Sion's Videos & Multimedia

  • Lebanon Vigil
    A short video on a vigil outside the Houses of Parliament, to protest against the recent Israeli invasion of Lebanon.
  • Beyond Words: Visual Literacy at the SS Robin
    A video report for the Times Educational Supplement on photography workshops for children organised by the SS Robin Trust, a photography gallery and media centre on a 19th Century steamship.
  • Shaken and Stirred
    A video report shot for the Daily Telegraph Travel Section website.
  • Afghanistan: Dawn to Dusk.
    A slideshow of my coverage of the war in Afghanistan in 2001.

Shameless Commercialism...

« Newspapers are Dead. Long Live Newspaper Photojournalism. | Main | An Apology. »



There's more to Creative Commons licenses than creating an avenue for ripping off professionals. For one, it empowers the professional to choose the licensing structure s/he is comfortable with, and that may include allowing free use to non-profit orgs, forbidding derivative works, and requiring attribution in all cases. It's not law, but it's a contract agreed to by using the image and therefore legally binding in most countries. Of course it won't solve all the problems of modern photojournalism, but if, for example, every amateur had the sense to allow only non-profits free use of their images, you'd see a lot fewer mags ripping off Flickr users/avoiding professional fees.

John Armstrong-Millar

Well that's probably the biggest load of twaddle I have ever heard. Maybe if Bill Gates chooses a creative commons licence for Vista I'll change my mind.

K. M. Lawson

I just found your article on The Register. I was moved to write a response, which I posted at my own blog here:

Sion Touhig

Hi KM,

I can't really go on too long as Im away on a dodgy internet connection, but I had a quick scan of your article.

I'm afraid (as I suspected some would) that you've got the wrong end of the stick. It's not about wanting to protect my 'divine' right to anything. As I said, Im a photojournalist and you're only as good as your last pic. I've been sometimes stood next to photographers looking at the same scene and they've got a better pic...thats the game and the fascination so not much point in being bitter about that. If I was I'd have given up years ago :)

The problem is that peoples perfectly understandable and laudible desire to share their creativity with the world is being exploited for profit by others. Its being stolen and aggregated by corporate interests, who then use it as a resource to profit themselves at the expense of authors who produce content as their sole economic function. I wasnt having a pop at amateurs or Citizen Journalists for that matter. I just think the CJ term is a smokescreen for grabbing content. If anything, I'd want all content creators to receive recompense for their work - they did make it after all. If you read yesterdays Guardian you'd have seen their 27 page Readers Year, which contined some lovely pictures, and a great idea. I'm just wondering if any of the income from that edition was passed over to the authors that's all. You might argue they were happy to give the content away - fair enough. But it will eventually kill other authors, so is obviously not as altrustic as perhaps they would believe, because if you do believe in a level content playing field, as you appear to do, (and so do I) then those content providers are subsidising their content and then dumping it onto the market.

John, if you can outline why you think the thing is twaddle, I'd be happy to clarify when I get back to a decent connection. Microsoft is a pretty typical corporation (Bill Gates also owns Corbis), but that wasnt my argument. It was that the aims off CC and copyleft advocates in my sector, despite being 'anticapitalist' in nature (if ya like), is actually benefitting the corporate interests they profess to defy. Their ideas sprining out of ideas developed by software coders is their only connectioon to Microsoft, which of course has a totally different business model.

Kurt Dietrich

Hi Sion,

I just want to pose a pair of short questions:

How do Corbis, Getty, Jupiter et al make any money when copyright law is abolished?

Won't everyone simply use their images for free?



I read your article and also KM's blog and must say I agree with KM's view a lot more than with yours.

What we are seeing is a sector change and you may quite likely be at the wrong end of it.

Ebay style bedroom business models put shelf store prices under pressure. The advent of photography put portrait painters out of business. And portrait photographers went out of business with the advent of end user cameras.

And you can bet that the losing sides there always offered the idea of decrease of quality to point out why this change was a bad one.

What happens in these cases is that the money takes new routes and ends up in different pockets. (If you look at the download figures on istockphots thre seem to be a good deal of people who must make a decent living out of that).

In fact I don't know where you got the notion that CC's intention is to be fighting big business? My understanding is that it provides an alternative for less professionally inclined, as you might say those who pursue le art pour le art.

