.

Comment 11: Ian shipley, 7 March 2015, 08:16 PM

Unfortunately Alamy’s response seems to read something along the lines of ‘yes that’s what’s written in the new contract but it is only a clearer version of what was in the old contract, and you can trust us we won’t necessarily enforce it that way’.

The problem is, in court, it would be enforced exactly as it’s written in the contract, whatever I might argue at the time and even if Alamy are genuine in their current reassurances.

So it does little to make me want to stay with Alamy – it just doesn’t seem worth it along with the increasingly daft rates images sell for and other niggling things like the infuriatingly clunky Manage Images and the fact that my extended captioning/keywording can now just be plagiarized by someone who can’t be bothered to do their own.

Comment 12: Rudolf Abraham, 8 March 2015, 12:43 AM

I’ve sent an email to the owners of Alamy in regard to me not agreeing with the terms of this contract. After 13 years with this agency, I’ve decided it’s in my best interest to terminate my existing contract and delete all of my images. I also hope that all of their sub-agents will delete my images as well.

Linda M

Comment 13: Linda M, 8 March 2015, 08:43 PM

I’ve never had many images with Alamy but will be withdrawing all those I do have with them. I made a few sales for a few hundred dollars total over a couple of years (off less than 50 images).

I know many others – perhaps everyone who is with Alamy? – have received today an automated email telling me my click-through rate is in the top 10% of the entire Alamy collection. Is this a desperate attempt to stop people from leaving?

That alone is enough to make me withdraw what few images I do have and I am sure will leave others feeling the same. Far from encouraging people to stay, I think it will (rightly) reinforce the feeling that Alamy is simply not a good place to do business with, for ethical or financial reasons.

Comment 14: Rosie Collins, 9 March 2015, 02:01 PM

Well, maybe I’m just being unreasonably cynical, but it does seem like an odd coincidence (I emailed Alamy regarding concerns over the new contract last week, and I’ve commented on this page as well as the EPUK open letter page) – this morning I received the following email from Alamy:

‘Just a little heads up that you’re trending on Alamy! Your Click Through Rate (CTR) is in the top 10% of the entire Alamy collection. Customers love your content so why not boost your sales by submitting more images.

We use a clever system to monitor all customer activity. Your CTR is there to show how popular your images are on our site. Even for those small collections, it’s comforting to know that our customers can find you…’

Now, ironically, my images have had a bit of a spike in CTR over the past month, something I was already aware of, but I’ve never had a similar notification in the past. It would be fascinating to hear whether any others in the same camp (ie who have made it known that they are dissatisfied with the new contract and are considering leaving) have, purely by coincidence of course, received similar emails this week…?

Comment 15: Rudolf Abraham, 9 March 2015, 02:19 PM

I’ve had the same “Top 10% CTR” email from Alamy. I haven’t got many images with them, and my CTR is as low as ever. So it’s simply not believable. (BTW: The email’s link contains a tracking code. Nice move, Alamy – I guess contributors who appreciate some privacy won’t be offended at all…)

Regarding Alan Capel’s response on this page:

“We are now working with PicScout to track down and get payment from infringers.”
“We aren’t stopping photographers from chasing their own infringements.”
“We’ll show that we don’t allow retrospective licensing to be a ‘get out’ for infringers.”

Could Alamy please elaborate on just how they’re trying to deal with all this? I’m not an expert in legal matters, but common sense tells me that a non-exclusive agency such as Alamy should NOT “track down and get payment” from infringers. After all, the respective image could have been purchased from another non-exclusive agency, or the photographer’s own website.

Also: How are Alamy planning to “show” that they don’t allow retrospective licensing for infringers? The only thing I can think of to achieve such a high level of transparency between an agency and their contributors would be a “infringement live reporting” tool in the contributor’s dashboard. As far as I can tell, any less than that won’t be “showing” anything.

