We are treading water in a sea of digital imagery every time we open a browser; pictures of almost anything one could wish to look at (and a few things you should pray not to) are available at our fingertips, a google image search away. How many times have you fired google image searches off the top of your head just to see what results you would get? Or just to see what kind of photo coverage has been produced of a certain event (or a certain human body)? Now; how many times have you used these pictures in a project of your own? Be honest.
I played in a rock n’ roll band a few years back, and one thing we had to do quite regularly was produce posters for shows. They had to be cool; they had to be clever; they had to be striking; they had to be even a little controversial, or at least provocative; they had to produce some sort of meta-physical reaction in the brain of target audience that made them think they really liked us. Now let us not underestimate the merits of having an artist produce good, original artwork for you; we did do that for our album cover and the result was a brilliant, larger than life cacophony of destruction in acrylic on canvas, and it still resides under the good stewardship of a close personal friend. But what I remember most fondly about postering was the terrific wealth of great, original, interesting artwork that could be found through a few cryptic google image searches; The more esoteric the search, the more obscure the results. Within minutes you’ve narrowed down a few strong contenders, popped one into photoshop, thrown in a bit of text, and voilà! One of the best live rock show posters you’ve ever seen.
Knowing that these posters would live on a telephone pole for about two days before they were covered or ruined amounted to any and all legal precaution we took against copyright concerns; but still it seemed a shame to think that something so useful and time-saving and ultimately free was technically illegal.
Okay, that’s not the best example to use as it deals with drawn art instead of photography, and it deals with print rather than online publishing. But that is how I relate on an emotional level to the wonderful new photo publishing model that is being introduced by the clever folks at Fotoglif.
Fotoglif, a Toronto-based online professional image-sharing and licensing business, has come up with a site full of good, relevant, professional photography that is available for anyone to publish, online, with absolutely no royalty. They already boast 3 million images, with thousands more added each day by professional photographers and respected news agencies, and they are going to be adding traditional stock photos as well. What a resource! For bloggers large and small, web designers of all industries, and ad creatives; for anyone, really, we now have what amounts to a microcosmic google photo search where we can grab awesome photo content free of any copyright infringement.
Great, but why are we now allowed to do that? Because Fotoglif has realized that online revenue comes overwhelmingly from advertising, and advertising dollars come from traffic, and traffic comes from; you guessed it, free delivery of very much in-demand services. So why would a photographer or news agency share their work at no royalty? Because they will get a piece of the site’s ad revenue, based on how popular their work is. And why would publishers use Fotoglif over traditional methods? Because they will get a piece of the site’s ad revenue, based on how popular their work is. It’s a classic case of negotiating a win-win between content providers and publishers that ensures both groups stay loyal to the site. Well done Fotoglif; you have scored a point for the free sharing of media without robbing the artists blind, a kind of middle road for intellectual property litigation; and you’ve set a functional model for other creative industries to follow. I wonder if we’ll be able to get rock band poster art like this some day.