From Ars Technica:
Here is a true story about how copyright infringement costs my small photography business thousands of dollars every year.
Or, maybe it isn’t. It could also be a true story of how copyright infringement earns me thousands of dollars every year. I can’t be sure. Either way, this is definitely the story of how copyright infringement takes up more of my time than I wish to devote to it. Copyright infringement drains my productivity to the point where I create hundreds fewer images each year. And it’s why, in part, I am leaving professional photography for an academic position less prone to the frustrations of a floundering copyright system.
I have an unusual, and an unusually fun, job: I photograph insects for a living. I love what I do in no small part because the difference between my profession and getting paid to be an overgrown kid, is… not that much, really. I collect ants and beetles, I play with camera gadgets, I run around in the woods. Meanwhile, publishers, museums, and the pest control industry send me enough in licensing fees that I haven’t starved to death. By nature photographer standards, business is booming. I cover a modest mortgage in a working class neighborhood. I even afford a new lens or two every year.
I only have one complaint about photography as a career: copyright law is broken. This clichéd refrain should not be news to anyone reading Ars Technica, of course. Copyright met the Internet, and the Internet won.
. . . .
It’s true that every once in a while Hollywood twists together enough tattered legal threads to hang some poor schlub for torrenting Scary Movie 12 or whatever. But such cases are statistical anomalies. A great deal of content on the Internet, perhaps even most content, is uploaded in violation of copyright law. Nothing bad happens to the infringers most of the time. People determined to watch Scary Movie 12 for free will find just the right offshore service to help them, and their odds of getting caught, while perhaps higher than sharkbite, are somewhat less than those of getting struck by lightning. For practical purposes, the Internet has become a copyright-free zone.
While the stereotypical copyright story pits private users against large corporate rights-holders, real-world cases are often more complex. After all, most content creators are private, and many content users—as well as content infringers—are corporate. The corporate infringements are the most frustrating, as I live off photo licenses issued to corporations in the same sectors.
Licensing only works in a world where commercial content users like these must obtain permission from content creators. As long as I have the right to dispense permission, I am in a position to earn back the roughly $50 I spend to create each photograph. Money is time; I use my time to invest in more images, and the cycle continues. This is how copyright is supposed to work, and most of my photographs could not exist without it.
. . . .
For a concise idea of what could go wrong, let me indulge in a list of recent venues where commercial interests have used my work without permission, payment, or even a simple credit:
Billboards, YouTube commercials, pesticide spray labels, website banners, exterminator trucks, t-shirts, iPhone cases, stickers, company logos, eBook covers, trading cards, board games, video game graphics, children’s books, novel covers, app graphics, alt-med dietary supplement labels, press releases, pest control advertisements, crowdfunding promo videos, coupons, fliers, newspaper articles, postage stamps, advertisements for pet ants (yes, that’s a thing), canned food packaging, ant bait product labels, stock photography libraries, and greeting cards.
Link to the rest at Ars Technica and thanks to Chris for the tip.