My Corbis Nightmare

By Deane Barker

Yesterday, I wanted to buy a stock image from Corbis to use in a Web site I’m developing. It was a standard hi-res image of a man standing in front of a building reading a newspaper. This should have been simple…

For those that don’t know, Corbis is the largest repository of digital images in the world. It’s owned by our good friend, Bill Gates (though not Microsoft, I understand – Bill owns Corbis personally).

After I found the image on Corbis, I clicked it and got a pop-up window. I found a link called “Pricing” and clicked it. Simple enough – things were looking straightforward.

Then Corbis told me that I had to be logged in. Why? Annoying, but I guessed at my username and password to the best of my recollection. Wrong password. I tried the “forgot my password” link. I had to have the answer to a question (“What is your favorite name?”) that I must have set up when I created the account two years ago. Four guesses later, I got it.

The password arrived via email, and I managed to get logged in. I went back to my image and clicked “Pricing.” This is what I got:

This image is distributed as Rights Managed. To price this image, add it to your Lightbox or Cart and click “Find Price” to answer a few usage questions.

What is “Rights Managed”? For that matter, what’s a “lightbox” (no Wikipedia entry for it – I looked)? Is it a shopping cart? Well, no, because there was a shopping cart too. I found a link under the image that said “lightbox” and clicked it. Nothing happened. I looked around some more.

There was a lower frame in the browser window with a link that said “Create new lightbox.” Now, at this point I still don’t know what a “lightbox” is, but evidently I have to have one, so I clicked that link.

The resulting pop-up (thank God I wasn’t running a blocker – this site lives on pop-ups) asked for a “name,” “a client name,” and a “parent lightbox.” Evidently all I needed to enter was a name. I named my lightbox “THIS SUCKS.”

Now that I had a lightbox (but not a clue), I was able to add my image, and a thumbnail of it appeared in the lower frame. Score one for me.

I went back to my image and clicked on the “Pricing” link. Same message as before:

This image is distributed as Rights Managed. To price this image, add it to your Lightbox or Cart and click “Find Price” to answer a few usage questions.

But now there was a little button that said “Price this Image.” Awesome – we’re making progress. I clicked the button, hopefully.

I then got a little wizard. I had to a pick a “Category,” which appeared to be how I was going to use the image. I picked “Web/CDROM.” Then I had to pick a “Use Type.” My options were “Educational,” “Single-Use,” and “Multiple-URL.” Since this was going to go in the Web site banner, I picked “Multiple-URL.”

Another form appeared below the first. The heading was “Secondary Usage Parameters.” I could check either “Exclusive Rights” or “Multiple Uses.” I think this meant whether I wanted the image all to myself, or whether other people could use it too. I didn’t care, really, but there was a warning that read:

Selecting “Exclusive Rights” or “Multiple Uses” will restrict your ability to get online pricing.

I left both options blank. The rest of the fields in the form were required.

The next option was “Geo. Distribution” and there was a list of countries. Geographic distribution? This is going on the Web – it can be accessed anywhere. I picked “World.” (What if I had picked “United States” – would I have to geolocate my visitors and block the foreign ones?)

Duration? Well, forever, I guess. But “two years” was the longest, so I picked that.

Industry? Real estate. Simple enough.

Language? What the…. this is a picture! There is no language! I picked “All.”

Exposure? “1-4 Web sites”

I said a little prayer and clicked “Apply Usage.” Here’s what I got:

Online pricing of Rights Managed images is not available for the usage you have selected. Please contact your Corbis account representative to obtain pricing.

I slowly cocked the revolver and placed it against my temple…

First of all, what does “Rights Managed” mean, anyway? (Yes, I searched Wikipedia…nothing). Second, I don’t have a “Corbis account representative.”

I looked around the page some more, and to my amazement, I found a link in the header for “My rep”. I clicked it and was taken to what looked like, by all appearances, a standard contact page. In fact, the email address was “”. Yeah, that looks like my rep all right… [insert eye rolling here]

Since I had come so far, I sent an email anyway asking for pricing on the image and giving the ID number. Here’s what I got back:

For pricing & licensing information or research on Corbis images, please contact our sales support team at 1-800-260-0444. When you call, please be prepared to provide the image number(s) you are interested in as well as the usage specifications. To receive pricing, you must be registered at our Professional Use website. A sales support team member will be happy to register you over the phone or you may do so online.

Are you kidding me with this? I’m done with Corbis for good. I will find another man standing in front of another building reading another newspaper – this particular guy isn’t worth the trouble anymore.

Does anyone know a good site where I can purchase simple stock images?

This is item #319 in a sequence of 357 items.

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