|Front Page News
Corporate Stock Photography:
Is it a Failure?
By Dale O’Dell
Lately my mailbox has been stuffed with correspondence from Super Stock. They're bankrupt and the letters are from their attorneys informing me of legal proceedings regarding liquidation and the possible sale to another stock photography company. This is yet another chapter in the spectacular failure of corporate stock photography.
It hasn't worked out so well. Remember all the great things that Getty was going to facilitate and how they were going to be the "industry leader?" Great things never happened.
They were in such peril last year they found themselves for sale. Now they're going to acquire Jupiter Media. Jupiter Media had previously acquired Comstock.
Are you keeping this straight? And then there is Corbis, Bill Gates' privately held stock company. As far as I know Corbis has never turned a profit and they totally destroyed every agency they acquired like West Light and The Stock Market.
Now Super Stock is belly-up. When the A21 Group acquired Florida-based Super Stock a few years ago great things were promised and, as usual, none of them came to fruition and now they're broke. What's so funny (the whole scenario is laughable) is just how rotten the Super Stock failure is for photographers.
Although they declared bankruptcy on December 4, 2008, Super Stock is still doing business as of January 2009. Their website is up and running and photos can be licensed. On December 12,2008, I received a letter from Super Stock informing me that all royalties earned prior to December 3 would be distributed in amounts determined by the court.
That means as a contributing photographer my royalties are classified as "unsecured debt" and I won't see a dime. The letter also stated that royalties earned after December 4 would be paid in full in about 120 days. Yeah, right.
In January I called Super Stock as a client and inquired about licensing an image. The image was available and the salesperson was ready to close the deal. When I asked about their bankruptcy I was assured it was "not a problem." (How does a company that will not exist in the near future enforce any license agreement?)
I also asked if the photographer would be paid for his portion of the image license and she assured me the photographer would be paid.
Again, yeah, right. Does anyone in their right mind think they're going to be paid an "unsecured" amount by a bankrupt company six months after the sale? That letter with its promise of payment is meaningless. After liquidation of assets there won't be any money left to pay contributing photographers.
Finally, to add insult to injury, I received an email telling me if I wanted my originals back I could pay Super Stock fifty dollars for their return! So the company is bankrupt but still licensing images, photographers are promised payment but won't receive it, and it'll cost fifty bucks to get originals back. Does the term unethical business practices apply here?
When these corporate wizards started buying up stock photo agencies in the 1990s they saw an industry where: 1) they get the "product" for free from photographers, 2) they can set the price at whatever they want and 3) they can remit as little as possible to the photographer and they still failed.
What's confusing and amusing is the conventional wisdom that photographers are not good businesspeople; yet when actual MBA-type businesspeople got into the stock photography business they screwed-up, as evidenced by another bankruptcy. The big-box corporate stock industry is a demonstrated failure. Perhaps it's time for photographers to retake our industry and run it right?
Dale O'Dell is a regular contributor to PhotoStockNotes. He produces cyber-generated stock photography from his studio in Prescott, Arizona. Email: HYPERLINK "mailto:email@example.com;VF"firstname.lastname@example.org;VF Phone: 1 928 541-0944; Fax: 1 928 541-0957; Web: http://www.dalephoto.com
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
* PhotoDistrict News announcement: Bankrupt SuperStock Sold to Three Other Photo Agencies - Three photographer-owned stock agencies outbid Masterfile in an auction of the assets of bankrupt agency SuperStock. Blend, Glow Images and RubberBall, in a joint venture called RGB, won the auction with a bid of $2.825 million, Blend CEO Rick Becker-Leckrone says. There will be some changes but the new owners will keep SuperStock in business.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
From the parent company website ( http://www.a21group.com/ ): Ingram Image Limited, a company incorporated in England and Wales, was the winning bidder for the shares of SuperStock, Ltd. Ingram Image Limited will pay $50,000 for the shares of SuperStock, Ltd.