It is hard to debate the decline in licensing fees over the past decade. We have seen a number contracts asking for the right to use a photographer’s image on multiple platforms for one flat fee, particularly in the editorial world. This combined with the democratization of our industry and a large number of young professionals not understanding what licensing or re-licensing is, has created an increasingly difficult atmosphere for licensing.
When reading the above it may seem like the idea of licensing is dead, or a concept not important in terms of the future of our industry, yet nothing could be farther from the truth. A large number of professionals make a substantive part of their living from licensing and re-licensing their images. It is a large and vital part of our industry. While I am the first to say that we need to adapt to the changing business environment, but that does not mean turning our backs on a successful business model that continues to work for so many. Nor does it mean that we should ask for less from our clients and succumb to the mental malaise that has overtaken much of our industry.
As professional organizations and as individuals we need to work together to keep the licensing model vital. To that end must educate younger photographers on how to license their work and the benefits thereof. We must also reach out and participate in online communities in which non-professionals are giving away their imagery for almost nothing. Finally, we need to work as a community to begin to address the contracts that subvert ownership and the ability to license use. Licensing is an important part of building and sustaining a career. We need to work together to support and sustain a valuable revenue stream within our industry.