Picture Licensing Universal System (PLUS) is a topic very close to the hearts (and wallets) of both image makers and image users in the visual arts community. This Web-based service will redefine the way image makers work with their clients for both assignment and stock by keeping track of standard billing codes for usage and what licenses have been purchased. The goal is to create comprehensive standards in the world of image licensing and a new, universal licensing language that is easy to understand, and easy to use. With this “new” relationship both image makers and image users can avoid the misunderstandings and miscommunications that have in the past turned people away from dealing with licensing. PLUS is for everyone—clients, ad agencies, graphic designers, art buyers, publishers, photographers, stock photo agencies, illustrators and reps—all will benefit.
What is PLUS? It is a free resource to simplify and facilitate the licensing of images. The coalition of organizations that worked together to create PLUS came up with internationally uniform media categories, organized by type and identified by universal billing codes. The glossary of licensing terms is online and available for use at the PLUS Coalition’s Web site, www.usePLUS.com
. The Web site format will allow standardized license information to travel as metadata within digital images and media selection will be quick and easy.
We can credit Jeff Sedlik with the persistence and determination to launch this venture. As a professor at Art Center College of Design (and in working as an expert witness in copyright infringement litigation), Jeff began to formulate a plan in 1998 to create international standards that would simplify the licensing of photography and illustration.
When Jeff was later elected national president of Advertising Photographers of America (APA), he contacted related trade associations to pitch the creation of licensing standards but was met with the frequent comment “Great idea, but it will never happen.” Jeff says at that point, “This was where I realized that to succeed in creating standards that would be widely accepted, endorsed and implemented, the initiative could not be tied to any one trade association, or be driven by any one industry sector, but instead must be a cooperative effort between image makers and image users (licensors and licensees), and must be collectively owned and operated by all. The standards must be neutral, with no bias towards any one profession. In particular, I recognized that participation by the major stock agencies was key.”
Jeff then approached his long-time friend, Jeffrey Burke, then president of Picture Arts, who serves as vice president of the Picture Agency Council of America (PACA). The two developed a business plan and, in 2004, co-founded the PLUS Coalition as a nonprofit and independent association of image licensors and licensees.
Chris Ferrone, president of PACA, believes that the efforts of the Coalition will benefit anyone engaged in image licensing. “The PLUS organization has tackled this complex problem thoroughly and professionally, bringing the experience of many veterans of the image licensing business to bear.”