Copyright has recently become a rather sore subject with many. We see clients demanding all rights to photos yet being unwilling to pay for these rights… and we see photographers demanding unreasonable fees in some of the newer uses such as web catalogs where the print licensing model no longer fits. Without real solutions and an understanding we are all in the same industry and each depend on the other doing well to survive, we will all lose. I was interviewed by the Copyright Alliance a few months back and I thank them for their work to educate the world at large on the need to protect copyrights.
Part of this situation is caused by the internet. It is so easy, and until recently was so difficult to locate copyright infractions on the web that many simply helped themselves to the images they needed. (note: this is no longer the case, many photographers subscribe to image recognition services that scour the web for violations and prosecute).
Magazines have paid staggering sums of money to produce quality content from research, investigation, writing, and photography. With the explosion of blogs made available to anyone who wants one free and the tendency of some bloggers to simply “borrow” the content they need from those who do pay to produce it and make a few dollars putting up Google pay-per-click ads on the blog (something they would not consider viable if they had to actually pay to produce the content).
The problem is that it made the same content the magazines are paying to produce available to consumers free. Magazine circulations plummeted and they then tried to cut costs by demanding photographers work for less, surrender all rights to the work, or work for “free exposure.” A similar scenario is playing out with writers. This has compounded the problem by resulting in lower quality and still less reason to pay for the magazines.
The correct solution would have been to police the copyright violations that were draining the industry of the revenue it needed to produce a quality product. The magazines, writers, photographers and graphic artists alike have a stake in the protection of their copyright.
Photographers and their clients are on the same team. The photographer who does not value his copyright and charge enough to produce the work will not be able to produce the quality of work the clients demand. The photographer who allows his work to be used for “free exposure” on blogs and print publications … or takes no action when he sees his work has been “borrowed” is pulling the plug on the clients and publications that DO pay for the work.
Likewise clients who have “solved” this problem by seeking to destroy the copyright protection of the photographer are to the same degree destroying their own… and the photographer’s ability to fund the quality of work they demand.
In the business of images, we are all on the same team. We must all unite to carve out the cancer that destroys the industry… without killing off the healthy sections in the process.
The interview with the Copyright Alliance has been cut down considerably, but the main message here is this: Know copyright, know how to protect it and do so, give your clients 150% and know that playing fair does not mean being a doormat. Look to how your actions affect the industry as a whole and work to protect its integrity.
To see this at the Copyright Alliance with comments, click here.