Wednesday, August 8, 2012


In a recent industry debate hosted by image agency Alamy the issue of ‘freenagers’ and their belief that all things on the internet are free was raised as causing concern, not just for the well documented and policed music and film industry but, for the professional photography industry too.

“The generation that’s coming up, grew up with the internet, and the idea that the stuff on it is free is pervasive. It’s a huge problem and I don’t think we’ve reached the apex of the situation.” Said Roy Clark, digital media and photography lecturer at City and Islington College.

For the generation born after 1990, the web is as familiar to them as television is to their parents. It’s also a generation which views much of the internet as a free medium, and considers the sharing of music, images and films as normal behaviour. The notion that online content has value and should be paid for, is hard for many young people to grasp. Sections of the content industry have not helped matters by offering their online content for free (such as newspapers) or making it difficult for consumers to purchase products online (the music industry pre-iTunes). There is a huge task in educating and creating awareness amongst the younger generation on the importance of respecting copyright and paying content creators for their work.

But it goes beyond this age group. Many educators, for example, actively encourage their students to download images and use them for projects, presentations and papers. And there have also been cases of newspapers and creative agencies using images sourced online without the owner’s permission.

“There are the digital natives, the kids who grew up with this stuff in their hands; the digital immigrants who are trying to catch up, and the digital dinosaurs who don’t get it.” Cam Macintosh, Global Brand Manager, Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited

With so many people now involved in the sourcing of images – and a good proportion of those being non-specialists – there is a need for a public campaign on the importance of respecting image rights and how they can be acquired. At the same time, the industry needs to adapt its existing business models to make it easier for clients and consumers to buy images with the correct licenses. It needs to examine the potential of more flexible forms of image licensing. Content holders have traditionally adopted a three-pronged approach to protect their assets: education, legislation and technology. Education is a long-term strategy, aimed at changing attitudes and behaviour. Legislation can help, but is expensive and time-consuming. For example, seeking compensation from a teenager who was based on the other side of the world, and using their images on a blog is almost impossible and often provides little or no ROI after you factor in the time spent on administration.

The music and video industries have had limited success in using technology to protect their content, and most copy protection systems have either been bypassed or cracked. For some in the photography industry, the Holy Grail is an image file that automatically self-destructs or becomes locked once the licence period has expired. But so far, it has proved impossible to develop such a technology, and even if it were possible, it might create more problems than it solves; There is often a requirement for re-licensing that can’t be anticipated at the time of the original purchase.

Commenting on the issue, James West CEO of Alamy said, “when a photographer has spent hours, days or even weeks, sometimes at great discomfort or personal danger, they are entitled to be paid for their work. I really think it is an education job that needs to be done. The image industry needs to help students and teachers become better informed about what they can and can’t download and use for free. And educators themselves need to take some responsibility in teaching their students about responsible use whether that is with acknowledgements and copyright references or paying the appropriate cost for professional images. If we are preparing our students for the commercial world – we need to give them a realistic experience of how that works.”

Alamy runs a programme for students in the UK and US called ‘100% royalties’ one of it’s prime objectives is to educate the next generation of picture professionals about the stock industry.

Alamy published a whitepaper on the industry roundtable – it can be downloaded here.

A pioneer in stock photography

Founded in 1999, Alamy revolutionised stock photography by creating the world’s first open, unedited collection of images. With over 30 million images Alamy is the world's largest independent agency for news, stock and video imagery. It supplies thousands of designers, marketing departments, news desks, and publishers with imagery produced by the best professional and amateur contributors around.

Alamy provides the most comprehensive choice of imagery, supported by excellent customer service and a fast and simple online experience. Alamy is proud of its fair and ethical business model. It aims to be the first port of call for buyers and suppliers of imagery. It has a friendly and helpful approach. And it shares the rewards with its suppliers with fairness and transparency. Alamy’s business is underpinned by a philanthropic ethos.

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