Friday, August 17, 2007

Photo suckers

I have recently removed from my NetVibes page the Thoughts of a Bohemian blog by photography industry exec Paul Melcher, plus the attendant metafeed of photography blogs that Melcher compiled. I had added them a couple of months ago to try to get some idea of where the photography industry is heading, because I was concerned about how to use images of celebrities on Tinfinger.

It has become quite clear through reading Melcher that the photography industry is pretty much screwed. Market leaders like Corbis and Getty are poorly run, glacier-like in their movement, and have no answer to the questions posed about their business models by the Internet. The microstock and royalty-free models have destroyed the margins of most types of photography products, and the cost of picture production has come down so drastically as to make many old models completely unworkable.

Having said that, I was still surprised to see the way newly launched social network white pages clone Spock handles images of celebrities. Take their Chris Judd images page - Chris Judd is one of the most famous Aussie rules players in the game right now. Ignore for the moment that the two pics on the left are not of the Australian Chris Judd. Notice how you can click on each thumbnail image and it expands through the magic of Javascript to show the full-sized original image.

How do the Spock people think they can get away with that? Isn't it a blatant breach of copyright? This is an honest question, I would like to know. I have been jumping through a lot of hoops with Tinfinger trying not to build a system that would give offense to image copyright holders, but am I the sucker in this equation? Is it really a free-for-all with celebrity images now?

It's no wonder that Melcher and his peers are so depressed about the photography industry. I am a journalist by training, so I understand the desire by content creators to be rewarded for their work. Should I abandon my morals and just scrape every image I can get my hands on, or is there a reckoning for the likes of Spock where the photography industry will stand up for its rights and, ultimately, its survival as a commercial concern?


Blogger Maia Bittner said...

Hi Paul,

This is Maia from Spock. We appreciate your concern in this matter. I wanted to clear up some issues of copyright.

Spock is a search engine, like Google and Yahoo! We index publicly available information on the internet, and always link back to the source. Because of this, we give credit to wherever the picture came from. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.

7:06 am, August 18, 2007  
Blogger Paul Montgomery said...

Maia, giving credit to the original source does not entitle you to host the image in its full original size on Spock. At best, through the fair use doctrine you should only host a thumbnail.

For instance, here's the Chris Judd pages on...
Google Images
Yahoo Images
Microsoft Live Images

You will note that none of those pages host the entire original image, they always use thumbnails (when the original is above a certain size). I suggest you go back to your legal team and find out whether Spock is indeed allowed to do things that Google, Yahoo and Microsoft's image search engines do not do.

5:30 pm, August 18, 2007  

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