The way I understand it is that it is (like open source) for enthusiasts. I'm not denying that this has side effects on the commercial world but I think that developments like istockphoto are more akin to the advent of cameras for personal use than with CC. In fact everything on istockphoto is a purely copyrighted, no CC or copyleft anywhere there.

So I think what you are seeing is merely the effect of outsourcing to cheaper suppliers. And that story has happened a thousand times in different fields.

Sion Touhig

I wasnt arguing about a loss of quality. Thats a subjective opinion in the eye of the beholder. Im talking about a loss of economic autonomy for authors choosing to make authorship their core economic function. My sector is pretty Darwinian as it is (getting a news pic is only partially to do with what gear you use) and I've worked within it. But whats happening is the incremental pulling out of the economic infrastructure which has sustained journalism. iStockphoto is more a symptom of wider forces than the cause, which is why Getty bought it and why its share price has begun to go down. istockphoto is a Royaly Free library, which is as close to copyright free as you could go I suppose. the images there are offered for $1.00 because they are essentially competing with free images floating around on the web. The only way you can make money from those sales is to aggregate them, or to produce so many images as an individual, you'd need to work around the clock. Copyright acts as a barrier to commodification. it enables authors to take the economic risk to produce work full time, as opposed to subsidising it by other means. Note that iStockphoto is composed (i assume) mostly by enthusiasts and theres nothing wrong with that. the only things wrong are:

1/ The enthusiasts subsidise their work by other means, so no full time photographer can compete.

2/ iStockphoto only gives each contributor 25 cents on the dollar, so is essentially profiting from work subsidised by others, and disproportionately profiting at that.

So the irony is the virtually copyright free market model which exists at present is killing the only people willing to take the risk to become full time content providers. The model provides no incentive for them, unless they subsidise their work by other means or submit to simply cranking it out factory style.

Andrew Jackson


Spot on. I agree wholeheartedly. I once considered the idea of trying to make photography a career, but stuck with science once I saw the masses of dross online that parades as pro photography. That and realising that I would never manage to meet my own high expectations!

The Creative Commons license and their ilk aren't really the problem though - enforcement of the contract is. In the same way as patents, only the rich can afford to enforce them and thus the rich can steal from the poor to their hearts content.

I've posted a comment on your piece here:


With no copyright of images, or at least no restriction on their use and redistribution, it may well not be possible to earn a full-time living producing photographs and trying to sell them. I don't see why this is such a bad thing.

Of course, if that is the way you currently earn a living, I can see why it would be bad for you personally, and you may have my sympathy, but I don't see why it is a more generally bad thing. I might enjoy making bead necklaces, and be better at it than amateurs, but if they aren't valuable enough to others that selling them would support me as a full time living, then I can't live off making them.

From your article, it looks like there would still be a niche for professionals, even without copyright. If amateurs are not producing pictures of something (like the wars, or 9/11 you gave as an example), or the pictures they get are not of the desired quality, then someone will have to be paid to get good pictures. The photographer would then be paid for his time and labour to get the pictures. The contract might also stipulate that the photographer does not publish them until after the purchaser has done so (and got their scoop, or whatever), but after they've been published by the purchaser they would be fair game for anyone to use.

Mike Zara

Sion, I found your Register piece and responses here intriguing both as a pure economic meditation and as a sociological question. I thought the criticisms of your thesis were overwrought (because they, unfairly I think, assumed you were either dissing amateurs or claiming they were puppets of The Man).

The key to me was whether the changes you discuss will lessen the number of photojournalists to dangerous assignments. If something has a negative impact on professionals and only professionals can or will do certain important parts of the job, then it is worth the discussion.

As you said, no camera phone user is going to shoot Darfur for free and the thrill of getting on the news (not that the news covers Darfur...)

Brian Miller

Sion, I think that the posters are not quite understanding the concept of "I want to make money from this full time." How many software developers actually make money from writing free software? None. Their income is derived from other sources, like being paid to write customizations or to support the software.

Most people seem to think that everything is produced without effort. If they can get their hands on it without "hurting" someone, then its OK to do so. However, the person who put effort into creating the object, whether its semi-intangible like software or photos or tangible like a car, wants reimbursement for effort expended. And no wonder! Food isn't free!

