JPG Magazine: Usage rights scenarios

JPG is a 2-year old magazine that relied on Flickr users for content, and used print-on-demand service Lulu for the first 6 issues, had no advertising, and cost $20/issue. Photographers were paid for their work with a free magazine subscription and a photo credit. This year JPG transitioned away from Flickr uploading to their own website, and made some other changes of interest to photographers.

Photographers are now paid $100 per image used, and given a 1-year subscription to the magazine. For most amateur photographers, the thrill of seeing one of your images and your name in print is enough, never mind the added bonus of some cash.

But before you submit images to JPG, I encourage you to read the fine print. Here’s why:

Submitting images to JPG does not just give them one-time editorial use — by submitting your images you are allowing JPG to use your images:

  • For advertising the magazine (commercial use)
  • In a gallery show (no details provided on artist involvement)
  • In a book (no details provided)
  • Web use

JPG is not going as far as some photo contests, that dangle the carrot of prizes for what amounts to a blatant rights grab. You do maintain your copyright. But I ask you to consider some hypothetical numbers before submitting images:

Scenario 1

I shoot a successful image of some sunflowers — it’s the best sunflower photo ever. JPG pays me $100 to use in their magazine, uses the image in various ads for their magazine, prints the image and sells it at a gallery show, and uses the image on the cover of a book which sells 10,000 copies. All of this usage is OK per their current terms, and all I have is $100.

Scenario 2

My sunflower image runs in a different magazine, with one-time non-exclusive usage paying me the same $100. A small business sees the image in the magazine and wants to use it in an advertisement – I negotiate for specific usage with the company and put another $1500 in my pocket. I make fine art prints of the image available on my website for $250 each, and sell four over the next year, earning another $1000. A publisher wants to use the image in a book, for which I pocket another $500. Eventually I join a stock agency and over the next few years make a few hundred more dollars from the image. Same image – but I am licensing for specific usage, protecting my image every step of the way, and generating a few thousand dollars instead of giving it away for 100 bucks.

Running the image in JPG does not give away the copyright, or prevent me from using the image for any of the above purposes. But it does dilute the value of my image in the marketplace, and precludes the possibility of being able to sell the image for any kind of exclusive use, because I’ve already agreed to allow JPG to use the image for ads, prints, and a book. For example, let’s say JPG sells prints at their gallery show for $50, but fine art prints on my website are $250. I’ve just undercut my own sales by giving the rights away to JPG.

The exact terms of usage in addition to editorial use are not spelled out on JPG’s website, and an email inquiry to them about these issues went unanswered. You’ll have to decide for yourself whether the exposure is worth what you’re giving up. For me it’s not a smart business decision. I would like to urge the JPG folks to consider defining the usage rights more clearly on their website, and limiting the rights granted to one-time editorial usage. Thanks for listening.

5 thoughts on “JPG Magazine: Usage rights scenarios”

  1. Hey Joe! Derek from JPG here. Thanks for the thoughts, but I have to correct you on a few of points.

    1. JPG Magazine started outside of Flickr, and never used Flickr for submissions. We’ve always had our own, separate submission system. The Flickr group was started by Eric at Flickr as a place for JPG folks to hang out.

    2. The advertising rights we reserve for published photos are only to advertise JPG. Say your photo winds up on the cover, and we decide to advertise JPG Magazine in a banner ad somewhere. Well, we need to be able to show our cover, and your photo is on it, hence that reserved right. But your photo would never, ever be used to advertise something besides JPG without your permission.

    3. The book and gallery show plans are hazy at best. You’re right that it’s not very clear on our site. But that’s because we’re still figuring it out. We just wanted to let submitters know that we’re working on that stuff. If it comes through, they may receive an invitation to participate – that’s all. No one’s work will be used if they don’t want it to be.

    I hope these three points help clarify things. In the end, we’re nothing without our awesome contributors, and we take your feedback very seriously. Thanks for thinking about this so deeply, and please continue to let us know what you think.

  2. Hi Derek,

    Thanks for the clarification, and addressing my concerns. I really appreciate you being so open to feedback. Having participation in book and gallery show projects on an opt-in basis, separate from the usage rights granted when submitting for the magazine is a good idea.



  3. Interestingly I am having a similar discussion mainly about the copyright issue with tabblo. My area of interest is how the web is becoming full of sites which allow contributors ie members, to post images etc on the said site which has such wonderful terms and conditions allowing them to ‘use’ the images in whatever they see fit. One of the most bizarre aspects of the discussion which takes place on the tabblo forum is that other members are supporting the premise that if you dont like the heat dont go into the kitchen. In this instance its the members that are supporting the terms of the site without taking the full circumstances into account considering the ability to post on the website more important than protecting the status of their own images.

    I have to say the tabblo site is one of the more interesting and usable sites with some very good features that I have seen emerge for some years and I do not wish to knock its concept.

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