How the anti-copyright lobby makes big business richer
A Photo Journalist explains how
by Sion Touhig

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.

For more, please check out:

http://www.theregister.co.uk/2006/12/29/photojournalism_and_copyright

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