Why Dreamstime’s Royalty-Free Limit Free is bad news for contributors

Dear fellow concerned contributors,

I’ve recently stumbled upon a small, innocuous-looking announcement on Dreamstime’s main page, which I wouldn’t fault most contributors for not picking up. However, if you do submit to Dreamstime, it’s something that I believe you should be made aware – here it is:

DT

What does ‘Royalty Free, Limit Free’ mean?

Going deeper into Dreamstime’s terms and conditions, it means:

What Royalty-Free means is that you pay for the Media only once and then you can use it as many times as you like, with just a few restrictions. In other words, there are no license fees except the initial fee and no other royalties to be paid except those included in the initial cost. You are allowed to use the image for an unlimited number of copies, printed and/or electronic. This license is granted in perpetuity and it is worldwide valid.

I highlighted + bold the key part of the sentence and the key word.

Let’s take a small step back and allow me to explain some basics from a previous blog post.

Royalty-Free License

RF licensing is the ‘bread and butter’ of the Microstock industry and  most customers’ preferred option. Without getting too technical, a RF licensing agreement is when a relatively low one-time licensing fee or long-term subscription plan is paid to the Agency by the customer. In return, the customer has a wide range of uses for that image, perpetually (meaning that such uses don’t expire).The basic RF usage would allow the customer to use the image on a website’s landing page and/or blog post and/or physical book (<500k ‘physical reproductions’), etc. with no need to renegotiate a new license each time. However, if the customer has greater marketing plans and wishes to use an image for merchandising for sale or 500k+ ‘physical reproductions’, for example, he/she would need to purchase an extended license at an additional premium. So far so good.

So, what’s changed and how does this affect contributors?

If you do submit your hard-earned images to Dreamstime, this changes everything. Despite extended licenses being relatively rare, when a client does desire he/she will have to pay a premium for such rights. What Dreamstime has done is basically allowing the client to use your images in any way he/she wants and how much do you as a contributor earn – most likely around between 35 cents and 42 cents. Even though I tend to welcome subscription downloads, this is bullshit.

In other words, as Noedelhap stated in the Microstockgroup Forum post,

So there’s no compensation for contributors for the extra rights they grant to a standard license? Pay the same, receive more, screw the contributors, is that it?

 

Sean Locke went further and started a thread on the Dreamstime forum.

“In case you didn’t notice (and I didn’t), DT has revised their regular RF terms to include unlimited print rights at no extra charge to the buyer. This is simply another step towards the bottom. There is no reason that buyers should not pay for the extra rights to benefit so hugely. If you can print more than 500,000 copies of something, you can pay for the rights to do so.

Previous terms:
In other words, there are no license fees except the initial fee and no other royalties to be paid except those included in the initial cost. Note that the maximum number of copies for printed materials is 500,000 copies. This license is granted in perpetuity and it is worldwide valid.

Current terms:
In other words, there are no license fees except the initial fee and no other royalties to be paid except those included in the initial cost. You are allowed to use the image for an unlimited number of copies, printed and/or electronic. This license is granted in perpetuity and it is worldwide valid.

Frankly, this isn’t the kind of behavior of an agency I want to support. I suggest writing to support with your thoughts, and then make a decision on how this affects you.”

A race to the bottom

I’ve written extensively in my Brutally Honest Guide to Microstock Photography about how, generally speaking, the bigger the Agencies get, the less concern they show for their contributors. Their primary concern is, after all, is to ensure that customers keep returning and keep shopping. Perhaps Dreamstime were trying to keep a few of their big clients happy.

My only concern is that other Agencies curtail contributors’ benefits all in the name of staying competitive. It really makes me wonder if it’s still possible to make a living as a Microstock contributor.

Look at Getty Images. Since 2014, they have allowed customers to embed 35 million photos on their blogs, social media feeds and websites for non-commercial usage for free!

What can you do about it?

So at the end of the day, if you do not value your own work, nobody else will! You still have a choice of where to license your images, so if you are not happy with your current set up at Dreamstime or any other Agency, it is up to you to move on and find better options, perhaps even outside of Microstock.

If you do decide you want to pull your images from Dreamstime, keep in mind that in their T&Cs:

Contributors are required to keep at least seventy (70%) percent of their portfolio online with Dreamstime.com for a period of at least six (6) months. You may disable all files older than six months from the date of review at any time. You will be allowed to disable a total of thirty (30%) percent of your total Media submitted within the past six (6) months. Media that was disabled and then enabled again will be counted as new submissions, no matter of their original upload date.

danger sign on road
Tread carefully…

I’ll keep monitoring the situation and will update on any further developments.

Yours sincerely,

Concerned contributor

2 comments

  1. […] I’m predominately a travel stock photographer and always on the lookout for additional means to increase my income streams within the photographic realm. We must act like hunters in this jungle that is the stock industry and, especially as it’s become increasingly challenging to make a living purely off stock photography. This is especially true when Agencies curtail contributors’ benefits all in the name of staying competitive, such as Dreamstime’s recent move to make all their images Royalty-Free and Limit-Free. […]

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