For a long time now I have known that the photography industry, just like the music industry, has need to adapt to technological change. The challenges of making images available online while still maintaining copyrights and making a living are by no means new; this was in fact the subject of my research 10 years ago. The music industry has been quicker to adapt with subscription and ad based services, or combinations of the two like Spotify, emerging to create revenue in a different way. Are things finally starting to change in the photography industry?
My look at the impact of the Hargreaves Review on photographers in the digital age suggested that intellectual property law might be changing to better serve photographers who display and sell their work online. The recent revelation that Getty made 35 million images free to use for personal use is perhaps further evidence that the winds are changing direction.
A quick search online and you will find many photographers that are very upset about recent changes. As a photographer I am very nervous of anything that affects my copyright and I am naturally protective of it. However I am also a realist in the sense that they are certain usages of your images that you can’t stop if you put them online. Tools such as Tineye and the new Google Image Search make it child’s play to find your images being used on other sites. There are many of my images from iBox Photography that have been used on blogs and even commercial websites without permission. In reality, are photographers going to sue an individual who’s used one of their images on a personal blog? I certainly wouldn’t as it’s not worth the time or the effort. So did Getty make a prudent business decision?
Individual photographers are clearly going to have differing views and a significant amount of the upset may come from the fact that it was outside of the photographers control when Getty decided to make the images available for free use. I personally think it could be a very positive move and so much so that I have implemented a similar feature on iBox Photography by providing embed code for bloggers and other personal websites to embed my images in return for a credit. My thinking behind this is that it means more links back to iBox Photography, which leads to higher search engine rankings, which all ultimately leads to more visitors to the site.
I am still in awe of photographers that have been even more radical and give away high resolution images for free and make all of their income through being commissioned (i.e. portrait sessions, weddings, commercial assignments, etc.) I think different business models will work for different photographers. It depends on the market you’re in and your person views on copyright and how comfortable you feel with the new emerging business models. The only guarantee is that change will continue to happen and photographers need to adapt and evolve one way or another.