iStock Survey: 27% of Image Users Unaware of Law

Posted on 8/25/2008 by Julia Dudnik Stern | Printable Version | Comments (0)

When discussing content piracy, industry insiders often say that nine out of 10 images are used inappropriately—that is, without payment for a license or in violation of its terms. Such conversations typically shift to policing copyright infringements, recouping lost revenues and protecting images with watermarks or other digital rights-management tools. Though the idea of educating the public on the nature of copyright is raised at industry events, such education is not often part of routine business activities for stock photographers or agencies.

Perhaps it should be. An iStockphoto-commissioned survey of 1,000 Americans shows that a third use downloaded content, and practically all such users—27% of 33%—are unaware of needing permission. Close to a third (27%) are unaware of needing permission for such uses and do not believe there are legal ramifications. This is especially true among younger (18-24) and older (65+) adult groups, where lack of awareness spikes to 38%. (Corrected August 26.)

This offers a quantitative perspective on the newly expanded image-buyer market: Roughly 82% of people who routinely use digital images do not know that there are laws governing this activity. Nearly 60% have never heard of companies that sell royalty-free images, video and audio.

In addition, survey results suggest that the influx of the amateur photographer into what once was a professional-only business will continue. Competition from the much lower-priced, technically capable and often-talented amateur is already the top business challenge for the pro shooter and agency, but these are still the early days of crowd-sourcing: Though 30% of Americans consider photography a hobby, only 6% currently use it to earn supplemental income. A quarter of photo-hobbyists surveyed said they would be interested in earning income with photography, and there are numerous market forces that will allow these people to try.

Digital-camera sales continue growing. According to research company IDC, dSLR growth reached 41% in 2007, with shipments of 7.5 million units.

Broadband Internet access is similarly booming. According to the Leichtman Research Group, the top 20 U.S. service providers signed 887,000 new high-speed subscribers in the second quarter of 2008. In total, these companies now have 65.1 million broadband customers.

Finally, iStock and some of its followers will continue to be a major driver of the trend by making it easy for hobbyists to monetize their work. “It’s become so user-friendly to upload images and video to the Internet that it’s no wonder almost half the population feels so comfortable using online digital content,” said iStock CEO Bruce Livingstone.

“We see a vast, media-hungry customer base out there who may not know what stock means,” he added. iStock’s customer base is at 3.6 million and growing, so it has an obvious stake in public awareness. The company continues to invest in education and market research like this survey—and a forthcoming white paper that will help people understand the appropriate use and licenses for images and video.

Copyright © 2008 Julia Dudnik Stern. 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


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