Promoting The CIR

Posted on 6/24/2013 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

The biggest problem for the CIR will be finding a way to let all the potential image users know it exists. It may be fairly easy to make the big publishing organizations aware of the CIR. They have been crying for a way to quickly determine if an image needs to be licensed and where to go to license it. But there is a long tail of small design firms and web developers that in the aggregate use a lot more images than these big users. It will be very difficult to reach all these small occasional users and make them aware of the CIR and its benefits.

I believe that a vast majority of these small uses want to be honest and respect copyright. They don’t want to put their clients at risk, or risk getting into a legal hassle themselves. But, they are working with small budgets and under time pressures. Up to now we have made it so difficult for them to locate a copyright owner once they find an image they want to use that they simply throw up their hand, use the image and hope for the best.  Many would happily pay a reasonable fee to use an image if there was just a copyright owner and make a payment. The CIR and the Copyright Hub will offer that simplicity.

I would like to suggest a possible solution to this problem.

Eventually, the CIR registry will be able to connect to fingerprints of virtually all the images in the world that are available for licensing.

The first step would be to begin a process of systematically searching the web for all uses of images in the database. A small section of the database could be addressed every day. There is no need to try to address the whole database quickly.

Next, set up an automatic system that sends a notice to the site owner of every use that would read something like the following:
    We found this image on your website.

    Did you know the image is protected by copyright?
    Did you get permission, or properly license the use before the image was posted?

    Do you know who the copyright owner is?
    Do you know how to find him/her in order to license a usage?

    We’re here to help! We’re not asking for money!

    In the future when you find an image you want to use drag and drop it into the CIR search box. If the image is copyrighted you will be connected in seconds to all the locations around the world where you can legally license its use. If nothing is found, then it’s probably safe to use the image without further permission.*

    Click on a thumbnail and you will be provided with the name of the copyright holder and all the metadata (caption information) connected to the image. Click on the licensing organization (in red) and you will be taken immediately to where you can get information about licensing the image.

    If more than one licensor is listed check a few to see where you can get the best price and service.

    It’s that simple. As we said earlier, we’re not asking for money.

    Be aware
    that it is getting easier and easier for copyright holders to track the use of their images. If you use a copyrighted image without permission the image creator may come after you legally. In some countries severe legal penalties are available. Don’t get into a legal hassle.

    The next time you find an image you want to use take a few seconds to determine if it is protected under copyright. If it is, get permission to use it.

    If you find an image you want to use in a book or some other printed form simply make a digital copy of it, drag the copy to the CIR and find the copyright holder.

    •  * The CIR database contains, most, but not all of the images that need to be licensed before use

Some Issues To Consider

1 – Such an operation will certainly have costs, but given that the whole thing should be able to be automated, they may not be nearly as costly as trying to identify the unauthorized user and then pursuing those users legally to try to get a settlement.

2 – A notice sent by the CIR would in no way limit any CIR contributor from pursuing an unauthorized use to the full extent of the law. The CIR is trying to encourage the people to use its service. The image owner can come in later requesting compensation. Such notices from the CIR should clearly state that the image owner may seek compensation for unauthorized use.

3 – Some people who realize that they have used an image without permission may contact the copyright holder to get a retroactive license. In these cases should the owner charge more, or the same, as they would normally have charged if the user had come to them in advance of the use? While this will be up to each seller, I would suggest that if the user contacts the seller in a timely manner there should be no attempt to add a penalty on top of the normal charge. The goal is to make as many small users as possible aware that many of the images they are using require licensing.

4 – Many of these uses will be for very small amounts of money. Image seller will need to develop systems that make it practical to collect small fees. But considering the low, low prices many distributors are now charging for image use, and the low royalties often paid even for RM images, such systems can certainly be developed. It is difficult to tell whether the revenue generated by lots of small uses will be significant or not, but as the industry moves forward it is extremely important for image users to begin to recognize that many of they images they need will only be produced if photographers can earn enough to offset the cost of their production. That will be impossible if everyone refuses to pay anything to use images.

5 – Some large users, who are also good customers, might receive hundreds of notices on a regular basis and this could upset them. Ideally, some record would be kept of the volume of notices going to any particular email address. If it is determined that large users are regularly licensing images in a proper manner they could be put on a “do not send” list. Access to a database listing the organizations on this “do not send” list could be made available to all CIR contributors.

Copyright © 2013 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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