Thursday, 6 March 2014

Getty strike again...

The British Journal of Photography has just run a very interesting story

I have to say that I certainly had not seen this coming. The difficulty for everyone else (photographers that is) who are not the corporate Getty (and I include their editorial supplier photographers) is it will have an almost immediate effect on every other supplier of editorial ‘smudgery’ (Smudger - Fleet Street slang for Photographer). Not so much a race to the bottom, but the floor simply vanishing under our feet...

The effect of this move by Getty could be to remove an entire market (editorial stock photography). One understands the basics of taking over a market by reducing the cost – indeed there have been many famous exponents, but even ‘Walmart’ don’t actually give it all away.

The consequence may well be that theft of images by companies will actually increase even though there is now a vast source of free imagery available legitimately.  Many ' bloggers' and other users of the internet have been working on the basis that everything is free on the Internet, something that up until now Getty appear to have been agreement with professional creators; that 'free' is an incorrect interpretation of what the Internet really is. Now Getty have given into this abandonment of the International Copyright law, and sanction wholesale use of their work. Good for Getty – in that this is a data mining exercise, but no so good for those individual creators relying on the Getty payments every month; payments that most if not all Getty freelance photographers have seen decrease by a huge percentage in recent years.  

For everyone else (photo creators, suppliers and aggregators)  this is going to have an (adverse)effect. Will internet content users recognise that this is simply a Getty initiative or that this move simply vindicate what they have wanted to believe all along (everything on the net is free); with the consequence that other creators will find that their work is further stolen and used without permission, infringers pointing to Getty as their motivation. Will would-be infringers realise that the copyright laws have not actually changed?

Getty has believed in its market domination for many years, and we have seen them buy-out many of the agencies (inc Tony Stone, Allsport and many more), that were of very high quality, and had become household names. This latest move simply builds upon this, and is a calculated  to undermine the smaller creators and suppliers for whom the Getty buy-out is not an option.

It will potentially make it more difficult for creators who must sell licences. This is a deliberate attempt to annihilate the current market, and create a new Getty centric one.

But, there could be a positive effect. This move *should* make specialist creator controlled collections even more valuable, and therefore more important that each of us (individual creators) chase up every theft. Copyright law is on our side thankfully. It is going to be difficult, but we have to stand firm against Getty queering our pitch.

Interesting that fellow creators in the music industry whilst they have found sales of discs and CDs etc. fall, they have managed to take control of the copyright situation on the internet and with on-line sales through access ports such as 'I-tunes'. Instead of giving up and letting the theft of music tracks on-line go unchecked they have come up with new revenue streams that make theft less attractive and on-line paid access actually desirable for the consumer and user. If only we could do this in the image industry instead of the big aggregators constantly undercutting each other to the advantage of no one and at the direct cost to the creator. 

It is of course a carefully planned move by the image giant. From its very inception the Getty Juggernaut has been all about domination of the image market. This latest move is all about data mining.

By supplying markets which are not great revenue generators  (for Getty) with freebies they will be ensuring that each image leads directly back to Getty.

"......since all the images are served by Getty Images, we’ll have access to the information on who and how that image is being used and viewed, and we’ll reserve the right to utilise that data to the benefit of our business.”

So these free pictures will put Getty all over the Internet. Very clever for the company that can afford to do it, and do it at the expense of all other suppliers in the photo marketplace.

The flip side of this for independent photographic creators could be that independent specialist collection *should* become more valuable if managed properly. The issue now is how the other agencies will respond.
  Getty is looking for comprehensive data mining and data utilisation. If other agencies simply follow Getty in a knee-jerk like manner without the accompanying data analysis approach then they and their suppliers (us) will lose out big time. Geek led Alamy and Corbis will be ones to watch...

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