by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

fotoLibra promises to pay our contributors within 30 days of receipt of payment. But there’s a big difference between selling a picture and getting paid for it.

On June 17 last year a London council got in touch to say that they were looking to purchase an image from us. They asked us to please fill in an attached Supplier Form so they could set us up on their finance system.

We filled in the form and sent it back to them the same day.

On April 24 this year the council got back in touch, saying “We are finally ready to purchase an image for our new museum.  As soon as we have your quote I will raise the purchase order.”

We confirmed the price quote the same day.

On April 29 the council wrote “We’re having a few finance issues but hopefully we’ll get them sorted soon and send you a purchase order.”

The purchase order arrived on May 8 and the image was immediately supplied to them.

We invoiced the council on May 18. They got in touch to say the invoice had been forwarded to the accounts department “who can take up to 30 days to make payment.”

On July 21 — 57 days later — we chased them for payment. “Sorry for the delay, I’ve chased it up for you,” was the reply.

On August 27 we chased them again.

There was no reply till September 2, when we were told “Finance are claiming it is not their fault, but a problem with the finance software. So I am chasing the people who run the software. Sorry for the late payment.”

The same day our purchaser got in touch again to say “Apparently I need to raise a new purchase order as the last one was incorrect. There’s no need for you to create a new invoice.”

Again on September 5 she wrote “The new purchase order should be approved on Monday. No need to invoice again.”

On September 22 we sent a copy of our statement to the payments address.

On September 30 we wrote to them saying: “We still haven’t seen any payment. Please give us a contact in your finance department.”

Immediate auto response: “I no longer work for ***** Council. Please resend email to blah blah blah.” The email was resent.

5 October: We sent a statement of overdue account.

No reply.

On October 20 a physical letter was posted to the Finance Department quoting both purchase orders, the invoice number, a copy invoice and description of the work.

No reaction.

On November 3 at 13:20 we contacted the Finance Department and the Purchasing Department to ask why we had received no reply to our emails or letter. “Unless we receive payment of £*** within 15 days we will initiate court proceedings against you,” we suggested.

A reply came from the purchasing department at 15:43. ” Very sorry, please accept our apologies. We are unable to forward your invoice to our Finance Department as they can only process invoices they receive from you directly. Please forward your invoice to the Finance Department at this address” [giving us an address we’d never seen before].

So we sent the invoice to the new address quoting both purchase orders, the original and the new one.

BIG mistake.

On November 5 we had an email printed in red. “Invoice rejected for payment due to insufficient information. Purchase Order Number not present, not clear or invalid.”

We immediately sent a revised invoice quoting only the second Purchase Order Number.

They responded on November 16. “Due to the time relapse [sic] could I re-audit your bank account details. Can you provide details on letterhead signed by person in authority in PDF format. [no question marks]

This was sent 3 minutes later.

On November 17 they replied “I have audited your account and removed the payment hold. Your invoice should be selected in the next payment run. This should be tomorrow, so the payment should be with you by next Monday.”

That’s Monday November 23rd.

Our breath is bated.


Welsh Government Grants

September 2nd, 2015

We’ve just been asked by the Welsh Government, as a recipient of a Welsh Government grant between April 2012 – 2015, to fill in a survey.

The survey wanted to know our experience of receiving Welsh Government grants and the support services around that.

Fine, but we haven’t actually received a Welsh Government grant for over ten years. The last time we applied, in 2013, this is what happened:

We were promised a grant by the Welsh Government towards a conference and exhibition in Berlin. Fortified by the promise, we booked the conference. When we returned we filled in our documentation, and we were then informed precisely how much we were going to be awarded in grant aid towards our costs.

However when it came to paying out the promised grant aid, the Welsh Government saw that we had booked half-price airline tickets just before the grant had had final approval. If we had waited we would have had to have paid more in air tickets than the grant covered. But this allowed the Welsh Government to renege on its promised grant.

So unless you’re a wealthy Chinese or Korean company who can afford to pay experts experienced in squeezing grant aid out of provincial governments, there’s no point in trying to apply for a government grant. Small businesses will never create bulk minimum wage jobs in order for civil servants to be able to tick boxes, so you’ll be pleased to know we won’t be wasting your time with any more such applications in the future, neither will we be wasting ours.

So that’s what we told them in their survey. I wonder if anyone will pay any attention?

A Note On A Vote

July 23rd, 2015

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

On our last blog A Little Help Here I asked friends of fotoLibra to contact their MEPs to ask them to vote against the clause in the Reda Report aimed at restricting the freedom of panorama — the ability of photographers to shoot what they want, where they want.

