Earlier this week, Picscout/Getty released a new licensing tool to deal with social media platforms of all kind.

In a nutshell, it works like this. Social media platform ( think Pinterest, Facebook, Twitter) install an API on their site that allows to automatically recognize if an image posted belongs to a photo agency (Getty Images only for now). Upon recognition, the usage is either approved or denied. If approve, a license fee is charged.

The technology works on image Picscout image matching technology and can work for any of the agencies that currently participate in Picscout ImageIRC program. They just need to elect to join.

Called Post Usage Billing , Getty’s new tool is their latest and most direct attempt to deal with the massive image sharing issue all image licensor are dealing with.

They are a few questions :

To participate, a photo agency will have to pay Getty a percentage of its sales to Getty, making Getty the gatekeeper between social media sites and photo agencies. Thus  Getty will make money on every license made on social media, wether images belong to them or not. Frightening thought . Knowing that most, if not all photo agencies, are Getty’s competitor, it is unclear if  they would approve. Getty’s  very predicable position on this is : well, without us they are not making money with social media site, so they have to accept.

Furthermore, why would social media sites like Pinterest, who currently pay absolutely no license fees ( they operate under the safe harbor rule), accept to install a tool that will make then pay for images ? Besides being helpful to Getty’s financial bottom line and making them more in line with what should be fair commerce practice, it offers them no advantage. In fact, it would be a substantial additional cost.

Picscout answer on this is unclear and it is very much assume that the threat of a copyright infringement is probably their best leverage.

Finally, if they succeed, wouldn’t this push social media to furthermore seek non photo agency content in order to avoid license fees ?

The Post Usage billing Tool seems more like a tool to allow Getty to engage the social media site on a conversation about image licensing then anything else. It will allow them to say, look we build this cool interface just for you so let’s talk. However, it is doubtful that it will be implemented often.

For the social media site, it offers little or no solution. Even if they install the API, at most, Picscout has a database of 100 million images, a small drop compared to the 400 + Million images uploaded each day. Thus it would only recognize  a very small portion of all images used, making it practically useless. For it to work, every image uploaded to the internet would have to go through Picscout before being posted. Extremely doubtful.

What is of notice with this new Getty experiment is seeing how troubling, and damaging, the image sharing culture is to their business. Numbers are not clear but for every image published, there must be 10 or more unauthorized usages, mostly on social media site. That is a huge amount of money left on the table that even incessant copyright infringement campaign cannot begin to address. Is it a desperate move, certainly not ?More like a warning shot at the bow.

You can read more about the Post Usage Billing here 

Author: pmelcher

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