Post-licensing as a solution to copyright infringements in the image industry.
Written by Philipp Köhn, Co-Founder and CPO of RYDE.
Co-Written and Edited by Sheena Rajgarhia
Welcome to the first part of my three-chapter series where I elaborate on the history, evolution and the future of image theft, copyright infringements and the solution to it — post-licensing. In this chapter, I discuss the evolvement of the need to have a system to protect the creations of photographers from image thefts.
Digitalization has opened a brave new world to photographers — thanks to the internet it is easier to promote yourself or your work and reach more people quicker. So, if you want to be competitive you need to present your work online. Websites and digital platforms are sales and self-promotion mediums that a photographer cannot afford to miss out on. With an easy “copy paste” click all those images can be multiplied and put to use somewhere else.
Images and copyright thefts have a long history aligned with the advancement of the internet. The unlicensed users believed the anonymity of the internet will never determine their identity through their usage. With the development of Google Images’ cut-copy-paste methodology, this practice was intensified even further, skyrocketing the number of pictures being stolen.
This left photographers with only one option: start knocking the doors of lawyers to take their assistance in bringing down the unlicensed usage of their imagery. Legislative copyright institutes were still getting used to this newly formed digital society and therefore were overwhelmed with such situation of the extreme amount of infringements with not an active and well-versed system to properly handle the issue.
At first, there was an effort made to implement the processes and structures from the “analog” world in the digital sphere. The lawyer handled one infringement at a time. Just like the old days. Soon it was realized that this process is not working in this new, large scale and global business. So, the photographers were looking towards technology to find a solution.
This led to the creation of a triangular set-up that involved photographers, lawyers, and technical service providers. The image was legally supported by the lawyer and the technical service provider offered help to the photographer to find their images online.
Although this seemed to be a better way to handle the problem, it was still not the best. This wasn’t proving to be a long-term solution to fight image theft online. It still required a lot of time, money and bureaucratical efforts. Photographers had to act as project managers coordinating every step in this triangle, putting a lot of effort and working hours in it to identify valid findings that can lead to a successful case, taking the financial risk for legal fees and tech providers. But they wanted to concentrate on creating and taking pictures — not work as a project or case manager for their archives.
Not rarely, more than 70% of the overall revenue ended up going to lawyers and technology providers. Less than 30% landed into the pockets of photographers. This cycle repeated itself with every image — only a low degree of automatization or procedural streamlining. As a consequence, many gave up. All the extra work to pursue infringements showed many times to not be worth it. The level of frustration for photographers was high.
When the music industry was in a similar position of illegal downloads, the economy produced solutions to protect the artists. But in the image industry, the digital revolution had skipped the photo market once again. This led to a need for a new system that offers sustainable solutions.
There was a need for a more transparent and less complex environment in which one can showcase creations trusting each usage of their work will be respected and paid for. Such a system needed to be more photographer oriented with a sense of automation that doesn’t strain them with work. This brought to light the possibility of Post Licensing Services, meaning, the photographer could be reimbursed fairly for the unlicensed use of his images.
In the next part, I will explain that post-licensing services that are offered might differ a lot and will elaborate on the most important features and KPIs a photographer should focus on. Stay tuned!