08 Jun 2015 Understanding Exclusivity in Stock Photography

The term ‘exclusivity’ means different things in different parts of the stock photo industry.  Knowing those meanings is crucial to understanding the context of different topics and conversations.

Let’s take a look.

Exclusivity in Rights Managed

With few exceptions, all images are exclusive to the distributor for RM licenses.  This enables the distributor to negotiate usage based on industry, geography and time, using a full history of the images’ usage.

Exclusivity in Traditional Royalty Free

Image exclusivity is almost always a contract requirement in traditional RF.

It’s functionality was thought to overcome duplication when agencies are distributing to other agencies, thought with so many levels of re-distribution this isn’t always successful.

Image Exclusivity in Microstock

Image exclusivity is an option of making one individual image exclusive to a single agency in microstock.  It’s only offered by a few microstock agencies, most prominently Fotolia and Dreamstime.

The benefits are typically increased royalties, an option to increase the price, and sometimes also a search boost.

Royalty Free Exclusivity in Microstock

RF exclusivity, sometimes known as “full exclusivity”, means the contributor (photographer/illustrator or company) can only license RF images at that agency. It is a relatively new concept that doesn’t exist in the traditional market. It was introduced by iStock, and right now it’s only available in only three other companies: Fotolia, Dreamstime and Depositphotos.

This deal excludes other license types like RM, CC, public domain or custom use license.

  • Jon Yau
    Posted at 10:47h, 09 June Reply

    In your experience, are there generally streams or defined ‘paths’ that photographers follow? Do photographers start in one and graduate to another or even span? Is remuneration the sole driver?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 14:52h, 09 June Reply

      With a minimal quantity of exceptions aside, I think the bulk of RF exclusivity was held by iStock during their peak times, and the exclusives were in it more for the cult than the money, though many also believed (probably correctly at the time) that they were making more money by being exclusive. Remuneration is rarely the sole driver, except maybe in Yuri’s case.

  • Les Howard
    Posted at 15:50h, 09 June Reply

    Aren’t all images on Stocksy exclusive?

    • Lee Torrens
      Posted at 00:20h, 10 June Reply

      Yes, that’s image exclusivity. The go a little to specify that they don’t like “sister images” being sold elsewhere, like saying its “shoot exclusivity”, but it’s really the same thing as the exclusivity in traditional RF – they don’t like you selling sister images elsewhere either.

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