Rex betrays trust

Photo agencies cover a pretty wide range of organisations, and photographers often have less than positive feelings about them. Some are legendary and many are very good, but the best are something most photographers can only aspire to. I’ve only a couple of times tried to join one of the better-known agencies; on the first occasion I read through their contract and walked out of the door before they had they chance to turn me down, and from the second I got a very polite letter of refusal telling me that although they liked my photography they didn’t feel it showed the kind of long-term commitment to particular stories that they felt was a part of their ethos. That time I was a little disappointed.

I’m not a great fan of the agency that now sells most of my work, though they started with good intentions – which attracted me at the time. Since then things have changed, the founders sold the business off and things seemed to have gone rather downhill.

Whenever two or three photographers get together they always seem to bitch about their agency. How it sells pictures at ridiculously low rates, is slow to pay, takes too large a cut, messes up the editing of stories and more. Most of us have our horror stories.

With sales now worldwide it’s impossible also to know if your agency is being honest – you just have to trust them and hope (and perhaps try to check up on what you can check up on.)  I trusted a company I worked with for around seven years, then got a settlement of several thousand pounds after someone else realised we were being cheated and began a class action.  The money was welcome, but I hated having to realise that people I had trusted hadn’t repaid that trust.

I’m pleased I’ve never contributed images to Rex Features. Because yesterday a shocking story broke on the Editorial Photographers UK web site, Rex – a gross betrayal of trust. If you are not a UK photographer or artist you may not know about The Design and Artists Copyright Society (DACS) and its Payback scheme, but each year it gives us a Christmas present in the way of payment from organisations that pay a licence fee to copy books and magazines published in the UK (and also TV use.)

It’s quick and easy for photographers to complete a form each year and get a payment, and I’ve been doing so for years. The amounts we get depend on the number of published images, and range from around a hundred to several thousand pounds – personally a few hundred. But recently agencies have been trying to get in on this, both by setting up a rival organisation to DACS and also offering to process our DACS claims. It might be a good thing for some, as its hard for us to keep track of all the work they sell on our behalf, but like many other photographers I’ve preferred to handle things myself.

I’ve had two requests from agencies this year asking me to let them make a DACS claim on my behalf, and turned both down. But a number of photographers who work with Rex have had forms submitted to DACS despite not having given Rex their permission to do so. And a Rex employee had forged signatures on those forms. It also emerges that Rex took a 15% commission on the monies it got from DACS.

The EPUK article goes into the details and links to a DACS statement on it and if you are a photographer whose work gets published in the UK should be essential reading.



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