Always being one to practice what I preach, I wrote to our MEPs as well. One replied as follows:

First let me say that UKIP MEPs voted against this. Personally I intended to vote against it but had to leave the chamber before the vote actually happened. I am sorry that I was not able to add my vote to rejecting this but circumstances intervened.

I hope that this will help you decide how you will vote in the proposed referendum on EU membership and that you will decide to vote to leave.

I could have done without the last paragraph, even though many fotoLibra contributors seem eager to sever ties with the Continong.

So I replied as follows:

I’m sorry to hear you were unable to vote on the issue, but I am delighted that the Panorama amendment was defeated.

For small businesses like fotoLibra it is crucial that the European market is as free and open as it possibly can be, and I will vigorously support our continued membership and increased participation in an expanding European Union.

He answered:

I am pleased to know you will be voting to leave the EU in the referendum.

Hello? Where did that come from? Does no one read anything any more?


by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

As you all know, I am an extremely intelligent person, with a brain the size of an asteroid.

But even my great intellect has stalled when faced with the concept for a proposed bill to be placed in front of the European Parliament. So I need your help.

The bill, put as simply as possible, seeks to restrict the freedom of panorama in all EU countries. The freedom of panorama, which you may not know you already possess*, allows you to take a photograph in a public place. That’s basically it.

But in a corner of your photograph might be the Louvre Pyramid, the Angel of the North, the Kelpies, the Sagrada Familia, the Guggenheim Bilbao, the Atomium — some structure that someone, somewhere, has copyrighted. Under this proposed law, that will make it illegal for you to sell or share your photograph. Full stop.

What I can’t get my head round is — “Who Will This Benefit?”

Governments usually pass laws to benefit themselves or some noisy sector of the community. Occasionally they benefit the public as a whole. The only reason governments build roads is to collect taxes from the people living at the other end (OK, that’s cynical).

But I really cannot see who can benefit from this proposal. The owners of the Atomium? They might make a couple of euros from selling their own postcards. Yet at a stroke it will criminalise hundreds of thousands of innocent photographers. Is that a good idea?

Of course the law will be ignored and flouted everywhere except the UK, where it will doubtless be enforced with Draconian rigour. But the authorities can be as unpredictably vindictive as 14-year-old girls, and this is one more arrow for their quivers.

Île de France MEP Jean-Marie Cavada proposes to restrict the freedom of panorama in all EU countries, intending to limit the impact of “American monopolies such as Facebook and also Wikimedia” and serving to protect “a sector of European culture and creativity”.  fotoLibra contributor Catherine Ilsley writes “I can only conclude that his aim is to reduce EU regulations to the lowest common denominator. This is unacceptable in my opinion as it takes away established rights enjoyed in other countries.”   In the UK the freedom of panorama is permitted under section 62 of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988. The proposal was stapled to a motion tabled by German “Pirate Party” MEP Julia Reda and apparently was not at all what she had proposed.

Predictably, the UK media was outraged: “Now EU wants to BAN your photos of the London Eye and the Angel of the North!” screamed the Daily Express.

A letter in The Times last Friday, signed by luminaries of the British photographic world along with Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, strongly protested against the proposed legislation — “If such a measure is adopted in the future, most websites and most photographers would instantly become copyright infringers with any photo of any public space which features at least one structure designed by a person that is either alive, or died fewer than 70 years ago.

Nevertheless the European Parliament is voting on the proposal on July 9th. Please let your MEP know how you feel about this move, whether you are for or against it, and ask how you can find out how he or she voted. In case you don’t know who your local MEP is (I didn’t), here’s how to find out:

I’ve written to mine, and this is what I’ve said.

Dear MEP

On July 9th the European Parliament is voting on a bill to restrict the freedom of panorama —  the right to take photographs in a public place.

Effectively this will instantly criminalise hundreds of thousands of innocent photographers, from selfie seekers to the 40,000 members of fotoLibra, a picture library which gives photographers a platform from which to license their image rights.

It is hard to see who will benefit from this unnecessary piece of legislation; the vested interests run so deep they are invisible to the general public.

Please may I, on behalf of fotoLibra and its contributor photographers, ask you to oppose this legislation, which can serve no public good.

Many thanks for your attention.

Yours sincerely
Gwyn Headley
Managing Director, fotoLibra

Please don’t copy and paste my words because these systems reject identical letters, but feel free to adapt them in any way you want. Let the politicians know how you feel!

Catherine Ilsley says “I intend to write to Mr. Cavada and my local MEP about this. I have already signed the petition and shared it on my personal / photographic pages on Facebook and on LinkedIn. In addition to mailing fotoLibra, I also sent the petition to the BFP and another Europe-based stock library that I contribute to. Next up are UK-based photographic magazines. I would welcome any further ideas as I’m not sure that I can do any more at a personal level.