Comment 16: Bjorn Holland, 9 March 2015, 03:31 PM

Alamy has never been transparent. I was with a HUGE agency that showed REAL TIME stats for images that were viewed (showing the client's name) when they were downloaded and the client name and publication name, date used and issue and size in addition to the amount.

I don’t know why Alamy is so naive to think that eventually we won’t find our work online or in print. Many tools are available, most are free. Even if our name gets stripped out, they will be found.

Why do they put us through hoops? We’re not stupid and if we really wanted to contact the publication, it’s a no brainer.

But I’ve already ‘left the building’ and requested my images be removed.

Comment 17: Linda M, 9 March 2015, 03:38 PM

Yes, I’ve had the same “Top 10% CTR” email too. As I was another of the ones who emailed West and Capel directly about the contract issues, it seems like an awfully big coincidence. So much so that it’s making me more, not less, likely to leave.

Comment 18: Jon Sparks, 9 March 2015, 04:05 PM

So it turns out that Alamy didn’t in fact issue a retrospective licence as stated in the EPUK letter. At the time of the transcript Alamy wasn’t aware that the photographer was pursuing the customer for infringement, but as soon they were they pulled out and cancelled the licence.

Seems strange that the photographer didn’t recount the full story. Was it his intention to paint a misleading picture?

Comment 19: Alex, 9 March 2015, 05:37 PM

Yes, me too – I received “Top 10% CTR” email this morning – a timely coincidence as a few days ago I cancelled the majority of my images – and mentioned the EPUK letter when doing so!

Comment 20: Gail Ward, 9 March 2015, 05:52 PM

“Seems strange that the photographer didn’t recount the full story. Was it his intention to paint a misleading picture?”

I had a conversation with Alamy about retrospective licensing for a non-buyer who had infringed my copyright and they seemed to think there was nothing wrong with it morally or ethically. I’m sure I could dig out the details.

Astonishing don’t you think?

Especially astonishing for a company that describes itself as “We´re a little bit different. We’re proud of doing things differently and philanthropy is an important part of our company DNA.” Is philanthropy still good if you’re giving very unfavourable terms to the very photographers who make that possible?

Comment 21: Dee, 9 March 2015, 06:18 PM

If Alamy were serious about tracking infringement and encouraging clients to pay they would at the very least (i) charge at least a small download fee to start with that might go towards payment of the full fee when the image is used; and
(ii) charge a client double if he/she used the image first and offered to pay afterwards, to encourage clients to pay in advance and offer an incentive for speedy reporting; and
(iii) charge a client a much higher multiple, say four to six times, if the image use wasn’t reported within a specified period such as a couple of months and Alamy and the photographer discover the unreported usage. The multiple might increase the longer the image use is unreported by the user.

This would be enforceable as a matter of contract law versus the client. It’s astonishing that Alamy don’t do this, just as a matter of basic business sense from their own point of view, and symptomatic of the contempt that Alamy holds its contributors and their property in.

Comment 22: Simon, 9 March 2015, 08:07 PM

I just received the same email…sigh.. My response will be that, like Linda, I won’t be signing the new contract and will remove my work. That will give them sleepless nights I am sure!

It’s Alamy’s lack of transparency which bothers me. Due to the extraordinarily low rates, I placed restrictions on my work a couple of years back as I would rather not sell for peanuts. I then received an email from Alamy asking if I would remove the restrictions so a particular image could be licensed. I responded, as you would, how much was the client willing to pay for the license. Their response “I can’t disclose how much our client would be paying for this particular use, so I understand that you are not prepared to lift the restriction for image B5GG6E”.

Exactly why can they not disclose the fee? I would find out eventually and they lost out on a sale because of this lack of transparency (and I lost the price of a coffee!). I have little good to say about Getty, but at least Getty discloses who bought the image and more details on the licensing arrangements than Alamy ever would.

