ICL vs Plus Registry

Posted on 2/13/2018 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (1)

After I published my article proposing the development of an Image Creator Locator or ICL, several readers pointed out that the Plus Registry is designed to accomplish the same goal.

PLUS has some very ambitious goals. I believe development of the concept started in the early 2000s. In late 2009 ASMP provided some funding for the venture and I believe there have been other funding sources since then. PLUS has worked a deal with PicScout to use its image search technology. However, 8 years later under “Coming Search Features” they include, “Image recognition (via image upload or URL), Image ID, License ID, and advanced forensic search tools.”

As far as I can tell PLUS still doesn’t have a database of images where a potential customer can upload a copy of an image they would like to use and immediately get detailed information about how to contact the creator. I can find my name and contact information in the database. But if a potential user sees one of my images on a website, how does the new potential user know that image is mine?

In my opinion Plus has tried to be very comprehensive and maybe do too much. In the end they have not really been able to get their operation off the ground to the point where it can effectively help image users.

The ICL looks at the problem from a different perspective, that of the potential end user. The potential user finds an image on the Internet that he/she would like to use. Who created the image? If it is watermarked or has a photographer’s name attached (which most won’t) how does the user contact that individual?

The ICL simply provides a facility where the potential user can upload a copy of the image and quickly determine (1) that the image was produced by a professional creator who expects to be compensated for any use of the image, and (2) contact information for the creator. That’s all it does.

Based on the information I’ve received from technology developers, it should be easy and inexpensive to set up and operate a site that performs this one, narrowly defined task.

The existence of such a site would make it easy for potential users to do the right thing. However, there is no guarantees they will.

I believe most users want to be honest and ethical, particularly those working for commercial organizations that earn revenue by offering a product or service for sale. They don’t want to steal and take the risk of being caught. However, if they can’t easily find and contact the creator – and are under pressure finish the immediate task – they may take the risk.

I believe more and more people are finding the images they would like to use, not by going to stock agency web sites, or specific photographer sites, but by random searches of the Internet in their normal daily activities.

Will Image User Really Go To The ICL?

The ICL is not likely to work unless a high percentage of professional image producers add their images to the collection. The more frequently a potential customer can get useful information about a creator when they do an image search, the more likely they are to use the service and tell their colleagues about it.

This service could also be helpful to users who need more information about a particular image and the situation where it was created. This is the kind of information only the photographer can supply.
For image creators it must be very easy to set up an ICL account and upload new images at any time. This upload process must be so simple it can easily become a normal part of a photographer’s workflow whenever new images are created, delivered to customers or posted on the Internet.

Today, most images that are being shot on assignment, or legitimately licensed as stock, eventually find their way to the Internet. As a general rule the first user who hires a photographer to shoot a job, or goes to a stock agency to find an image, pays to use the image. The problem is with all the people who first come across an image they would like to use on someone else’s site. The number of such uses is growing rapidly and dramatically. Professional photographers need to make it easy for these secondary users to find them, ask permission, and negotiate rights.

Every potential user knows there are billions of amateur produced photos on the Internet. For the most part amateurs don’t care – may even be happy – if someone else uses their image. However, as it turns out, most of the photos people end up wanting to use to show off their website are among the really small percentage that are produced by professionals. The ICL will enable users to easily determine the difference. That’s all it does.

If the ICL exists, it strengthens the photographer’s position when an unauthorized use is discovered and it becomes time to make a claim for compensation. The user can’t claim, “I didn’t know.” All he would have to do is spend a minute to search the ICL and he would have known how to contact the legal owner.  U.S. photographers may still need to register their images with the copyright office. But, wouldn’t it be a lot better for photographers if customers come to them first and negotiate rights rather than having to chase infringements.

If most photographers feel the ICL is not worth their time or trouble, then it is not likely to receive widespread use by image users. I’m trying to determine if there is enough interest in the concept and willingness of each individual to contribute their images and the small amount of funding required to move ahead with this project. PLUS has focused on making it free for photographers. If photographer want customers to pay them to use their images, then I think they are going to need to be willing to invest a little – not much – to support a non-profit organization that makes it easier for customers to find them.

There may also be an increasing need for organizations like the following to search the Internet for unauthorized uses and pursue infringements.
But, if you can convince the customer to come to you first rather than having to go to a lot of trouble to find them and collect, that would seem the better option for photographers.

One way for the ICL to get a lot of images quickly is to go to the major stock agencies and get them to uploaded their collections. The major problem here is that the agencies will want to control the operation and take a huge percentage of sales. Long range, I don’t think that is in the best interest of photographers.

About 5 years ago the UK government launched the Copyright Hub which was supposed to do the same thing. However, it seems to have floundered due to a lack of a long term funding plan and stock agencies arguing over how it should be operated. As far as I can tell there was not much effort to make it easy for individual photographers to contribute to the collection directly.

I believe each photographer ought to have the right to specify who he/she wants to be the prime customer contact when someone finds his/her images on the ICL. Agencies may be allowed to participate, but if a photographer represented by one of them later uploads the same image to the ICL the photographer should have the right to specify whether he/she wants to be the sole contact for anyone finding that image through the ICL. The photographer might also list the agency as a secondary contact, or choose not to let ICL users know the image is also available through a particular agency.

There will only be one copy of each unique image on the ICL. If the photographer chooses to be the sole contact the agency’s copy of the photographer’s images on the ICL will be removed. The agency would still be able to represent the images to any customers who comes to the agency directly searching for images. This would provide those photographers who believe their agencies often license their images for prices that are way too low a little more control over at least some of the uses of their work.

The ICL is still in its formative stages. The developers are still listening to comments and criticisms. There may be significant changes in any final version. If you like the concept please send an email to wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz with the message, “Yes to the ICL.”

Copyright © 2018 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.  


  • Paul Melcher Posted Feb 16, 2018
    You forget the "CEPIC Image Registry"

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