Let’s all make a fuss about this. This is a needless proposal which can only hinder the great majority of citizens.

Here’s an example. Under Belgian law the following image uploaded to fotoLibra by Chr•s B•k•r is illegal, so please look away now if you are in Brussels:



This is what they want you to see — an image of the Atomium on its Wikipedia page:

The Atomium as it appears on its Wikipedia page

The Atomium as it appears on its Wikipedia page

*unless you live in the jack-booted juntas of France or Belgium, which already have laws which drastically curtail the freedom of panorama.

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

The pulchritudinous chanteuse Taylor Swift attracted plaudits this week for defying the might of Apple, the world’s most profitable company.

She wrote “We don’t ask you for free iPhones. Please don’t ask us to provide you with our music for no compensation” (during Apple Music’s three-month trial period).

Her whole piece was packed with praise for Apple, but she resolutely made her point, and it worked — Apple backed down and will now pay artists during the initial trial.

Well done Taylor. The labourer is worthy of his hire. People need to be paid for their work. fotoLibra jumps on any and every attempt we see by corporations to dodge paying photographers their rightful fees.

Taylor Swift doesn’t need to pay photographers, apart from organised photo shoots, obviously. But we can’t help but notice the draconian conditions imposed by Ms Swift’s promoters on photographers who attend her concerts. Here are some extracts from her photographer’s contract (my emboldening):

“The photographs, taken in accordance with Paragraph 1 may be used on a one time only basis.
“You and/or your employer will be responsible for all costs related to the rights granted in this Authorisation.
“On behalf of yourself and the publication you expressly grant the perpetual worldwide rights to use the published Photographs for any non-commercial purposes (in all media and formats), including but not limited to publicity and promotion on their websites and/or social media accounts or pages.
“If you or the publication breach this Authorisation, all rights are granted herein will be immediately and automatically rescinded.
“If you fail to fully comply with this authorisation, authorised agents [of Taylor Swift] may confiscate and/or destroy the technology or devices that contain the masterfiles of the Photographs and other images, including, but not limited to, cell phones and memory cards, and the Photographs and any other images, and eject you from the venue, in addition.”

Ah, bless!

How To Be Cool

April 29th, 2015

by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Last Thursday fotoLibra exhibited at fotoFringe at London’s King’s Cross. fotoFringe is the leading picture buyers’ expo in the UK, now that BAPLA has relinquished the Picture Buyers’ Fair after losing half its members to the recession. Over a hundred picture libraries exhibited.

We only had four definite appointments booked, relying on a lot of passing trade and the fact that we were offering a huge bar of chocolate in exchange for business cards.

None of our four scheduled appointments showed up.

It would not be an exaggeration to say we were disappointed. But the following day we were pleasantly surprised to see that Photo Archive News report’s lead image featured Yours Truly in full flow with a bemused picture buyer.

However one drop-by meeting came with an interesting story. Julian Jackson, a writer and PR for green and technology businesses, recently blogged about an academic study at the University of Minnesota funded by the National Press Photographers Association (NPPA), an American professional photographers’ organisation, which showed that professional photos create much more of an impact on readers than amateur ones. They used eyetracking to get an objective measure of how long 52 people looked at photographs from newspapers and news organisations. They discovered that professionally taken photographs scored a surprising 90% more ‘eyeballs’.

Meanwhile fotoLibra’s Yvonne Seeley told me that a couple of times last week picture buyers had muttered something along the lines of “wurra wurra wanna instagrammy sorta pickcher like, wurra, innit, yoknoworramean, like.”

This is not to decry the educational achievements of picture editors, all of whom appear to have double firsts in Art History, but rather to express their embarrassment in having to ask for “poorer-quality-style” images (albeit still at 300 ppi) in order to try and attract a younger audience.

We all know about level horizons, fill-in flash, f-stop effects, exposure — but some buyers are now actively searching for converging verticals, lens flare, focus failure, in a tragic effort to capture teen spirit.

It’s doomed. As an old fart, I can tell them. I remember very clearly being a teen, and one of the things that stands out in my memory is our instant group ability to spot (and laugh at) a fake. There is nothing an elderly 25 year old could write, say or do to make us believe he or she was 18 like us. It was sad, the way they tried to be cool, to ingratiate themselves with us.

They couldn’t take our pictures. We’d know right away. And we’d pity them.

And now it seems they were barking up the wrong tree anyway, because professionally taken pictures really do attract more attention.