Comment 23: Sheila Smart, 10 March 2015, 12:30 AM

Alamy’s attitude towards professional contributors has always been a problem. If they could get content from the hobbyist end of the spectrum I’m sure they would be happy to be rid of the irritants who raise legit concerns.

Retroactive licenses HAVE been issued to infringers making the perceived value of an image so low that legal action for redress is simply a waste of time. Further muddying the water with their contract adjustments now means that many legal IP companies are unwilling to take on cases if the image is held (even non-exclusively) in the Alamy library.

Non-Alamy readers may wonder why this is not a subject for the Alamy Forum – the draconian censorship and locking of topics is the reason – a little more listening and a little less waving of the headmaster’s cane would certainly help.

Comment 24: David, 10 March 2015, 11:54 AM

I am so glad I am part of the 90%.

On the other hand I have made 2 sales since this announcement – coincidence?

Comment 25: Tom, 10 March 2015, 06:05 PM

I’ve already terminated my contract with Alamy and have gone through and deleted all my images. I very much doubt the mini exodus will make a dent in Alamy’s armour because amateurs will continue to pour images into the site in the hope of some breadcrumbs from the few sales they will get.

It’s possible that if enough of the best contributors leave that the library will become increasingly low-grade and not worth publishers’ time trawling for gems. Only time will tell if this is the beginning of the end for Alamy. Getty look like they could fold at any moment. What happens to the stock image market then? Interesting times indeed.

Comment 26: Tim Gander, 11 March 2015, 08:06 PM

What is the point of using PicScout when they are giving huge discounts to infringers!

I just don’t trust Alamy anymore… And for that reason, I’m out!

Comment 27: Phil, 11 March 2015, 08:10 PM

I’ve been wondering for a long time if Alamy was worth the time and effort for the very little returns I was getting. I’ve decided to terminate and delete my images as well.

This won’t make much difference to Alamy, I’m sure, but won’t really make much difference to me either.

There is no reason for the secrecy for reporting the details of downloads and sales. How can we tell if a non-exclusive image has been infringed if we don’t know who Alamy sold it to?

Also, some of the terms attached to uses are unbelievable. Getting peanuts for a 25 year license doesn’t motivate anyone to go out shooting.

Thanks for your hard work on this Simon & David.

Comment 28: Alex Todd, 11 March 2015, 09:04 PM

Having read David Hoffman’s piece ‘Why I’m leaving Alamy’ (published on 11 March elsewhere on this site) I was disappointed to see the monumental change in Alamy’s attitude over the years. I am not sure whether Alamy is planning to make additional comments or (living in hope) change their new contract terms, but their continued silence does not induce confidence. If there are no further developments I intend to leave at the end of March. I genuinely liked Alamy’s ethos at first. Cutting the percentage to pay for their American presence was the first change that irked me (why should I pay for their commercial expansion?) The five year licences for pocket money are pitiful, and these latest terms and conditions are a slap in the face. Why stay in an abusive relationship?

Comment 29: Martin Cameron, 12 March 2015, 12:50 AM

Thanks to David’s excellent analysis of Alamy’s response we have decided that we will also withdraw, unless Alamy dramatically re-word their new terms within the next ten days.

We have both been with them since the start and have made quite a lot of money. But Alamy have always been frustrating. Does anyone remember one of the first publicity shots by Alex at Alamy suggesting that we should search in the back of our wardrobes, pull out that shoe box of old trannies, scan them and send the files to Alamy.

We thought that Alamy had arrived at just the right time to be the market leader in high quality, professionally managed images and that everyone would benefit. We pleaded with them to edit properly from the outset. What an opportunity missed. What a mess.

Despite having done absolutely nothing to our images nor uploaded new ones for five or six years, we are still making a useful amount of money. So we had more or less decided to take the easy route and do nothing. But David’s analysis, and Linda’s suggestion that the difficult decision is so often liberating, have changed our minds. The crux of our decision however is the realisation that those images and any revenue from them will no longer be ours to pass on, unencumbered, to our daughter. If we stay, Alamy will always have the first call on the best of our pictures that they have long after we have gone and despite any contrary intentions our heirs may have.

