Now that the bedroom wall street stock market analysts wannabes have gratified us with their “copy and paste” insight of what Getty reported for 2006, it is time to move on to other more important topic. I am sorry, but to me, it’s like copy and pasting part of Bush “State of the Union” speech. What does one expect ? That they are going to say anything bad about themselves? Does anyone remember how Getty has just fired hundreds of their staff across the world ? Is that a sign that all is good and peachy? As far as I recall, it was mostly in the editorial field which they claimed grew by 18 %.
Whatever Jonathan Klein has to say about the photo industry is of the out most importance, whatever he has to say about Getty will always be doubtful. At least to those of us that use our brains for analytical purposes and not like sponges.
The photo industry business is quite like the music business. They license art. The key word here is license. And because their client base is consumers, they have had the hardest time to explain and implement the concept of licensing. You could somewhat compare it to renting, although renting only refers to a time constrain. Licensing adds many other layers, like geography and market. The music business, like the photo business, has had to deal with the digital evolution, and modifying the rules to adapt to a non tangible product (data bits). The Photo business as yet to seriously enter that market, at least for now. ( well, well well, maybe Getty is strongly looking into this with ViewImages.com, something I forgot to mention in my Rules of the Game entry).
Face with a product that could be easily replicated and used outside their licensed rights, Photo and Music did not dance together . Music embedded strong DRM ( Digital Rights Management) into their files, preventing further use besides the one approved, while photo decided to take the “catch me if you can approach” by putting a leash of its images (watermarking or tracking). Since Photo deals only, or mostly, with professional image buyers with a strong code of ethics, the result has not been too bad, for now.
But how to deal with those ignorant and selfish consumer? Because, if a photo business wants to grow, it will have to start licensing to consumers. Well, there is royalty free, like there is royalty free music. Fine. But that is not the bulk of the music licensing revenue, as it will not be the bulk of photo licensing revenue. If we consider Getty’s revenue alone, for lack of a better source, rights managed is the bulk of its business, by far.
Furthermore, with the transition of newspapers and magazines to the internet, more and more of the rights managed business is being used in a digital format instead of print. How do we prevent our licensing rights to be stolen from these sites. After all, the image buyers did nothing wrong.
Right now, some use expensive tracking and detection system like Picscout and other Digimarc. These businesses have found a loophole in the photo business on which they grow fat and wealthy. They wait until a license deal is broken and like a pack of wolves, descend on their targets with formidable lawyers, hoping to get some “side” revenues. They are ambulance chasers, as we call them in the US. The whole process is expensive, time consuming and not very nice. Most users didn’t even know they were breaking a law.
We could try and educate a consumer on what a license is: Good luck. You are talking about a population of more than 6 billion human beings.Even Microsoft has problems with that.
The solution ? Well, do what the music industry has been doing. Copy the I Tunes and other successful business models. Implement DRM for photography. Not a big deal. Inside the image, you have an embedded code, that could very well be the same as what the PLUS coalition is working and just, electronically, block further usage of images that have not been approved.
I am always surprised at how the photo business takes such a long time to innovate and takes such a long time to implement technological solutions.