We live in a society where everything costs. Food, rent, clothes, etc. The corporations keep twisting everything to maximize their profits. There's a lot of people who think that if only law X were abolished, the corporations would go out of business. Sorry, they are smarter than that.

I had hoped that the Internet and such would enable everyone to profit from their labors. Like micropayments, a person gets a decent payment from something that a lot of people use a little bit. That is not a bad thing, that's how its supposed to be.

Now, for all you Collective Commons enthusiasts, imagine the following. You take part in a TV commercial. Your part is to put a stupid smile on your face. The guy to the left's job is to belch, and the guy on the right cuts a big fart. OK, the commercial is a wild success. You did your part for free under Collective Commons. The guy on the left negotiated payment up front for $1,000,000. The guy on the right negotiated percentage based on times the commercial aired, and he made $1,500,000. Sure, it was fun doing the commercial, but wouldn't you like to be compensated /just/ /a/ /little/ /bit/? After all, the rent's due and your car needs repair.

Open Source licensing was originally meant to keep someone from grabbing an open project, modifying it a bit, and then releasing it as their own proprietary software. In other words, the authors of the original software didn't want to be screwed over and essentially work for free for someone else. That's what the corporations want. They want /you/, the little guy, to work for free.

That's what abolishment of copyright means. The little guy gets screwed, and bad. The corporations are rich, stay rich, and everyone else's wages goes into the toilet. Did any of you know that the large music labels regularly screw their artists? The artists threaten to sue, and the labels tell them to go ahead and do it. And this is what they do to the big artists!

Hiring a lawyer to fight for you is expensive. The big corporations can afford to have lawyers on staff. You might not even be able to afford an hour with a good attorney. I worked for a company that got hit by a patent lawsuit. While the company won and got the patent thrown out, the expense for the attorneys was far and above what it would have cost to pay off the patent holder.

So while the copyright laws do protect the corporation, remember that those laws were originally enacted to protect the little guy. You. Your labor, your reward.

Eric Imboden

I wrote a few more thoughts about your article and Muninn's answer. You may want to read it. To sum up, I explain how Creative Commons work and how I don't think the problem comes from user-generated content.

My post is at:

Happy New Year!


I agree that the price of photography is falling and that making a living at it is getting harder and harder. I don't believe its due to copyright violations, but due to the increasing supply, often from amateurs. This is happening largely because of technology. Point and click digital cameras make good enough results automatic. This was not true in the days of 35mm. Web space to host is cheap. Transmission is almost free incrementally. People like to photograph. So you are going to get more and more images, and so the price will fall.

Now, you are right also to say that people will not pay to have professionals track events. No, this is because the public will not pay to see their work.

Its a problem if you're a professional photographer in certain sectors. But you are wrong to blame creative commons licensing or copyright. The only solution is move to some area where there is less competition. Real studio work, preservation archiving of hi res digital images...don't know.

The old days will not return thats for sure, regardless of what happens to copyright law and practice.

Sion Touhig

...and a Happy New Year to ya all. I'll check out the other blog postings when I get a better connection, but currently a ropey internet connection means I can't pitch in with too many comments, but it seems people are doing that fine enough anyway, so thanks to all for your perceptive and thoughtful views. I promise not to aggregate 'em and sell 'em on... ;)

It is indeed a supply and demand issue which has broadly caused the commodification of imagery. I personally don't too much news anymore as its economically not very viable for me, and as some of my other blog postings might suggest, I'm already pursuing other related avenues. So the shrinking of news and journalism is a shame, not for me particularly (I've had a good run I suppose) but in broader terms, if you regard journalism as a valuable part of a democratic society, the withering of the economic structure which sustains it (in its present form) is IMO a bad thing generally.

We're already witnessing the consolidation and corporatisation of journalism in the US for example, and you could argue it was one of the reasons why the current US administration had such an easy ride over the disgraceful Iraq debacle, and its shameful dereliction of duty after Hurricane Katrina.