Our images, all RM, have already been licensed with ridiculously long terms which will outlive us. Those are lost anyway. Do we want to give away a fair proportion of our life’s work to someone else on Alamy’s terms?

Comment 30: Peter Bowater, 12 March 2015, 08:42 AM

Having read the original EPUK response to Alamy, this Alamy reply to EPUK and David Hoffman’s well thought out and well written piece Why I'm Leaving Alamy, I find myself in no doubt that I will be joining the Alamy Exodus.

My feeling is that Alamy is merely trying to pacify dissenting voices rather than address the genuine concerns of its contributors. I am worried by lines like:

“This is not a new clause just a strengthening of the definition to make it clear how we are working.”

To me this reads like a back-handed way of saying the clause doesn’t actually say what we want it to say, so we are changing it to say what we want it to, but we are doing it in a way so we can try and back-date it.

It’s things like this that have caused me to loose all trust in Alamy. I feel they are blowing smoke while the office intern is out buying mirrors. I think they are hoping to insinuate just enough, without actually changing anything, so that everyone just shuts up and wanders away from the debate with hands in pockets looking at the floor mumbling grumpily.

Well, sorry Alamy, deal with the problem or I and many like me are gone. Then you may very well find yourselves revising down your claim…

“Over 50 million high quality stock images, vectors and videos from Alamy, the world’s largest stock photo collection.”

Comment 31: Paul David Drabble, 12 March 2015, 10:40 AM

Damn…. And I thought I was special, you know top of the tree, a real 10%er, but now I just wonder if Alamy got hold of EPUK’s mailing list and just told everyone that would be likely to leave that they are the ‘greatest’.

Hmmmm….

Comment 32: Jason Bye, 12 March 2015, 01:57 PM

It will be interesting to see if I get the trending CTR email as I have just sent Alamy notice that I intend to leave unless there is substantive change to the contract and behaviour (so I will be leaving).

If I do get it then it is a scam as my zooms have been negligible for months!

Comment 33: Martin, 12 March 2015, 05:57 PM

Alamy’s response to detailed questions and comment has been decidedly woolly and unconvincing. The language reinforces that Alamy is the centre of the universe and photographers rather silly and untrusting people. “When have we let you down ??” is implicit in Alamy’s tone. Well as a contributor from the outset it might take a while to answer that one. Percentages have plummeted, sales have plummeted: I lose out when Alamy offers a bulk discount but I do not share in the bulk sale. I’ll give it a week or two for them to see sense but cynically I believe they’re trying to see off less profitable contributors and still have millions of pics to license for pennies. Is anyone outside Alamy convinced these T&Cs need to change ?? So why not leave them be ? Over to you Mr.Capel.

Comment 34: Derek Simpson, 12 March 2015, 10:47 PM

If you are leaving Alamy we have a step by step guide at Alamy: Finding the exit.

Comment 35: Hoffman, 13 March 2015, 01:58 PM

…..and this is what you are up against:

“Dear Sir,
Thank you for your email below. In fact I was able to speak to someone at Alamy and explained the situation in detail to them. They have issued a full licence for the use of the photograph. This was backdated to March 1st 2014 so covers the period of past usage of the image. Apologies for the oversight in not having this in place at the outset but I hope the matter has been resolved.
With best wishes,”

I normally ask ImageRights (IR) to deal with copyright infringements – and on the whole they have been pretty good – however I came across this small company and feeling a bit sorry for them offered to supply a license for the unauthorized use that they had made of one of my images. I asked for a modest £80.00 license fee and as they had been using the image for a considerable time felt that I was being quite reasonable. Had the matter been handled by IR they would have been faced with an end bill of ten times that amount.

The para in quotes above is their response.

