Magazine Article


The Plus Coalition
Will This Organization Change the Future of Our Industry?

Plus Coalition

“Rights-Managed licensing, by which most professional photographers work, has been challenged since the introduction of the Royalty-Free model,” says Betsy Reid, executive director, Stock Artist’s Alliance (SAA). “Royalty-Free stock has made licensing so basic that clients now expect unlimited use for low prices. It is detrimental to stock photographers because stock agencies offer them a much lower percentage of royalties.

A System of Standards

In addition to the Universal Picture Licensing Glossary, the PLUS Coalition is developing a standardized Media Matrix and a Universal License Format.

The Media Matrix uniformly specifies international media categories and organizes them by type, with universal billing codes developed and approved by image providers and users. The information from the Glossary and Media Matrix will seamlessly populate a Universal License Format, a machine-readable data form tying the entire system together and providing a single, worldwide standard for describing licenses.

License information will travel as metadata within image files in a standardized format, so anyone in possession of an image file can easily determine the scope of the license agreement and comply with its contents. With the PLUS standards, licensors and licensees will be able to leverage new technologies to write, read, track, store and analyze details of every image license more easily.

Many image licensing customers cite the complexity of negotiating and tracking licenses for Rights Managed art as a major reason for moving to Royalty-Free licensing. In the PLUS Coalition, customers collaborate with artists and stock agencies to find a way to eliminate barriers to Rights-Managed licensing, and allow customers to enjoy the benefits, such as exclusivity, usage histories, and the highest quality images. Deployment

Phase I of the initiative was completed with publication of the Universal Picture Licensing Glossary in October 2005. The Glossary contains standard definitions for more than 1,300 terms used in transactions involving photography and illustration. “With PLUS Glossary version 1.0, anyone, anywhere can find a universally accepted definition for any image licensing term in seconds, free, 24/7,” says Sedlik.

Book, magazine and newspaper publishers fully recognize the value of PLUS standards. “At McGraw-Hill, we enter into hundreds of license agreements for images every year,” says Bonnie Beacher, McGraw-Hill Education’s senior director of Contracts, Copyrights and Permissions. “The PLUS Glossary will make the image licensing process more transparent and easier for everyone involved, because we know we’re agreeing to the same terms. We expect to save hours of negotiating time.”

The long-term goal for PLUS is widespread industry adoption by licensors and customers alike. Individual and company licensors may choose to adopt PLUS, but no one would be mandated to use this system. Value, self-interest and market forces will be the motivation for licensors and customers.

The Picture Archive Council of America (PACA), a key participant in PLUS, believes a system like this is necessary for the industry to continue to grow.

“A universal standard of licensing terms and a standard metadata format for licensed images brings clarity to what has been an often confusing and complicated process,” says PACA’s recent past President Chris Ferrone. “The PLUS organization has tackled this complex problem thoroughly and professionally, bringing the experience of many veterans of the image licensing business to bear. It will benefit our members, as well as photographers, clients, and stock photo account reps, for years to come.”

Industry Participation

The PLUS Coalition’s Advisory Council reads like a “who’s who” of industry leaders and organizations from across the imaging world, including art buyers from many of the world’s largest advertising agencies, such as Young & Rubicam, J. Walter Thompson, Saatchi & Saatchi, Ogilvy & Mather, TBWA/Chiat-Day.

All major U.S. photography trade organizations are participating, such as APA, ASMP, EP, PPA, SAA NPPA, NAMPA, and SAA, as well as organizations from around the globe, such as the AOP (Great Britain), TAU (Italy), PPOC and CAPIC (Canada), and AIPP (Australia).

Stock agency organizations, such as PACA, CEPIC and BAPLA, have been on the PLUS Advisory Council from the outset, as have AAP, representing publishers; GAG, illustrators; AIGA, designers and graphic artists; and ASPP, all picture professionals. This sea of acronyms is just part of a long list of participants posted on the PLUS website. Attorneys, consultants, software companies, standards organizations, and leading photographers and illustrators round out the Advisory Council.

PLUS is funded by dues from industry stakeholders. The PLUS “Leadership Circle” of members providing the highest level of support includes Adobe Systems, Jupiterimages, and Pentagram. More members and participants, including Workbookstock, Corbis, Getty Images, and Digimarc, are listed on the website.