Brian, you're completely misunderstanding the purpose of CC: it is not, repeat NOT, designed as a mechanism for giving your stuff away for free. Instead, it's meant provide a standardized, flexible set of license models for everyone from the amateur to the professional. If you want to protect and promote the work of professional photographers versus greedy corporations then CC is the wrong target for your anger. As someone correctly pointed out, the most effective way to do this is to enforce licenses and not agree to giving up your images wholesale. Ironically, professional photographers are in a better position to do this, because they are quite simply more likely to have a unique picture than 100 amateurs are.

Doug Skoglund

Sion -- you are correct about your view of the problem, but, I hate to see you give up without a good fight.

I invite you, and others concerned with the present situation to join me at:

For a beginning definition of the cause and how we can help change things.

Todd Jones

It is an important and interesting debate, but there seem to be a couple of things missing (could be my reading skill of course).

Firstly I don't think anyone would or does suggest the time / labor element should be free or stolen. However the concern about hobbyists is most relevant here.

I've paid $1000 for my camera, and it does much (in software) (say 40 - 50% but you'd be able to tell me that better) of the stuff you've spent years perfecting every time I half press the button.

Now I'm not going anywhere near your dodgy war zones if I get a chance, but if me and my camera are there I'm going to take the best pictures I can.

As you rightly point out I don't do it for a living and would be fully repaid for my time and for the full capital cost of the camera with 'hey that is my photo in the paper' bragging rights at work over a 5 minute morning tea.

Now the paper is (probably) as you point out going to take my pic for free and not pay you the money so long as it is good enough for them to print (even if it is only 30% as good as yours).

Now you've missed out on your payment and the question for you is are there always going to be lucky / unlucky guys and girls who show up with a SLR-D, fluke the light and angle and the camera does the rest.

This question is not about copyright at all. It about me not valuing my time or having to factor in the real capital cost of my camera, holiday etc.

The second question is all about rights and copyrights and it is really hard. It is not a matter of moral rights or of 'stealing' much as the big boys would like to make it and keep it that way.

In theory when I studied IP it is about a statutory right to an artifical monopoly precisely to reward a creator for their effort in creating.

Naturally one way of exploiting that artificial monopoly is to extend it to an assignee of the artificial right so that rather than having to work out your labour and capital costs and apportion over you expected market, you need to be able to assign the rights for the full value of that labour and capital cost and let the assignee expoit that.

I don't think a suggestion that copyright be restricted to the actual creator would or could sensibly be embraced but it is something that should be thought about. It pertains to, to the length of your copyright, copyright lasts so long now you cannot seriously argue it is there for your labour and capital costs at all, how could your estate still be claiming back these costs years after you've died (hopefully of old old age comfortably at home).

It is a tough problem and the hard-edge solution is to find a market and a delivery mechanism that both protects and derives a return. You've identified it is not photo-libraries or so called news organisations - do you have no market or are there viable alternatives?

But I've got to be a consumer for a while. As soon as something is releasted into the wild of the digital age we all know that it can be reproduced perfertly for free.

To compare (perhaps a bit unfairly) as consumers, we know that McDonalds have recovered the cost of labor and capital in the cost of the burger and that the really cheap coke and chips we can go combo for are pretty much at cost price, because they know they have already recovered their costs.

We don't know whether or not the war picture taken at risk of your life has already resulted in you getting a full economic reward, and with the exception of ones (if any) you make available on your website (where you bear the website cost and chose to make it available) we know that the one on the cnn website has a neglible cost to take and put on our desktop and enjoy for three months and that CNN has borne that neglible cost.

So I can see at your end you need and deserve full economic reward, I can see I my end an almost costless reproduction and personal enjoyment (lets assume the potential for me to expoit it commercially is non-existent).

The only thing that could be missing is the step where you obtain the full economic reward. And if that step is missing you can't blame me and my desktop for that.

Yes you can blame stupid laws, and corporations (but things were ever thus) and I'm not sure we'd do copyright or patents the same way if we had a blank page to start IP law on.

In fact some have suggested in the patent realm that they actually do more economic harm than good and you just wouldn't have them at all if you got to rewrite history.

As I said it is a tough question. I'm not sure I understand common markets but if they are attempting to obtain an economic reward without breaking the law, it is possible they just think the solution to exploiting creations is different to yours. Their solution is just an additional problem to you.

There must be solutions other than banning digital cameras or the internet?

