How to use images legally

From 2008 until 2015 The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) estimated media-related piracy to account for up to 240$ billion in revenue globally. However, while music, TV, and film tend to be the main focus of the piracy debate, there is little spoken about the impact of piracy on the photo and image market. (Advocacy-Codes-and-Rules- Global Impact Study)

As part of the Startupbootcamp program, PwC and Dashmote collaborated in a project to look at the stock photo market. Dashmote is a stock photo platform with the aim of providing instant access to visual content, making the search journey for its customers easy and convenient. Together, PwC and Dashmote looked at the impact of digital piracy within the stock industry.

Piracy is a global issue that hinders economic growth while undermining multiple branches of the creative industry. The ICC study “Building a Digital Economy of: The importance of saving jobs in the EU’s creative industries” predicts the losses due to piracy to have reached as much as 1.2 million jobs in the world.While the introduction of TV, film and music subscription platforms such as; Netflix, Hulu, Pandora, and Spotify have managed to contribute to a major shift in consumer behavior by converting a combined 1 billion people from illegal users to paying customers, a gap in the number of people shifting to legalized image platforms still remains. (Advocacy-Codes-and-Rules- Global Impact Study)

One of the main problems in the “legalization” of the stock photo industry is the fact that laws are not always understood and lived up by correctly. Sourcing images from non-specialized sources, such as Google, does not guarantee “safe"results. Although Google introduced the option to filter results by usage right in 2009, the license data provided is often incomplete. Images “labeled for reuse with modifications” do not capture the full extent of the license. Some of them might be distributed under the Creative Commons Share - alike license, meaning any reproduction must be offered under the same type of license, herewith first steps in legalization are made.

The lack of understanding of laws and regulation has led to an influx of copyright infringement cases in recent years. In 2013, a New York Times photographer sued entertainment blogger Perez Hilton for using photographs without his permission, resulting in Hilton having to pay $1.2 million for copyright infringement and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) in refusing to take down the content. Another lawsuit was filed against Buzzfeed in 2013 by a photographer who demanded $3.6 million for damages. (Advocacy-Codes-and-Rules-Building a Digital Economy)

While business models like Netflix and Spotify have proven to be successful legal alternatives in the film, TV-series and music industries, more precautions must be taken in the case of pirated photo and image use. The best way to avoid using illegal visual content is to utilize websites that offer free and paid access to legalized content.

PwC and Dashmote analyzed the demand for paid images by taking the global blogger segment as a reference target audience. The combined research concluded that the estimated demand for paid stock photos in the global blogging network reaches a potential of 3.7 million paid stock photos per year at an approximate yearly value of €18.3 million. In conclusion, the majority of this segment, 59% of current bloggers use non-paid images and in most of these cases, the users do not possess the proper rights or permissions.                 (PwC & Dashmote Blogger Market Size study 2016)

In reference to these numbers and based on the success stories of other initiatives in similar playing fields, efforts need to be made to transform the way people use and distribute legal visual content.

If you ask me, based on the ease-of-use, the relatively low price and the feel-good search experience a Spotify-like- model seems a feasible option to pave the way for diminished piracy and the “legalization” of visual content.


Article first appeared on Vienna Seltenrijch personal feed.