This is a guest post by Paul Harris :
Dear Mark Zuckerberg,
I hope this note is read by you and all of your tech company friends, who will take note that regarding a photograph, “If you generate revenues on it, around it, relating to it, we want a piece of it.”
I also hope you read the New York Times and todays article called “America’s Sinking Middle Class” by Eduardo Porter.
I understand you were not entirely happy about your portrayal in the movie “The Social Network.” But then you surprised me in a 2010 interview with New Yorker when you owned up to sending a string of instant messages from 2003 which mocked the first wave of users that joined Facebook as “dumb fucks” who “trust me.”
So I want to help you help yourself, Facebook, and your other tech company friends. The problem is most of you seem to continue to think you are still dealing with “dumb fucks” who trust you.
I personally think photography is the oil of the 21st century.
Photography and pictures are my passion and my life. I own a celebrity photo agency, the second I have created and owned. The first www.onlineusa.com, created in 1994, was one of the first online digital searchable archives with a frontend HTML browser interface. I sold it to Getty Images in 1999. I recently read an interview Getty CEO Jonathan Klein gave to the British Journal of Photography, an august magazine concerned with the current fate of photography and the stealing or hijacking of intellectual property.
He said, “We need a share of the revenues generated around the imagery.” He continued, saying, “Here’s our imagery. If you generate revenues on it, around it, relating to it, we want a piece of it.”
Jonathan is obviously talking about imagery marketed by Getty Images, I think he should have referred to marketable imagery created by anyone, represented by an agency or not. Getty and my own company have a passion for paying our contributors fair rates for their content.
Klein admits the selling of pictures by Picture Agencies (agency is a word he hates) is out of date and old fashioned. Fees should be based on a share of revenue generated and not a single low fee for perpetual monetization by the purchaser. A single HIGH fee with agreed rights is a different and good alternative for special sets.
He goes on to say the following and I cannot say it better: “We’re fortunate that YouTube has established a model around intellectual property and around fair use. The second area where we’re fortunate is that the tech industry has finally understood that without compelling content, they have no audience. Technology can go this far, but then they need compelling content. They’ve finally become tech-savvy. These tech companies are increasingly becoming, culturally, a little more like media companies. They are moving that way. We found that the conversations with these companies have evolved so much over the last few two to three years — and we have to thank Apple for that as well, as they have essentially become a media company. The same goes for Amazon and Netflix. All of that is helping us. We’re also finally finding that even the legislators are understanding a little bit more about copyright and the consequences of content being free.”
I will also add that my company has experimented with CPM and ECPM revenue, which we found to be small. Whereas larger companies like Facebook might say there is no revenue to share as advertising rates have fallen, it’s your job to then get those rates up to scale with the cost of content creation factored in. As Jonathan says above “…the tech industry has finally understood that without compelling content, they have no audience.” Like Hollywood movie financing, a lot of profit can be taken off the top before the distribution to people who signed on for a profit sharing. It’s all in the algorithm!
Now you might ask, Mr. Zuckerberg, “Where do I fit into this?”
This obviously outrages photographers because they are losing traditional photo sales, but you, Mr. Zuckerberg, are a curve ahead of the other racers. Nothing could probably be further from your mind as you hope to monetize content from the over one billion Facebook users posting images of the products they consume. You are waiting to attract advertising dollars from big businesses that want to subtly promote their products on your user-generated platform.
With now over a billion users, that’s quite a team of digital serfs you have working for you, providing marketable content for free.
I imagine you already have algorithms that, without human observation, scan pictures posted to Facebook pages hoping to match the imagery to high-end brands (just like Google bots that scan Gmail messages for content related to what might interest the user and thus marketers). The big name companies then pay an automatically generated fee for the service depending on traffic. The problem is that the content creator gets nothing from this logic or this deal and I believe they ought to.
Copyright and the legal right to reproduce content online and or on any other platform is another issue your company can set a precedent on. Your image recognition software could help to notify users when their original content is re-uploaded by another user. The second user could be informed that they are potentially uploading copyrighted images and could face consequences for uploading. If they wish to upload an image that is already monetized on your service, they can select an option to opt out of the profit share for revenue. Individuals who wish to use copyrighted pictures on their own personal not-for-profit pages for friends and family to see should be acceptable. However, it would be preferable if the use of a picture was only allowed through a link back to the original copyright holder.
I agree nothing is free, so no one should be shocked if Facebook wants to make a profit. After all it costs a person nothing to be a Facebook member and become a digital serf, but the days of complete and total slavery are over. I think it is time you liberate some of the profits back to the content creators who owned the copyright of the pictures they posted to begin with.
Please do not tell me you would not be able to track revenue from advertising, break that revenue down and make micropayments to users who have an option to be a part of the scheme if they believe their content could be monetized. In less sophisticated economies, where users might not have bank accounts, cash cards could be used to make payments. These could be collected from banks or money exchanges and cash can be obtained through local ATMs.
You might even want to try and repair your burnt bridges with Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss and involve Bit Coin payments!
You could improve the World, Mr. Zuckerberg. You could do more than just increasing the size of the bulging wallets of your Silicon Valley and (now) your Wall Street friends.
BWP Media USA Incorporated