Posts Tagged ‘photographers’

Selling Your Images

January 2nd, 2013

A Happy New Year to you!

We’re always looking for new outlets to which to sell fotoLibra members’ images, and between Christmas and the New Year we had a very interesting meeting with an extremely high-powered yet friendly executive who lives close by fotoLibra’s Hertfordshire office.

There is a vast European educational and public sector out there which is largely untapped by normal picture libraries because like most organisations funded with public money, Accountability & Transparency in Procurement are their watchwords. This inevitably means routes to market are not so much Jude The Obscure as Jude The Invisible — there is no way a company such as ours can ring up a representative from one of these monolithic organisations and mutter “pssst! wanna buy some images?” We couldn’t even find out who to talk to.

Everything has to take place through bureaucratic procurement procedures, grim, inflexible ordeals which are less concerned about the quality, range and variety of the images we have to offer than discovering the number of ethnic Welsh people we employ and our policy towards recycling hard disks.

By the simple expedient of not paying taxes, global corporations can afford to employ the sort of people who love ticking all these boxes, so they get flooded with grants, incentives and bonuses as well as three-yearly contracts to be exclusive coffee and image suppliers to the Ruritarian Public Affairs Ministry.

We struggle on. Thanks to our executive friend, we now have at least an inkling of the riches lying out there, just beyond our reach at the moment. But we have more contacts who understand this world far better than our simple viewpoint, and we believe they may be prepared to help us.

Like every other picture library, our sales have fallen over the past three or four years, and we are doing everything in our power to restore lost revenue and explore new possibilities. If our photographers aren’t making money, we’re not making money, so we need to find out about these overseas procurement procedures fast. Even so, our friend warned us “Don’t expect anything to happen for three years. This is the world of bureaucracy, after all.”

We went on to the website of one of these organisations and found this rather good and clearly explained guide to copyright for picture users in the EU. I should point out that this was discovered on the English-language subset of a foreign-language quango’s website:

Information for image users

    When will you have dealings with us? Virtually every publication, every website and every television programme uses images. Copyright law stipulates that the author’s permission is required for this. That permission is usually linked to a financial payment: image creators must, after all, live on the income from their creative labours. 
Apart from a couple of exceptions, publishers and producers are obliged to trace the creators of the images in order to ask permission for publication. The fact that this is not always easy does not detract from this obligation. Our agency enables the user to arrange this effectively in advance. Over 50,000 image creators both in this country and abroad are registered with us and we issue licences on their behalf. Our rates are harmonised with sister organisations abroad. Our agency arranges permission for publication.


    Asking permission is compulsory
 Users are often confused as to what they can and cannot do under copyright law. The golden rule is: anyone who wants to publish someone else’s image must ask permission for this from the creator or their heirs. This obligation only lapses 70 years after the death of the artist. Hence the work of Rembrandt is rights-free, but that of Picasso is not. Anyone who publishes a picture of a painting by Picasso in a book or leaflet without permission runs the risk of having to pay damages.

That’s nice and clear and straightforward.

Not every government announcement has to be draped in the cobwebs of obscurity. And this was English as a foreign language. I wish I could write as clearly. I think we could work with these people.

Printed books are zero-rated for VAT in the UK. Ebooks are taxed at 20%.

Publishers have taken a softly-softly approach to VAT on ebooks, fearful that if they kick up too much of a fuss the Government will awaken to the fact that printed books are presently zero-rated and slap 20% on them overnight.

Such a move would decimate the British publishing industry — and by extension picture libraries, photographers and all the industry’s ancillary suppliers would take a huge hit. It’s therefore unlikely to happen, but who can predict what a politician may take into his head to do.

City law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner has announced on its website:

VAT treatment of ebooks – The firm is taking a groundbreaking case challenging HMRC’s view that ebooks are standard-rated for VAT purposes, in contrast with physical books which are zero-rated.”

Hard-nosed commercial firms like BLP do not take cases on pro bono, or challenge national or international law simply for the greater good. Therefore they’re doing this for one of their clients, and that client will have deep, deep pockets.

Who can it be? Who will benefit?

Well, the consumer will benefit if prices fall by 20% (they won’t). Publishers will benefit from a boost in sales.

But by far the biggest beneficiaries will be the retailers. Apple sells ebooks. Tesco sells ebooks. They will both see a hike in profits. BLP numbers Apple and Tesco among its gilt-edged list of clients.