But I don't think you can recage an eagle that has escaped so the law should focus on the eagle pre-escape and perhaps on the point of escape (ie if you put it on the internet bad luck, if I scan it and put it there I've broken the civil law and should be liable for the full economic cost of the picture).

Perhaps too education is important, if I'm stupid enough or unlucky enough to get into a war zone if I know my picture is worth $20,000 I might settle for $10,000 (still this would upset you but I've only half killed your market).

Perhaps new ways of you getting the money into your pocket before the eagle flys are the most important issue.


Hi Sion,

I understand your frustration on this subject, but I don't agree with your analysis. First off, the creative commons licenses rely on copyright as much as you do with the licenses you give on your pictures. It's the same laws, just different terms. Second its not the amateurs that have changed the rule of the game. That's just extra.

However, you still would have written this piece if the creative commons hadn't existed. Even if every picture on the net was copyrighted and we could actually enforce that copyright globally, you would find that prices would go down significantly. There are several reasons for this:
- With the advent of digital camera's, cheap webhosting, storage and connectivity, the cost of making and distributing content have dropped on a per picture basis.
- The cost of finding a picture have dropped even more significantly. Where it used to be that you were big in a region or country, now you're big in the world. Your pictures are probably published in more publications now than a few years ago, just because the news desk in Leeuwarden, The Netherlands can actually get access to them and choose them over the lesser quality picture of the same even of a Dutch colleague, which puts him out of business (and vice versa)
- The publishing industry is changing massively. Your pictures were paid for by advertisements in the paper. Those advertisements have gone to the net. Because the income is gone not every newspaper can afford sending someone to afghanistan anymore.
- (this one is counter intuitive) Where it used to be that only western media could afford to send a crew down to a trouble spot, now everybody can. Prices have gone down significantly, because the news crews can do more with less people (2 people and even one). If none of the other factors would have changed, you would have seen a multitude of news crews in Darfur and Afghanistan, much like on the beach of Somalia ages ago. However their content is more easily disseminated and the money to send them their has gone. But to put another light on it. Wasn't it a bit weird to have 100 photographers show up for the same events in the same country, making the same pictures?
- (Another counter intuitive one) If none of the other factors would have changed, citizen journalism and creative commons would have resulted in more money for real photojournalism in stead of less. Instead of paying enormous amounts for simple pictures that come a dime a dozen, the media would have used cheap citizen pictures. That would have left budgets higher for the heavy stuff, like sending people to Darfur or the Amazon.

So the conclusion is: You're working in an industry that was able to support an enormous amount of overcapacity because of advertising and the high transaction costs involved in finding and disseminating pictures. Now you find that those three factors have changed. It's cheap to make, cheap to dissemminate and there is no money to support enormous amounts of journalists.

BTW do you know that your posts and all those bloggers are putting people in other industries out of work? Many professional analysts (especially in the ICT industry) find that they are put out of work by people on the internet doing a better job than they could do. On TheRegister Rob Enderle an ICT-analyst wrote: "But the big firms are under heavy financial strain from the Internet. More and more IT shops are coming to the conclusion that they don’t need to buy research from a large firm because they can get the same data, or sometimes even better data, off of the web."

Your analysis, though flawed, is more accurate than some professional economists in the organisation I'm working for could come up with. I have therefore passed it on to one of my colleagues, who might cite it in an upcoming report. By writing this, you too have contributed to a change in the economy. You've made it harder for analysts to make a buck. However thanks for the free input. Do remember that if you wouldn't have written it, we might have asked someone to do research on the effects of the internet for the various roles in media. You've provided us with a first hand account of the answer.

Sean's thoughts on copyright

Your Register article raises some interesting points and I agree with most of it.

In answer to your question, I can see how Creative Commons could help a professional photographer. You could license images for free non-commercial use, which would increase the number of places they are seen and help promote them for commercial use. Each free republication would have to include the licence terms and attribution, including a link to your site if you wanted it. If you have the right kinds of images, that could be a great way to promote them. Wherever a potential customer finds your work online, there would be a clear statement of your copyright and a path back to you for licensing negotiations.

For me, the biggest drawback with Creative Commons is that the licences are applied by use and irrespective of user. I wouldn't want my work associated with certain political views, for example, and I'd lose control of who uses my images if I used a standard CC licence.

