A great story out of France today. You remember the Frenchman who made the world market crash ( I know, I know, just joking), Jerome Kerviel, responsible for a 7 billion dollars loss at the Societe Generale? He has become a superstar, especially in his native country. However, he has been very illusive and only a couple of stock images of him exist.

As you can imagine, all the top photo agencies have been on his track, trying to get that “scoop”. Well, it was a guy living across the street from the French Financial police headquarter who managed to get it first. He is not a photographer but a video film producers. And he managed to film, on video, the infamous financial artist, as he was held for questioning by the authorities. Where the story becomes interesting is that, instead of selling the images directly or even going to one of the photo agencies, he want to Citizenside, a French citizen photojournalism site.

Certainly a coup for those who scream loud and far that this is the future of photojournalism. But wait, here is what happened. The image was bid upon by top native publications and Paris Match won for an estimated 100,000 Euros. Not bad. According to Philippe Checinski, CEO of Citizenside, 75% went to the videographer and they kept the rest. But they then proceeded of making a deal with AP for the video and Getty Images for the stills for any territory outside France. 50/50, says Checinski. Not sure if that split is between Citizenside and the agencies or the videographer and Citizenside.

Why would a citizen photojournalist website do a deal with photo agencies for distribution ? doesn’t that defeat the purpose ? The lucky man could have made those deals directly.

One explanation is that Citizenside is owned at 34% by French AFP. And AFP has a deal with Getty Images. Furthermore, apparently AFP gave away, for free, the video to French television channels. Ouch !!.

And it gets better. In the mean time AFP gets an exclusive portrait session with Kerviel and give that to Getty too. Priced at regular space rate, these “official” images are available on Getty’s site while the others cannot be found. Mmm… 50% of nothing doesn’t look so good anymore.

Did Kerviel’s lawyer make a deal with  AFP saying, take down those images where my client looks guilty in exchange of an exclusive interview ? And even Getty complied ? Is that journalism ? and the videographer was only used as a bargaining chip?

So, although the initial sell of the image was certainly well handled, the secondary and international rights where given away to third party distributors, making Citizenside a broker between creators and photo agencies. A middle man for the middle men. A distribution platform for redistribution. Not what I thought these sites where made. Meaning that if you send a image to Scoopt.com, Getty image will give it to AFP in France. And while each one takes a commission in the process, the creator of the image gets ripped of a little more than directly going to an agency.

What is the point then ?

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One Thought on “In middle of the middleman

  1. Hi Paul,

    Thanks for this article, full of interesting information.

    I would like to react about it though, and tell you that all that we are doing at Citizenside is finding the best way to give more money to our contributors, than what they would have had by themselves. And we are doing it quite well so far.

    I would be very happy to explain every question you might have about this.

    Matt Stefani

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