“Copyright owners tend to focus on the aspect they see of piracy, which is the lost revenue. They therefore think what drives users to do it is the desire to get something for free. But iTunes shows that people will pay for stuff online, if you make it easy. A significant component of piracy is simply that it offers a better user experience.” From Paul Graham_Why TV Lost_
Al thought written more for music and video, the above quote is true for photography. The next big step is figuring how to monetize the huge demand for visuals while avoiding piracy. No numbers officially exists on how many images are “stolen” either by a simple “copy paste”, “save as” or database hacking. Agencies, as well as independent photographers will never admit publicly on how many of their images are floating around without being properly licensed.
A few solutions are slowly emerging but they offer more a reaction rather than an offer. Piscout, for example, will help you after the fact as well as Tineye.com. Imagespan, Gumgum, Piccapp, and others to come, offer an option, but not a solution. Most copyrights owners are still hoping that metadata will save them, forgetting so conveniently that it can be so easily stripped away. Finally, organizations like the dying Plus Coalition are trying to standardize archaic and complicated options in the ultimate hope to freeze in time antiquated models. None are making licensing easier.
Rather, by proliferating in multiple directions, these companies (who do not own any copyright) confuse and distract the marketplace even more. What we need is to encourage consumption, not add more leashes. And, as such, stop making our images so incredibly difficult and complicated to purchase. The microstock sector, taking cues from the traditional RF sector, has succesfully understood how important it is to empower the customer with a simple, smooth process.
That is the next evolution of our industry.