I've linked to my own blog post about copyright from last year in the credit line below.

Simon G Best


I read your article with some interest, but found it rather hard to follow. It seemed to be quite a mish-mash of things. But it did seem quite clear that you'd got some things simply wrong. The impression I got, I have to say, is that it's all rather confused.

There are a number of things I'd like to clarify.

Firstly, the Free and Open Source Software (FOSS) movements are most certainly not anti-capitalist nor anti-copyright. FOSS licences, such as the GNU GPL, are copyright licences, usually dependent on copyright in order to work. Doing away with copyright would be a significant blow for the GPL-favouring Free Software movement and much of the Open Source movement.

The idea, commercially, with Open Source software, is not to treat software as a pseudo-industrial, mass-produced 'product', but as the digital stuff that it actually is. And being the digital stuff that it actually is, it's very cheaply and easily duplicated and distributed. It makes a lot more sense, therefore, to develop business models that work with that nature of digital stuff, rather than trying to treat software as something that it really isn't. (That's very much an Open Source way of looking at it, rather than a Free Software way of looking at it, but the same can be applied to Free Software (and often is).)

Often, the approach taken is not to sell the software itself, but to sell services in relation to the software. For example, these could be support services, customisation services, consultancy services, training services, and so on. The software then acts as a way of creating and growing markets in which to sell those related services. Actually producing and publishing the software acts as a form of marketing and advertising, too.

Although I'm not nearly as familiar with Creative Commons as I am with FOSS, I gather that Creative Commons licences are also generally copyright licences, and depend on copyright in order to work. Again, when it comes to business, it's a matter of finding and developing business models that work with the nature of stuff today, rather than trying to treat things as if they were still how they were in the past.

It seemed, from your article, that you don't really understand copyright. Copyright is basically the right to control copying, publication and distribution of your own works of expression. That means you get to give other people permission to copy, modify (derive works from), distribute, redistribute, publish and republish your works under terms and conditions of your choosing - licencing. If you choose to allow others to copy, distribute, republish, etc, your works of expression royalty-free and without charging them a fee for such a licence, that's your right - your copyright. I'd also argue that your right to grant others such permission follows from your own right to freedom of expression. So, it's not 'anti-copyright' when people publish and distribute stuff with CC or FOSS licences, but actually a matter of them exercising their own copyrights.

Secondly, following on from the last point above, the right to earn a living as a full-time, professional photojournalist is not a basic human right. The right to freedom of expression, however, is a basic human right and fundamental freedom.

Surely as a photojournalist you appreciate and value the right to freedom of expression. If others choose to exercise their right to freedom of expression by publishing and distributing their works of expression with CC licences, FOSS licences, etc, then please respect that.

As Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights says, the right to freedom of expression includes the freedom to receive and impart information and ideas, without interference by public authority. If we had laws requiring the payment of royalties, regardless of whether or not the copyright holders wanted such royalties to be paid, it's not hard to imagine the European Court of Human Rights finding such laws to be in breach of Article 10.

Thirdly, things change. It's not the first time that demand for a craft, trade or profession has declined. (Wasn't there opposition to the development and use of photography when it was new?) Some change is gradual, evolutionary. Sometimes it's more sudden, even revolutionary in nature. It's nothing new (and there wouldn't even be photojournalism without it).

Right now, we have the 'digital revolution', or whatever you want to call it. There are upheavals. There's lots of change, and we still don't really know where it's all going to lead. Some old business models are no longer viable, but there are also new business models that weren't viable before. And, of course, the change is not within 'the system', but of 'the system', so failing to see the wood for the trees (often a problem when one is within 'the system' that one already knows and understands well) would be a mistake.

Some say the only certainty in life is change (or death and taxes, as a more amusing way to put it). And, right know, you're experiencing such change on the receiving end. To reject it is to reject reality. But what you can do is to play a part in shaping that change. The alternative is to leave it up to others. But trying to keep things as they were in the past, when the world is changing now, is not a viable option.

How do you want the future to be? Are you prepared to accept the changes that are happening, and participate in shaping them?