Don’t pretend to be cool. Do your own thing, and be cool in your own way.


by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

… we hope?

If you’re a Picture Editor, that is — at fotoFringe 2015.



by Gwyn Headley

Managing Director

Don’t you just hate it when the phone rings with the number “WITHHELD” and a disembodied voice (which certainly hadn’t learned English at its mother’s knee) disinterestedly interrogates you about your most intimate personal details before deigning to reveal that all they wanted to talk about was the state of your massive overdraft, which is the last thing you want to discuss?

Well I do. And what makes it even more annoying is that the traffic is always only one way. You can’t call THEM and interrogate them.

Have you noticed that broadband download speed (i.e. people selling things to you) is ten times as fast as broadband upload speed (i.e. you trying to sell your images to people)?

You can’t write to Them, either. At least I can’t. I was being unjustly bullied by a bank so I wrote to them and explained the situation. Four times. My letters were ignored. So I wrote to the Big Kahuna who at least had the grace to respond, get the situation sorted and pay me a minuscule fee in compensation before being led away in handcuffs for perpetrating financial crimes immeasurable to man.

And what has this to do with fotoLibra? Well, this morning a City firm — not a behemoth, but a known name — wanted to buy an image from us.

Let’s call the buyer Rhiannon. She finds an image she likes for a project, then finds she has to register with fotoLibra in order to buy it. Offhand I can’t think of any website that allows you to buy without asking for some form of registration.

So Rhiannon dutifully fills in our simple form and submits it.

Nothing happens.

She tries to register again. Still nothing.

Eventually she rings us up. We explain that she has to click her verification email to prove that she is who she is.

“What verification email?” She never got her verification email.

She went away to find out why. And quickly came back with the reason. Rhiannon’s coders had blocked our verification email because they had never heard of fotoLibra.com. So our confirmatory message — which she had requested — was arbitrarily dumped.

So we had to sell the picture to Rhiannon manually.

Only emails from FTSE 100 companies, Amazon, Microsoft, and other megalithic businesses appear to be allowed through. What we have to say is clearly not of interest. What hope is there for the smaller company?

We are being coded out of the marketplace.

How It Works

February 2nd, 2015

If fotoLibra is informed of any unauthorised usage of a fotoLibra image by a UK limited company we will immediately follow it up with a demand for payment. If that isn’t successful, and the image belongs to one of our Pro or Platinum contributors, we will institute court proceedings.

Getty Images allow bloggers to use their 30 million images for free. We will not pursue bloggers who use watermarked fotoLibra images, but we will send a request for them to link to the original Preview image on fotoLibra.

However, the commonest misuse of watermarked images from fotoLibra is by aggregation sites.  The Internet is a wondrous thing, God wot, and sometimes it will do things without reference to any human agency. Someone with a name like Dave Spart in NYC has created an aggregation site to generate stories. Its sole raison d’être is to attract humans to click on a link. That is all it does, and all it wants to do. As a result Mr Spart is now a billionaire.

What his app does is borrow, steal or create a story, usually in pictures, which then has a compelling headline added, so people are enticed to click and read it. The Mail Online loves using these. Spart then charges his advertisers per click. And he is very successful at attracting advertisers.

You’ve all seen what I mean: You’ll Never Believe What This Teenage Mom Found In Her Attic! or Awesome Landscape Photos Show Terrifying Effects Of Nature; 23 Fruits And Veggies That Practically No One Knew Existed. #5 Is Trippin’ Me Out or This Pilot Stuck His Camera Out The Window And What He Captured Will Blow Your Mind. You know the sort of thing. They Cannot Help Capitalising Every Word. And It Clearly Doesn’t Take Much To Blow A Typical Punter’s Mind.

One of the biggest click stories recently was based on a book titled “What I Eat” by Faith D’Aluisio and Peter Menzel. The writer and photographer spent four years and a million dollars researching, writing and photographing the book.  It was concentrated into 20 images online, headed with catchlines like “What People Eat Around The World”, “See The Incredible Differences In The Daily Food Intake Of People Around The World” and “80 People, 30 Countries And How Much They Eat On A Daily Basis.” Spart probably made a fortune from the feature. No payment — or even credit — was made to D’Aluisio and Menzel.

Is this fair? No.

Will it be stopped? No.

Will D’Aluisio and Menzel be compensated? No.

Will Spart get richer? Yes.

Will fotoLibra pursue unauthorised image usage on our contributors’ behalf? Yes, under the terms we have described above.

Will we sue Mr Spart? No. He’s in the US, and he’s richer than us. And he is probably unaware his site is using any of our images … if it is.

I’ve never found any of our watermarked images on his site.

But I’m still annoyed!