In this case I have contacted Alamy who were unaware that action for copyright infringement was ongoing – the image was not obtained from them. They have now cancelled the license and refunded the fee.

HOWEVER it is my contention that the default position for Alamy should be clearly in black and white – Retrospective/retroactive licenses are simply NOT issued under any circumstances.

Comment 36: David, 14 March 2015, 09:17 AM

No wonder the Stock Picture industry is in such a state with pictures selling for much less than they cost to produce.

This is because Photographers on Alamy put up with anything, all RM images on Alamy now are being sold effectively as RF.

And yet the majority of Photographers on Alamy say nothing, and just carry on as normal, if the Photographers don’t start standing up.
All that’s going to happen is there will be more price reductions on images sold on Alamy, until eventually all images on Alamy will be sold on subscription.

You have two ways of selling a product on quality or on the cheapest price, Alamy have chosen the cheapest price. So this means for years to come Alamy will keep dropping its prices for images, until most Photographers are put out of business.

The choice is a straight one either do and say nothing and wait until you are eventually put out of business, or make a stand and say you won’t put up with it.

I have heard some Photographers on the Alamy forum say diversifie, this will never work because if prices for images keep dropping no Photographer will stay in business.

Unless they subsidize it with something else, like most Pro Photographers are doing at the moment by running workshops.
These workshops help the Photographers to survive but make the Stock Picture industry even worse, because they make more competition and a lot of Photographers on workshops sell pictures on Alamy or on microstock.

So the choice is make a stand or go out of business now or in a few years time.

Comment 37: john, 14 March 2015, 11:51 AM

Looking at the reply from Alamy it seems that they don’t understand how upset we the contributors are.

Perhaps they don’t care, they are big enough and have enough images on file to allow themselves to operate as normal even if a few contributors leave.

I will be another leaving and from talking to other photographers who contribute there I will not be alone.

If you can not trust your agency then you really have to make a stand. It’s a shame as I was a cheerleader for Alamy mainly because of the things they said they stood for but sadly they now seem to have decided to just roll over the contributors.

If only a proper agency run by photographers for photographers existed, I wonder how that would work?

Comment 38: Jessica, 14 March 2015, 09:42 PM

Alamy have explained why the contract changes were necessary and EPUK is making a mountain out of a molehill.

The biggest gripe seems to be that Alamy can grant re-use licences even after a photographer has terminated his contract. Well I fully understand Alamy’s position and its example of a book publisher wishing to produce a re-issue makes perfect sense. Would EPUK rather Alamy say to a large multinational publisher and longstanding customer “oh sorry, you’ll have to remove the image by photographer X because he’s left us”?

Can EPUK not see what effect this would have on Alamy’s relations with that customer? What if the re-issued book has already been printed and the publisher is wishing to pay for an extension. What should Alamy do then? Refuse to grant an extension on the one image that was removed but grant it on the others in the same book? Or maybe they should sue their good customer?

It seems that EPUK is full of old dinosaurs who cannot accept the changes in stock photography that have taken place in recent years. Many of its members speak of a “race to the bottom” as if the agencies are in a race to charge lower fees. Maybe they haven’t heard of competition in a free market. It’s not Alamy’s fault that licensing fees have dropped. They can only sell images for the going market rate; if they charge more, they’ll sell far fewer images and total revenues will fall.

Those photographers who have left or are leaving will have a negligible impact on Alamy’s sales so I wouldn’t think Alamy will be very concerned. The vast majority of Alamy’s other contributors will be completely unaware of this brouhaha and will continue to contribute and to grow the supply of images. And, no Alamy won’t be left only with a lot of rubbish amateurs as some EPUKers naively believe. I, for one, will certainly not be leaving.

Comment 39: Alex, 19 March 2015, 12:00 PM

Photographers who have left Alamy have no more interest in Alamy’s relationship with its customers as they do in any other business that is not representing their work.