Sion Touhig

Hi Simon,

As a photographer I issue licenses as a matter of course. The licenses are agreed and applicable for particular uses. However, I've found that Royalty Free licensing for example, or many CC licenses, are so broad reaching that they are virtualy Copyright free as they permit such a wide range of uses and re-uses. I'm certainly not against anyone excercising their right to free expression and leveraging that in any way they see fit. As I understand it however, copyright law is a law which has evolved over time to try to square two sometimes mutually incompatable aims. It exists to promote free expression and cultural exchange, but also recognises that we don't live in a Utopian world. The cultural artifacts are 'properties' if you will, to be leveraged as you say as the creator sees fit. They are also however, in many authors cases not really regarded as property being leveraged, but the result of labour. In our capitalist economy that labour somehow has to be recompensed or the author starves. There is no God given right to be an author as you say - however copyright existed as a reasonably useful law (and as a law, equally useful in the virtual space as in the real one) in order to incentivise authors to create without starving. If their stuff isn't much good then of course they'd be forced out of business anyway so that carries within it its own checks and balances. Another would be to have the copyright for the lifespan of the author only. Personally I'm against copyright extension lobbyists for example. When I'm in a pine box I dont give a stuff about holding onto my er...stuff. What is happening now though, is that peoples perfectly laudable desire to create and communicate is being mined as a resourse by big business. Thats a pretty innovative internet business model I suppose, but one which is fundamentally dishonest at its heart, as its not only failing to reward fairly ANY author who chooses to create in whatever fashion, but the creativity of people in their spare time is being used to collapse any market that exists for full-time creators to function, as the part-timers are of course subsidising their authorship by other means, then passing it onto businesses, who finagle the recompense away from them...usually buried deep in the terms and conditions of most media websites. They're being used as a tool to beat us with, because of course as a full time author, I cannot compete on any level (not even quality) with 'content' (a term I hate by the way) which is given away or licensed for a pittance.

As a photojournalist, I have already gone through one seismic upheaval of the infrastructure which backed the profession up, due to the advent of digital capture. The changes (a pretty bog standard process of mergers aquisitions and consolidation) didnt benefit us as a whole much, but we are and I plan on being around for a while (I hope).
Perhaps if you read my piece posted before the 'Cash Register' piece, it might act as a more optimistic counter to the Register piece (which was cut and subbed, probably accounting for some of the mishmash...). They are perhaps in a funny way, two sides of the same coin. you may not believe me, but I actually think the Internet is in fact a gignatic oportunity for us to reach bigger audiences than ever before, so as curmugeonly as it may have appeared, I remain pretty optimistic.

Tod baldwin

"I cannot compete on any level (not even quality) with 'content' (a term I hate by the way) which is given away or licensed for a pittance."

Then, it seems, like the wagon-makers of old, when confronted with the reality of the automobile, you need to find another line of work.

Sion touhig

The wagon makers of old I'm sure found another line of work, maybe in the automobile trade as you say. Except their other line of work was working in the Ford Motor Company factory. Their workshops skills were commodified and they were economically disenfranchised from their labour. This is what I talked about and a comparison which some seem not to have grasped as they appear to regard any new technology as an intrinsic good. But now we're beginning to count the unintended costs of car use for example. It's not the technology which is the problem, its the way its used for the benefit of some, and the detriment of others. Thats not 'inevitable', it's a human choice and often (unfortunately) a choice taken by people already in existing postions of economic power. If anything, my argument is that EVERY author is entitled to recompense. There are no barriers to my profession and never have been, so my aspirations and that of an amateur, or someone happening upon a news event, or someone documenting their own community have never been in conflict. But there is now a barrier to entry for someone wishing to pursue this profession full time - the barrier which now exists is any aspiring photojournalist has to attempt to leverage their work into a market which has commodified their work. If they cannot, they either have to 'find another line of work' or give up altogether. In the grand scheme of things its probbly no big deal, as long as you don't object to all your information and news coming from about half a dozen corporations. I do.

Joe Reifer

Hi Sion -

Inspired by your article, I dug a little bit deeper into the Creative Commons issue. I hope you find this article to be interesting:


Joe Reifer

Walter Dufresne

Lawrence Lessig met Rupert Murdoch. Game over. It's not clear that Professor Lessig realized he was playing, let alone that the public lost. Photojournalists are mere collateral damage.

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