Time Limits On Digital File Use

Posted on 6/28/2011 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

When you rent a movie for an iPad it expires and disappears 30 days after the date of purchase. Once you start watching the move it will automatically disappear in 24 hours even if I have not watched it to the end. If you want to see it after 24 hours you’ve got to rent it again.
This got me thinking. Why can’t we install a “kill date” into the JPEG files we license for use?

A file kill date would prevent a huge amount of the unauthorized use that occurs today. There would need to be a way to adjust the license duration at the time a file is delivered. If an image were licensed for use in print then the kill date wouldn’t stop the customer from printing more copies than authorized, but it would solve the problem of the file residing on the clients hard drive for years and the image getting used for lots of other future projects without proper licensing.

However, most future uses will be digital, not print. If a deadline of a year or two can be placed on the use of an image file then the client would have to re-license when they wanted to use it for an additional term, or they would have to pay for a longer license in the first place. An online warning notification could be sent to the client 30 days before the image is due to expire. If it were simply possible to insert a kill date in every image licensed, it wouldn’t even have to be used every time to be an effective negotiating tool.

One of the big problems in the textbook business is that clients want multi-year licenses on every image they purchase -- just in case they happen to want to use the image for many years. In some cases Alamy is now providing customers with a 50 year license. Of course, the publisher doesn’t want to pay for that extra usage because 90% of the images they purchase won’t be used that extensively, but the poor photographer whose image is used for 10, 20 or 50 years is going to feel very ripped off given the small amount he receives for use of his image.

If photographers had the ability to inset a time period into an image file they could choose to license an image with or without a kill date. Here’s the way I think negotiations would go. I would offer the publisher a 2 year license for use of the image online. And I would re-bill them every 2 years. If they want to continue using the images at the time of re-billing they pay the fee. If not they can ignore the invoice. If the publisher doesn’t want to bother with dealing with invoices every 2 years I would be willing to offer a 10 year license, but it would be for close to 5 times the 2 year license. Otherwise, I would put a kill date on the 2 year license.

I would offer to send the publisher a new invoice every two years so they don’t have to worry about tracking when the license expires. I would also be willing to put in the contract something to the effect that if I failed to send an invoice they could continue to use the image free of charge until I sent them a new invoice. This would relieve the publisher of the worry of copyright infringement and put the burden of tracking on the seller. The very existence of a kill date opens up this line of negotiation.

Is It Possible?

I contacted Doug Dawir, developer of PACASearch to determine if developing a kill date for still photos is technologically possible today. His answer:

“The automatic deletion of the time-constrained rights movie file on your iPad is possible because the content (movie), application (iTunes), operating system (iOS) and hardware (iPad) were designed to work together to allow this. Instituting a similarly effective DRM (digital rights management) for still images requires collaboration on a global scale. (Similar to DVD Region Coding.)

“Embedding an "expiration date" into an image file is relatively straightforward. Getting another program, operating system, DAM (digital asset management) application, firewall, server, Web browser, etc. to pay attention to the date is an entirely different matter.

“However, I'm not discouraged. The ongoing efforts of PLUS give me hope. The beta release of the global artists registry is another nail in the image infringer's coffin. It's a sometimes painfully slow process but they are on the right track.

Photographers, image licensors and trade associations need to continually explore and adopt new technologies that will make rights control more effective. Whenever possible they need to pressure industry experts to develop systems that will allow for better control of intellectual property.

Copyright © 2011 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 www.selling-stock.com, 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: http://www.jimpickerell.com/Curriculum-Vitae.aspx.  


  • John Harris Posted Jun 28, 2011
    A while back we considered a time based "self destructive JPEG" that would not be useable after a predetermined date but thought client IT Departments would firmly (and probably rightly) reject any such thing....

Post Comment

Please log in or create an account to post comments.

Stay Connected

Sign up to receive email notification when new stories are posted.

Follow Us

Free Stuff

Stock Photo Pricing: The Future
In the last two years I have written a lot about stock photo pricing and its downward slide. If you have time over the holidays you may want to review some of these stories as you plan your strategy ...
Read More
Future Of Stock Photography
If you’re a photographer that counts on the licensing of stock images to provide a portion of your annual income the following are a few stories you should read. In the past decade stock photography ...
Read More
Blockchain Stories
The opening session at this year’s CEPIC Congress in Berlin on May 30, 2018 is entitled “Can Blockchain be applied to the Photo Industry?” For those who would like to know more about the existing blo...
Read More
2017 Stories Worth Reviewing
The following are links to some 2017 and early 2018 stories that might be worth reviewing as we move into the new year.
Read More
Stories Related To Stock Photo Pricing
The following are links to stories that deal with stock photo pricing trends. Probably the biggest problem the industry has faced in recent years has been the steady decline in prices for the use of ...
Read More
Stock Photo Prices: The Future
This story is FREE. Feel free to pass it along to anyone interested in licensing their work as stock photography. On October 23rd at the DMLA 2017 Conference in New York there will be a panel discuss...
Read More
Important Stock Photo Industry Issues
Here are links to recent stories that deal with three major issues for the stock photo industry – Revenue Growth Potential, Setting Bottom Line On Pricing and Future Production Sources.
Read More
Recent Stories – Summer 2016
If you’ve been shooting all summer and haven’t had time to keep up with your reading here are links to a few stories you might want to check out as we move into the fall. To begin, be sure to complet...
Read More
Corbis Acquisition by VCG/Getty Images
This story provides links to several stories that relate to the Visual China Group (VCG) acquisition of Corbis and the role Getty Images has been assigned in the transfer of Corbis assets to the Gett...
Read More
Finding The Right Image
Many think search will be solved with better Metadata. While metadata is important, there are limits to how far it can take the customer toward finding the right piece of content. This story provides...
Read More

More from Free Stuff