I love the clever, quirky lines on pics on what it means to be an artist/freelancer/photographer, that make their way around the internet. I received an email today from a Royalty Free Image Library (no name as they don’t deserve the publicity) inviting me to use their iPhone App and make money from my pictures. Naturally, as a professional photographer, I investigated this.

Their terms told me that I can earn from 30-60% of the price they sell the images for, royalty free. So how much does that translate into in moneys worth? Effectively they’re offering me $0,216 at 30% up to $0,432 at 60% per picture that they sell, depending on their sliding scale ‘loyalty’ program. Royalty free. Clearly their business model is based on volume sales. The fact that they’re destroying the true value of photography seems to evade them.

As a commercial photographer I am commissioned to create images on a ‘Rights Managed‘ basis. This means that I control the use of the image, and sell the license for use thereof. The use of images is controlled by three factors being time, territory and media. Time, measured in years, territory being the number of countries and media being the number of different kinds of media the image is used in. What most photographers don’t know is that this is where the true financial value of photography lies.

If you don’t believe me ask Bill Gates.

Bill did not become one of the wealthiest men in the world by selling software. He made his money selling the license for use of the software. The value lies in the intellectual property behind the software, just as the true financial value of photography lies in the intellectual property behind the photograph.

South Africa has a sordid history on many levels, one of the less publicized being the blatant abuse of author’s (artists/designers/photographers/writers) international copyright by companies (corporations). One of the biggest media companies in South Africa abused photographers international copyright for decades with the attitude of, “What are you going to do about it?” Ironically they expanded into China.

The value of intellectual property is held in such high esteem by the international community that not only was it the key issue at the Berne Convention in 1886 but more recently it was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations under Article 27 (2):

Article 27(2) Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary or artistic production of which he is the author.

Both the Berne Convention and the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights specify that the Author of the works has the right to protection NOT the owner of the copyright therein, if the owner of the copyright is not the Author of the works. The international community values the creations of our minds so highly yet companies (corporations) choose to rather exploit it. It sickens me to see authors struggling to pay their bills while the companies they freelance for declare record profits and increases in share values.

Perhaps if there were less sociopaths running companies the world wouldn’t be in the turmoil it is today. The relentless pursuit of profit = greed to the detriment of humanity. It’s time for business with conscience. For the sake of humanity.