Feeds

How the anti-copyright lobby makes big business richer

A Photo Journalist explains how

  • alert
  • submit to reddit

Security for virtualized datacentres

Comment We're continually being told the Internet empowers the individual. But speaking as an individual creative worker myself, I'd argue that all this Utopian revolution has achieved so far in my sector is to disempower individuals, strengthen the hand of multinational businesses, and decrease the pool of information available to audiences. All things that the technology utopians say they wanted to avoid.

I'm a freelance professional photographer, and in recent years, the internet 'economy' has devastated my sector. It's now difficult to make a viable living due to widespread copyright theft from newspapers, media groups, individuals and a glut of images freely or cheaply available on the Web. These have combined to crash the unit cost of images across the board, regardless of category or intrinsic worth. For example, the introduction of Royalty Free 'microstock', which means you can now buy an image for $1.00, is just one factor that has dragged down professional fees.

I already hear you telling me to stop crying into my beer as the world doesn't owe me a living, and that expanding imagery on the Web has democratised the medium. I'd partially agree with both arguments, as in my work of newspaper and magazine photojournalism you're only as good as your last picture, and photojournalism in recent years has become infected with an unhealthy sense of elitism and entitlement which could do with a good kick up the arse.

So what's the problem? Well, lets look at one trend which would appear to suggest more "democracy" in the media - but actually doesn't - and that's 'User Contributed Content', or 'Citizen Journalism'.

The mainstream media has propagandized hard for Citizen Journalism ever since the mobile phone images of the July 7th London bombings, but sadly, this enthusiasm has little to do with journalism or democratising the media..

User Contributed Content should be more accurately termed 'Audience Stolen Content', because media groups rarely pay for Citizen Journalism images and more often than not, either claim the copyright or an all-encompassing license from contributors, when they send their pictures in. That's a copyright grab in all but name.

Only a fraction of the savings or additional income derived from publishing and syndicating user-contributed images is then actually reinvested in journalism. Most of it simply helps pay the media company's shareholder dividend. Massive newspaper job losses and wage cuts have cut a swathe through newsrooms this year and the slack is often taken up by stolen content, stolen from their own readers.

So much for media "democracy". Some newspapers and magazines are enthusiastically accepting such "content", simply because it's cheap or free, and the quality of the content largely reflects that.

Such a move dishonestly offers a false 'interactivity' between the publisher and audience, shows contempt for readers by assuming they'll accept rubbish, and adds insult to injury by encouraging them to produce the very stuff they'll be seeing - and paying for nothing.

It's a race to the bottom, and is a fundamental failure by publishers to invest in their businesses for their readers benefit. It has consequently put massive pressure on professional photographers, who have to reduce their rates, or submit to copyright grabs themselves in order to get work, which is drying up and being replaced by stolen audience content.

Quite how putting professional photographers and journalists on the dole is supposed to increase the quality of public knowledge of events, or the overall 'creative commons' escapes me at present, because despite the ongoing commodification of images, not all images are equal.

You won't see any mobile phone images from Darfur any time soon for example, and as one contributor put it, to a recent Center of Citizen Media weblog entry predicting the 'Decline of the Professional Photojournalist':

"9/11 generated a tremendous amount of citizen content, but it is very obvious to me that professionals ruled that event without question. Citizens in general do not have the stomach, the dedication or the brains to stick with it"

True 'citizen journalists' are people like Iraqi news journalists working where western photographers dare not go, to document the destruction of their homeland. Despite putting themselves and their families in peril 24 hours a day, most if not all of them earn a pittance and many relinquish their copyright on images and stories which make the front pages of the worlds newspapers. Just this year alone, 32 have died.

Baghdad has a mobile phone network, but mobile phone image gathering is virtually unknown (unless it's execution footage), as it would be tantamount to a death sentence for most residents. Instead, another form of journalism keeps us passively 'informed' from only one perspective - embedding.

In November 2001, I photographed a protracted gun battle in Kunduz, Afghanistan alongside a notable French war photographer. After transmitting his images for the day, he received an email from his photo-agency, telling him that financial support to cover stories would no longer be provided, and his relationship with them was being 'restructured', because it had been acquired by a corporation.

A report last year in the New York Review of Books pointed out that weakening investigative journalism has far more profound implications for democracy.

OK, never mind the citizens, what about me? Well, I, and people like me are being robbed too.

Probably by you.

Choosing a cloud hosting partner with confidence

More from The Register

next story
Ex-US Navy fighter pilot MIT prof: Drones beat humans - I should know
'Missy' Cummings on UAVs, smartcars and dying from boredom
Facebook, Apple: LADIES! Why not FREEZE your EGGS? It's on the company!
No biological clockwatching when you work in Silicon Valley
The 'fun-nification' of computer education – good idea?
Compulsory code schools, luvvies love it, but what about Maths and Physics?
Doctor Who's Flatline: Cool monsters, yes, but utterly limp subplots
We know what the Doctor does, stop going on about it already
'Cowardly, venomous trolls' threatened with TWO-YEAR sentences for menacing posts
UK government: 'Taking a stand against a baying cyber-mob'
Happiness economics is bollocks. Oh, UK.gov just adopted it? Er ...
Opportunity doesn't knock; it costs us instead
Sysadmin with EBOLA? Gartner's issued advice to debug your biz
Start hoarding cleaning supplies, analyst firm says, and assume your team will scatter
prev story

Whitepapers

Forging a new future with identity relationship management
Learn about ForgeRock's next generation IRM platform and how it is designed to empower CEOS's and enterprises to engage with consumers.
Cloud and hybrid-cloud data protection for VMware
Learn how quick and easy it is to configure backups and perform restores for VMware environments.
Three 1TB solid state scorchers up for grabs
Big SSDs can be expensive but think big and think free because you could be the lucky winner of one of three 1TB Samsung SSD 840 EVO drives that we’re giving away worth over £300 apiece.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.
Security for virtualized datacentres
Legacy security solutions are inefficient due to the architectural differences between physical and virtual environments.