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?


Add your comment


6 Responses to “BAPLA’s response to our complaint”

  1. Rob Wilson says:

    well not a surprise Gwyn !!

    the fact that they want a create a channel to market
    and they are obviously going to conflict with their Library Members is to be clarified ..

    If it is the intent then they will compromise member enrollment completely

    if they want an Training and Best Practice academy then set one up : with that as the specific scope
    but leave the consequent sale and license purchase / sale of actual photos from the INDIVIDUAL photographers who deal then directly with the libraries ..

    not become a broker for them ?

    in fact why not invite the Picture Libraries to be the broker channel …. ?

    I think BAPLA’s current announcement will muddy the waters to no ones benefit



  2. Gwyn Headley says:

    I have to make a correction here — the article on the BAPLA website was posted anonymously and I assumed it was written by Simon Cliffe, the Director of BAPLA. In fact it was by Paul Brown, the Chairman of BAPLA. I’ve just had a very long telephone conversation with him and at the moment we’re both in the right. I can’t understand his point and he can’t understand mine. I like and respect Paul, and I’m sure we’ll sort this out in good time, but I remain deeply concerned by BAPLA’s plans, not least because I know how much it costs to set up a system such as they are planning. It’s quite cheap. But getting one that works properly and efficiently is monstrously expensive.

  3. Julia Rich says:

    I would be most interested to see Simon Cliffe’s / BAPLA’s definition of “ethical”. Possibly it runs along the lines of the definitions he seems to understand of “libellous” and “destructive”. Perhaps fotolibra might like to test the waters of selling jigsaws, mugs and mousemats???

  4. Ian Murray says:

    Doesn’t this amount to a worry that your members might not be able to afford to pay both your subscription and one to Bapla? If so, this would seem to illuminate your business plan rather clearly to be more reliant on contributor subscriptions rather than from fees from image licensing. If you were making good money for your members, sufficient to cover their subscription to you, why would you care less what they spend their money on?

    Bapla will not be competing with you as a stock agency. If you were running a successful stock agency you wouldn’t need to worry.

  5. Erik Strodl says:

    Do they think fotolibra members will defect to the other side…..not a chance!

  6. C.B.Osborne says:

    Although clearly fotoLibra has a loyal following, I think its reaction to the BAPLA `academy` is rather hysterical. FotoLibra does not have a `hold` on what others may decide to do. Competition is free, but if they believe their `intellectual property rights` have been compromised, then they should resign from, and take legal action, against BAPLA. On the other hand, it does strike me as mighty strange that BAPLA is setting up this new model when it is the voice of picture stock libraries. There would seem to be a conflict of interests here. But your own (FotoLibra comment) “The BAPLA Academy will be directly competing for the subscriptions of the same photographers who supply fotoLibra with its top images”
    again shows you are indignant that someone else should be seen to launch competition. Anyone in the picture industry is `more or less` in competition with others, whether they are a subscriptions-based outfit or another. As above, competition is perfectly legal in a free market economy and what fotoLibra should do, is to calm down. You have the advantage of I believe you said 7 years expertise and it may well be that the `academy` doesn`t even get off the ground. I can`t believe BAPLA members would have agreed to such a plan, it seems like grabbing at straws. I further did not care for the BAPLA insinuation re. the age-groups likely to relate to the new idea: 65 + (see 44. comment) and `mugs and mousemats` is a little insulting… I run a specialist stock library but resigned from BAPLA nearly 12 months ago because I felt its fee structure was excessive for a small business compared to the giants, like Getty, who are really killing the competition, along with photographers selling to microstock sites. In fact I wrote a short piece about the malaise within the picture stock industry before I read all this on fotoLibra on return from Sydney last week. If anyone should be interested, the url is: http://christinebosborne.blogspot.com