Maybe Rights-Managed Photography Just Needs a Better Name

What we call things makes a big difference in the world of public relations. In fact, you might be surprised how often it seems to make all the difference in how the public views an issue, industry or product.

That’s why brands like Sir Speedy, Slim-Fast, and DieHard communicate their benefit in their name. And why companies that make trailer homes call their product “manufactured housing.”

It’s why instead of “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion,” we have “pro-life” and “pro-choice.” And why instead of calling it an “estate tax,” opponents use the term “death tax.” You see, most people don’t have multi-million-dollar estates — but all of us will die.

Take even a highly complex issue like the ongoing mortgage crisis. Personal finance writer Scott Burns recently wrote a column placing blame on the credit rating agencies, like Moody’s. He distilled his argument by labeling the practices of these agencies “insider rating” — a clever play on “insider trading” that will surely give the rating agencies headaches should the term catch on.

So never doubt it: it matters what we call things.

“Rights-Managed Photography” Sounds Like Castor Oil Tastes

Which brings us to a product category that could use a PR makeover: rights-managed photography. Though professional photographers and stock photography agencies steadfastly defend the benefits of RM, the fact remains that many photography buyers are running to royalty-free in droves.

Oh sure, royalty-free has its advantages. But then, so does rights-managed. For example, rights-managed photography protects the buyer against use of the same image by competitors — which can sometimes lead to real embarrassment. Rights-managed photography protects the buyer in any number of ways that royalty-free does not.

But the term “rights-managed” is horrible. It sounds like castor oil tastes. It’s all wrong because it’s bureaucratic and restrictive; who wants to have something as precious as their “rights” managed?

It also characterizes the product in terms of the supplier’s interests rather than the consumer’s. It’s like calling a Lexus a “high-margin vehicle” rather than a “luxury car.”

What’s More American than Breaking “Free” of “Royalty”?

“Royalty-free,” meanwhile, is a wonderful term. What’s more American than wanting to be “free” of “royalty”? And what’s a better marketing word than “free”?

Semantically, rights-managed photography definitely has gotten the short end of the stick.

So what if instead of calling it “rights-managed photography,” we started calling it “buyer-protected photography”?

And what if instead of calling it “royalty-free photography,” we called it “buyer-unprotected photography”?

If I were a consumer who didn’t know much about the stock business, this would at least communicate to me the benefit of paying more for “buyer-protected” work. And the risk of settling for “buyer-unprotected” images.

Of course, you’ll probably never see this kind of aggressive re-branding of rights-managed photography. Why? Because most of the big companies that sell rights-managed photography today also sell royalty-free. They’ve already picked their poison. They’ve cannibalized their own businesses — and there’s really no turning back at this point, is there?

[tags]stock photography, rights-managed, royalty-free[/tags]

4 Responses to “Maybe Rights-Managed Photography Just Needs a Better Name”

  1. Awesome post. This is one of those things that many of us knew intuitively but just couldn't put a finger on it. Until you did. Masterfully done.

    You are, unfortunately, correct though that there is no way that the current agencies are going to adopt new terms. It's going to take a new industry of "buyer-protected" companies to make that change happen. Here's to all the entrepreneurs out there that are able to make that happen!

  2. This is great stuff. I am a freelance photographer looking to startu-up a web-based photo library in Ireland. One of the biggest headaches I am having at the moment is finding a 'fair' approach to licencing. One which is fair to the buyer, the photographer and the library. One in which the all-important phrasing and terminology is clear to all and sets as high a standard in library practice as we are accustomed to in the standard of stock photography.

    Peter Salisbury

  3. This is the way things should be, get off what we are on now

  1. [...] Read more at Black Star Rising. [...]

Leave a Reply