The Future of Post-Licensing: In the Search for The Ideal System

Photo by britt gaiser on Unsplash
Photo by britt gaiser on Unsplash
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The market demands a perfect system for image post-licensing — one that puts legal expertise, technology, and the photographer’s needs together. Are we in the right direction?

Written by Philipp Köhn, Co-Founder and CPO of RYDE.

Co-Written and Edited by Sheena Rajgarhia

Here we go to the second part of this series that discusses the past, present and possible future of Post-Licensing. In my last article, I mentioned the basic problem faced by photographers due to the growing digitalization. In case you are wondering what the problem was exactly, let’s recap:

The three-tier solution provided by the image economy involving the photographer, the lawyer and the technology provider seems to not be a fruitful one. Technical providers tried to team up with law firms or vice versa — aiming to streamline processes and take advantage of the growing potential synergies. These service providers had a good start but experienced and still are experiencing a lot of dying clientele, a massive churn.

The frustration of photographers now moved towards those combined service providers because they were and are not treated as clients, instead as the workhorse of this business model — forced to do the heavy lifting, putting multiple hours of their time. The return on investment is bad, which further leads to the wastage of their creative hours.

So, eventually, they lost faith in this system and stopped cooperating and working with the providers.

What are the lessons learned from that?

From the drawbacks of the previous system, we have concluded that:

  1. We have to make sure to keep our clients (photographers) motivated and incentivized to keep working on infringements.
  2. We have to get the costs down in the case economics to be able to provide better service to the photographers.
  3. We have to push lawyers a bit far from the business model to save costs and streamline the process by automating it. But not missing out on their expertise and knowledge.
  4. We have to process legal knowledge and experience and make it usable for lower-paid employees.
  5. We have to embrace state of the art technology to support.
  6. Better results for the image search.
  7. Better documentation of licenses and improved image registration.
  8. Better automation of case pre-processing (to provide a better selection of cases to our clients so they can be more productive in a shorter time).
  9. Better and more efficient infringer communication and faster payment solutions.
  10. Minimize the financial risk of legal costs for photographers.

Voilà: The Technical Solution

An image of an engine to illustrate the article talking about image post-licensing.
Photo by Alexandre Debiève on Unsplash

The market demanded a friendly solution that should be not as mentally, legally and financially exhausting for the photographer. Therefore, developing a post-licensing model fit the puzzles right where the pieces were missing. The platform should include:

  • A digital project manager to limit the exhaustion on the photographers. There was a need to steam-line the process in a more organized way. For the same, a digitalized automated solution that handles finds and takes action against the unlicensed usage of images.
  • Limitation of lawyer involvement. The system should include lawyers only if and when necessary. To make sure everything goes in the right legal way, it is best that the legal knowledge and expertise is integrated well into the workflow.
  • For the system to work in its full potential, it is important that the photographers are motivated to protect their work against unlicensed usage. Even though this system must be in an automated setup, it requires their involvement in every process, so they feel part of it.
  • Minimum financial commitments from the photographers. This can give them more ease in the entire process of conviction.

If life gives you infringers, make clients out of them!

Last but not least, it is very important to talk about a neglected but very important stakeholder of this business model: the unlicensed image user.

The unlicensed image user is not just an infringer. There are many different types out there: the compliance manager of a big company; the new fashion blogger; the dentist or even a photographer. Infringers are as different as any people.

So, you won’t be able to deliver the best service if you try to deal with them all in the same way. You will have to find a way to understand their expectation, their frustration and the size of their wallet and thus, find the best way to approach them.

Since behind every unlicensed usage, there is a human being with different life experiences, naturally, they all come with different mindsets. Some understand that they cannot just copy-paste images and use them — they understand that creativity and content have its price and they are willing to support it. On the other hand, some will do everything to avoid payment, avoid rewarding creativity.

If you can establish a healthy business relationship with the unlicensed image user, he might even become a real client and will license the infringed image for the future.

If it’s done in the right way, a post-licensing service could act as a sales agent for photographers, turning the problem into an actual opportunity — if you can’t fight them, make them join you.

This could introduce a paradigm shift for post-licensing services and give them a whole new perspective — one that puts photographer’s needs in the core of those services, instead of acting as some sort of the bounty hunters of the image economy.

RYDE comes to life

With the above-mentioned lessons and insights, we gave birth to Ryde. A year full of testing and product improvement brought together a solution that the photography industry was long waiting for — a platform that combines a user-friendly interface with security and also offering photographers with a possible- sales opportunity.

Happily, for creatives and the market, different organizations are working on similar solutions for the licensing and infringement problem. But what makes us proud of RYDE is:

  • We let photographers focus on creating: RYDE tries to reduce the effort that the creators put in the system. The case managers filter cases presented to the photographers. 70% of the filtered cases have a positive approval rate.
  • Our PLP (Post-Licensing Platform) is your sales tool: We try to legalize the relationship between the unlicensed user and the photographer. With RYDE, the image user gets an opportunity to purchase a retroactive license for the future usage of the image. This allows the photographer to use the post-licensing-platform to sell his imagery.

What’s next?

Even though we developed a possibly great solution to answer the doubts and fears of the photographers. With regularly upgrading and improving, there are still some missing points. In the next part, I will try to explain the future that the service of post-licensing holds for the image economy.

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