“my first (and probably my last, unless you tell me it is a good idea) guest post :”
How did it start?Was it the 1890s ?Photographers took pictures, pushed the edge of the envelope but could not do everything, they needed agents.In the meantime copyright came along to try and stop the exploitation of artists, there where always those with money willing to exploit the talents of an impoverished artist.Come the 1950sAgents came along and entered into a partnership with the photographers, 50/50 or whatever, photographers owned the copyright, agents sold and kept the collections in hard chemical form, their business grew in the center of cities, large amounts of real estate holding pictures.
Pictures where sold for 1st rights, 2nd rights, 3rd rights and so on, the sellers had a firm grip on the marketplace.
Photographers if they where good made money in editorial, rights managed, it was a financial meritocracy, the best made the most. Art and creativity was king.
Agencies like Sygma, Sipa, Magnum, Rex, and stock agencies like Tony Stone all flourished, not by employing photographers but entering into partnerships with photographers.
20 years went buy and they became big business.
Its the 1990s along came digital, Getty and Corbis.
Digital, binary code was an astonishing revolution allowing millions of images to be stored in a box the size of a car instead of a 10 story building, on top of that images could be sent thousands on miles in a few seconds and reconstructed to the original quality thanks to jpeg compression, opportunity was knocking and along came the bankers and big business.
Getty and Corbis knew with a few million spent wisely they could dominate the industry, they started their acquisitions
Most of the agencies sold out but this was the first knife in the back for the photographers, the content creators, whilst an agency owner pocketed the $ 20 million from Corbis the photographer got nothing and in Sygmas case an assumption by Corbis that they owned the archive!!! I think the lawsuits are still continuing. What did I last hear Microsoft has $ 40 billion dollars in cash, what chance does a poor photographer stand?
Getty, owned by bankers saw an opportunity for consolidation and cost saving, they also thought Art could be created on a 9-5 hour day, a salary and no incentive. They went ahead and spent $ 500,000 million dollars acquiring photo agencies.
Bill Gates, he initially just wanted art on his walls digitally, constantly changing to fit his mood, this was when big screen plasmas cost $ 30,000
These where tough times for artists, creative photographers who ideas where stolen, their percentages crushed, financial ruin approaching.
The agencies new owners drove hard bargains and percentages to the photographers, if you did not sign, get lost, plenty to fill the departing artists shoes, plenty of styles to copy.
A typical business model bulk sold content on monthly deals, sending thousands of pictures a day to clients, 1st rights, 2nd rights, 3rd rights became a thing of the past, your pictures where likely to be bundled at a $ 100,000 deal a month for 200,000 images used, you do the math !
By 2000 the creative photographer had been destroyed, art had become sterile, its becoming obvious bankers are not good for art!!!
Mix with this through the late 90s early 2000 the growth of Google, a search engine with a bland front end. What the hell was this and it was free!!!
By 2004 we knew what Google was, an advertising agency who had managed to optimize the Internet and its revenue through click through revenues and who was being screwed the most in this, as if in a double whammy, creative photographers and newspapers, in fact anyone who published!!!
Those bulk all you can eat deals really paid of for Google with free rights in perpetuity as they displayed the web pages of most of the publications in the World, blatantly using fantastic images for free to drive click through revenue to their advertisers. The poor old content creator ( photographer) got nothing
Catching onto what was happening the media industry jumped on the Google band wagon and followed Gettys lead and obtained pictures under tough contracts , New York Times, Tribune Group, Associated Newspaper, News International and almost every publishing group in the World started their own web sites, using pictures for peanuts whilst lamenting, We are loosing Money they continued to make money off pictures through CPMs, accidentally using pictures without paying or sometimes purchased for ridiculously low fees.
Then came the blogs who where inspired by Googles claim to free usage under the The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 and other internet users of pictures, all claiming they where making no money, whilst the poor old photographer where having to spend money to apparently make nothing
Then came blogs and other internet users of pictures, all claiming they where making no money, whilst the poor old photographer where having to spend money to apparently make nothing.
In 2007 the World implodes, what happened to the American Dream ?
In 2008 when Getty Images sells for $ 2.4 billion with a failing business model they still do not understand what they did and their errors. Quite simply they where conducting business using digital with analog business models, they distributed full resolution digital images on a daily basis to hundreds of users, millions of asset files that could be stolen and used by everyone for free, whilst those users made millions on click through advertising revenue in perpetuity.
It all seemed hopeless and then along came GumGum, and they have suggested a solution that could get the creators back in financial control of their lives and the industry back on a firm foothold.
For in the end its the creators of new art that drives the marketplace but the industry must change the way it markets images in this maturing digital age. The artists have to be paid and then the flow of great marketable images will continue and big business through shared revenue will make even more money and survive.
And I suspect Bill Gates will still be rich!!!!