Yes, Alamy should say that photographer has left and tell the client that it will have to approach the photographer directly if it wants to relicence a previously used image, Alamy could have course add “but we do have these similar images …” Alternatively Alamy could ask the photographer for permission and to ensure they can pay the photographer for that reuse – it is not clear, but I need to reread the contract again, how, or indeed whether, the photographer gets paid for that post termination reuse.

If the photographer is not paid, and Alamy cannot be sure it will have current contact details, then they will be at risk of creating a possible infringement. It could create a lot of due diligence work for Alamy seeking out former contributions in such circumstances.

If the publisher has gone ahead and printed the book without having licence in places then more fool them. It would then be a retrospective relicence for an infringement – completely different ball game.

As things stand the photographer is giving up control of their images if Alamy can (re)licence them after the photographer has left for whatever reason. Imagine a divorce where one’s ex could insist on using your home because you had bought it together.

Comment 40: Martin, 19 March 2015, 12:22 PM

@Alex. I don’t have a dog in this fight, have never had any images with Alamy nor any other agent, but I am afraid it’s you who are being naive.

The past 15 years have seen the stock industry ruin itself c/o predatory acquisitions, attempting to undercut competitors in pursuit of market share, promoting subscription models that were supposed to work for agencies and clients but without regard for photographers.

This is not an outcome of a ‘free market’ so much as pursuit of short term gains by corporations at the cost of long term sustainability. Commoditisation and monopsony in pursuit of monopoly. With negligible marginal costs of sales, the agent doesn’t care whether they sell 1 image at £1,000, 10 at £100, or 1000@£1. If they think they can sell 1,100 at £1, that’s a gain for them. But ROI for the photographer is destroyed.

Inevitably, professional suppliers cannot continue to supply as returns fall below their cost of production. They withdraw and adapt else go extinct, and that is what you are seeing here so I think you have your dinosaurs muddled with your mammals. This loss of viable ecosystem ensures the stock business will end up only supplied by flighty non-professionals with incomes from elsewhere.

Most absurdly, it hasn’t worked out well even for the agencies, all of whom are in trouble with the possible exception, for now, of Shutterstock. They’re becoming vast stale oceans of non-exclusive cliché, differentiated only by price plans.

The trend, not unsurprisingly is to try and have the cake and eat it too. Agencies, like rights-grabbing publishers, know perfectly well that owned content is far better for their bottom line. But paying photographers to create owned content is now too expensive, given the pricing models the agents have pursued. So changing contract terms to take a bigger slice of cake has become fashionable.

These Alamy changes are just another step down the same staircase, but what has concentrated peoples’ minds is that it’s a last chance to jump off with full ownership and control of your work intact. After 1 April, that is gone.

If you don’t see this as a race to the bottom by men in suits, that’s fine. EPUK doesn’t claim infallible vision in fog. But none of this is personal, it’s business. I am sure you’re correct it won’t dent Alamy at all. Nobody is trying to dent Alamy, just hoping to persuade them to re-think. And if that’s not possible, to jump and save themselves.

Comment 41: Tony SLeep, 19 March 2015, 03:47 PM

Spot on.

Comment 42: Martin, 19 March 2015, 04:24 PM

I gave up on them recently. I don’t care their low sale volume. I contribute to other agencies that pay my bills. Alamy fit perfectly in my workflow and when the miracle of a sale happens the 50% is nice. My problem is that in the last 3 to 4 months they are radically rejecting all batches when they find a pic that doesn’t meet their QC. E.g I submit 12 batches with different dates, if they find a pic with problems they reject all 12 batches. I find this a disrespectul attitude toward photographers.
Their reply to my complaint with a template-like email reading like this: keep trying and don’t get discourage because we don’t have time to check every batch.
I am sorry but my time is money…and you are not my main course!

For more read: http://yelo34.blogspot.com/2015/11/alamy-response-to-rejections-complaints.html

Comment 43: Roberto Machado Noa, 28 November 2015, 12:06 PM

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