Our digital publishing company Heritage Ebooks sells 50 illustrated ebooks from its site for every one ebook sold by the rest of the UK’s ebook sales outlets — Waterstones, Foyles, Tescos and so on — put together.

And for every one of our ebooks that we sell from our site, Amazon will sell twelve from theirs.

It is disproportionately huge. OK, so we’re tiddlers, microbes even, but I expect the proportions are similar whatever you publish.

Amazon has been subject to much opprobrium and contumely for selling ebooks to UK customers and charging the full 20% VAT while taking advantage of the 3% VAT they pay as a company based in Luxembourg. Like Starbucks, Macdonalds and KFC, large American companies have an aversion to paying their fair share of tax in Europe, and as their lawyers and accountants are sharper than ours, they can get away with it.

And now some organisation, through BLP, is challenging HMRC’s ruling on the grounds that charging different rates of VAT on print books and ebooks breaches EU law on fiscal neutrality.

Come on, this has to be Amazon. Who else could afford such a suit? And who else would profit more?

Amazon charge us, the publisher, for the bandwidth used when a customer buys and downloads a Heritage Ebook from them. Because our ebooks are highly illustrated, they have large filesizes and therefore incur high bandwidth usage fees. And because one or two books are downloaded via 3G rather than broadband, Amazon charges us across the board at mobile phone companies’ bandwidth fees.

The result is that for two of our titles, we are losing 10p on every sale made through Amazon because of their charges. Amazon are thereby forcing us to raise our prices.

And I thought their intention was to drive prices down.

 

 

 

If we were astonished when we heard BAPLA’s plans to go into business on Tuesday, we were grateful and even more astonished by the overwhelming flood of support from so many people to our last blog posting.

Simon Cliffe, the BAPLA Director, used the fotoLibra blog to post his refutation of our complaints, happily writing “The great thing about blogs is that you get an opportunity to respond, which is what I’m doing now.”

He subsequently posted an intemperate attack on fotoLibra on the BAPLA site, accusing us of posting

“a blog that was full of misconceptions that led to many inaccurate statements. Due to the potentially destructive and libellous accusations, BAPLA is forced to respond to reassure members and the industry that fotoLibra is completely mistaken in its perception of BAPLA’s future plans.”

Destructive? Libellous? The great thing about a closed website like BAPLA is that no one gets an opportunity to respond. So we can’t comment on what Simon wrote in the way that Simon could on our blog. We have to reply here.

We are not remotely worried by the sale of mugs and mousemats. That’s an irrelevant diversion. What concerns us is, as we wrote in Wednesday’s blog, is that

“The BAPLA Academy will be directly competing for the subscriptions of the same photographers who supply fotoLibra with its top images. The same graduates, keen amateurs, semi-pros, wedding and studio photographers we work hard to attract, encourage and foster. It’s not about print and mousemat sales versus rights sales, it’s about diverting a body of good, keen and potentially great photographers to ally with BAPLA rather than fotoLibra. That’s not BAPLA’s remit.”

Yet Simon missed that. He writes

“This is the only part of the BAPLA Academy which they seem to have registered; the sale of prints to the public.”

That doesn’t concern us in the least, Simon. We’ve already said that.

What truly concerns us is this: The public purse is only so deep. Who is going to want pay a subscription to fotoLibra as well as to BAPLA? You don’t buy Nike and Reebok, you buy one or the other.

We agreed with Simon at the AGM that we would meet up to discuss this when he returned from his holiday. We’re still expecting to. As we wrote on Wednesday:

“But if they’re determined to do it, then they should talk to us — once we’ve overcome our horror and dismay. We are better placed than any other organisation to help them.”

So Simon posted (on our blog):

“I have agreed a deal with our commercial partners who under my instruction, are getting the project up and running (including full market research), promoting the project and managing the project going forward.”

So it’s a fait accompli. Our participation, advice, help, whatever will clearly not be required. We don’t know who these commercial partners are, or what experience they have in setting up, maintaining and growing a subscription-based roster of photographers.

What is a Trade Association for, if not to listen to and act on behalf of its members? We’re astounded by a move that threatens our livelihood, and our own trade association — to whom we pay subscriptions which presumably go to fund their ‘commercial partners’ — responds to our justifiable concerns by describing them as “destructive and libellous”.

Is that supportive?