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Suffering in Seattle

13 May 2001 - EPUK

A bad week for Getty Images: Photographers picket Getty HQ…SAA blast Getty contract as “not in any photographer’s best interests”...Getty sorry for “obscene” PhotoDisc advert…ASMP thinks Getty contract could be a “con”

It’s been a bad week for Getty Images, the world’s largest picture agency. Rumblings against the company’s proposed new photographer’s contract burst into the open at the beginning of the week with the publication of an analysis of the document by lawyers retained by the StockArtistsAlliance, a group of more than 500 Getty photographers.

The SAA condemned the contract as “not in any photographer’s best interests”, and their lawyers described it as possibly in violation of both US and international law.

On Tuesday May 8 the row surfaced at Getty’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Seattle, when a number of photographers holding stock in the company peppered Getty CEO Jonathan Klein with questions relating to photographers’ concerns. Among other questions, they asked about Getty’s unfair treatment of photographers as reflected in Getty Images’ new contract and the effect this would have on Getty Images’ stock value in the future. After the public meeting, Klein invited the photographers upstairs to a conference room for a little more than an hour of negotiations.

During the meeting, security officers were dispatched to the street below to break-up an impromptu demonstration as a handful of Seattle-area photographers picketed in front of the Getty Images headquarters. The guards demanded that the photographers with the placards move across the street, but the photographers held their ground, responding that they were on a public sidewalk. They continued their demonstration and the guards retreated.

Later in the week Getty found themselves forced to apologise for an advert placed in the German magazine Visuell by PhotoDisc, a Getty company. The advert, branded “crude, in bad taste, insensitive, obscene and offensive” by photographers and “unacceptable” by Getty themselves, featured a photograph of two women which had been defaced, and the invitation to Getty clients to “do what you want to our pictures”.

On Friday the contract row intensified as the American Society of Media Photographers weighed in with their interpretation of the proposed contract. The ASMP has been criticised by US photographers in the past for perceived weakness, but Executive Director Richard Weisgrau pulled no punches in describing the contract, branding it “offensive, insulting, unfair, unreasonable, guileful”. With an eye on the American legal system Weisgrau added “if it were not a legal document, drafted by attorneys, we would call it a ‘con.’ ”

Photographers incensed by Getty’s approach to contract negotiations have announced a new initiative “DROP A LINE TO KLEIN”, where photographers world-wide are invited to send a postcard to CEO Jonathan Klein. The campaign is reminiscent of that mounted over a year ago by photographers opposed to the proposed Corbis contract of the time. Organisers say they would like “every photographer in the world to protest Getty’s ‘non-negotiable’ posture”.

To do so, mail a postcard addressed to…
Jonathan Klein
Getty Images Inc
701 N.34th Street
Washington 98103
In the message area please write, “Negotiate Now,” or the civilized message of your choice, and sign your name.

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