Jan 2013

Copyright Hub Photo Survey: detailed results

Following yesterday’s announcement of the headline results of this survey, detailed results are now available. Apart from the overall strong support of the Copyright Hub concept by professional photographers, the most startling result is the drain of value away from photographers themselves. Most of them report declining revenues in all of their markets, whereas the overall value of the photographic sector is surely growing.

Photography is ubiquitous. It is now almost impossible to imagine a non-verbal communication of any kind which is not accompanied by a still image. Newspapers, magazines and websites invariably accompany every article with an image of some kind, because their market research and web statistics prove to them that these days, few people read text-only articles. Eyes are drawn to pictures.

Photography is clearly of immense value to society. But where does that value go? Less and less of it to photographers.

There are many reasons for this. In the hands of the general public and in situations which would have required a skilled professional only a decade ago automatic digital cameras can now produce photos which are in focus, reasonably well exposed, and with reasonably good colour. Everyone with a smartphone now has such a camera and the world is awash with their pictures.

Publishers and others have pushed down rates for commissioned photography, which are now considerably less than they were in the 1980’s, and have shed staff positions in favour of using freelancers, and increasingly, amateurs and members of the public. ’Space rates’ for publication in newspapers have fallen through the floor. Many publications expect the free use of photos.

Intermediaries have accrued value to themselves and away from photographers by aggregating photographers work, adjusting royalty splits less and less in the photographer’s favour, doing bulk subscription deals with high volume users, and making expensively shot images with high production values available very cheaply. It is possible to licence generic stock photos for pennies.

All of these changes are the result of market forces.

But there is another crucially important anti-market force, and that is the huge and increasing amount of copyright infringement from which photographers suffer. The problem was largely anecdotal and hidden until Google released to the public its Google Image Search facility, in which a photograph uploaded to Google (by clicking on the camera icon) returns a page listing all of the websites Google has indexed which display that photograph.

This has revealed astonishing levels of infringement. A single image, an aerial shot of Manchester which has been licensed once for £300, has been used unlicensed and illegally on more than 200 websites. This represents a loss of potential income for the photographer of more than £60,000. What business can withstand a loss of value of that scale?

As things stand, if you find a photograph on the Internet and want to use it, it is usually very difficult to find its owner to get their permission. What would you do? Give up, or infringe copyright and use it anyway on the assumption that you are unlikely to be caught, and that if you are you will probably have to pay no more than if you had licensed it properly at first?

Copyright infringement is illegal. Casual, continuous infringement fosters contempt for the law, not least when it is carried out by corporations and organisations in the full knowledge of what they are doing. In the survey, 70% of the photographers who replied believed the Copyright Hub could help reduce infringement of their copyright.

Trading structures and systems which make it easier for the public to behave lawfully are a public good. It is clear that beyond almost anything else, photographers regard the Copyright Hub as a potential public good - a means to reduce infringement of their copyright and theft of their potential earnings from their property.

For this reason, if no other, the Government should put its full financial and political weight behind the Copyright Hub and ensure that it becomes the proper public good that it surely must.

Download the survey questionnaire PDF
Download the detailed results PDF

This was a challenging and difficult survey to fill in. Note that the survey results are based on a small sample: 188 respondents from a potential pool of 2000.

Photographers support the Copyright Hub

Just before Christmas 2012, the Copyright Licensing Steering Group undertook a survey of professional photographers to gather data on the markets in which they trade, the likely effects of the Hub on these markets and their trading patterns, and photographers’ overall attitude to the Hub, especially in relation to proposals to weaken copyright and photographers’ control over their work, and their ability to earn from licensing it.

In order to get an accurate picture of professionals’ attitudes to the Hub the survey was limited to photographers who are members of professional representative organisations including the Association of Photographers, Pro-Imaging and Editorial Photographers UK.

  • In a highly significant result, overall 65% were either positive or very positive about the Hub.
  • Taking into account the pros and cons, 69% see the Hub as beneficial to them but this figure drops to 4% who would still definitely register with it if there is a fee for registering works.

In terms of positives the results showed that

  • 73% believes it can help reduce the number of orphaned images
  • 70% believed the Hub could help reduce infringement of their copyright
  • 64% thinks it will make it easier/cheaper for potential licensees to find them to transact business.
  • 62% thinks it would make it easier to retain control of their works
  • 57% thinks it could lead to new and alternative routes to existing and new markets

Photographers operate in multiple markets – social and weddings, fine art, editorial, public relations, corporate, advertising, stock and cross-subsidy – and the value derived from these markets differs. In the majority of cases the respondents obtained annual net income of <£5,000 from each market. In terms of the Hub’s potential to impact positively on their business in each market, the following was evident among those who expect an increase in income as a result of participating in the Hub:

  • Editorial (use in news, magazines, books, etc.) – 34%
  • Stock – 28%
  • Advertising – 25%
  • Fine Art – 21%
  • Corporate – 20%
  • Public relations – 14%
  • Social & weddings – 7%
  • Cross-subsidy – 4%

Photographers exploit their rights mainly directly or by client sales though smaller numbers sell through intermediaries. In terms of how they get paid this varies according to the market. For example for social and weddings and fine art, physical sales are the most important whereas in editorial, public relations, corporate and advertising it is digital sales that are the most important.

  • In the majority of cases respondents anticipated annual cost savings through the Hub of <£5,000.
  • If registration is required for the Hub and if this is made easy and quick, 44% of respondents say they would probably register and another 32% say they definitely would. The latter would increase to 42% if the registration process was automated and part of the normal production workflow.
  • There was a difference in the support for registering oneself and registering one’s individual works. 44% of respondents would register themselves on the Hub but if it had to be individual works then 40% say they probably would not register.
  • In terms of registration costs, 27% would pay £25 to register themselves and another 27% would pay £50. If registration were based on individual works 60% would pay just £0.01. Opinion was divided over whether the costs should be one-off or ongoing.

Negatives or concerns were as follows:

  • 80% concerned about the number of works they have to register
  • 76% concerned about increases in workload as a result of registration
  • 75% concerned about registering works not available for licensing to prevent them becoming orphans
  • 70% concerned about potential difficulties over registration
  • 68% concerned about the cost of registration on the Hub.

Around 9% of the potential pool of photographers surveyed responded to the detailed survey.