It boggles the mind!
Email sent to the leadership of Poynter (Journalism) Institute to counter this piece harvesting free image use “These Tools will help you find the right images for your story”
Dear Mr. Neil Brown
I am writing to you because I am shocked, baffled and deeply disappointed by a piece posted on the Poynter site [https://www.poynter.org/…/these-tools-will-help-you-find-ri…]. For a prestigious organization like Poynter that represents journalists and photojournalists, I find the piece amateurish and also find it to be damaging to Poynter.
Freelance photojournalists make up much of the workforce that provides work for publications. Freelance photographers carve out a modest living licensing (and re-licensing) images for editorial use. Same for wire services and other syndication services which depend on licensing as a significant revenue stream.
Poynter should be advocating for all forms of paid content, that includes photographs.
By doing so, you are also helping to map out paid image use on the Internet and protecting our industry for the next generation. Allow me to remind you, journalism has been in trouble because as an industry, we gave away content for free for the last 20 years with the advent of the internet, which, in its nascent years, was viewed as fledgling technology. Google and Facebook benefitted in the billions in ad revenues but publications less so. This ad shift was harmful to journalism. Publications have never been able to capture the online revenues or allowed some of that revenue to meaningfully flow to photographers.
No industry survives by giving content away for free. We learned this lesson the hard way. Finally, publishers are getting smart and it appear we may just now be turning the corner in terms of educating the publics that they need to pay for quality content as shown by NYT’s recent earnings and the rise of paywalls in this country.
Similar logic applies to photography. Photographers create original visual content and they have to be paid for its use and re-licensing, in the same way NYT is able to get digital subscriptions; for photographers, there must be a proper licensing model for the internet. Promoting platforms that harvest images en mass but really benefit the platform by valuation, devastates our industry and drives talented and experienced photographers out of work.
In an era of “fake news” and fake photos, a journalism institution such as Poynter, legitimizing sites where content is unvetted, and uploaded by anyone and everyone, is troubling on so many levels. It boggles the mind that no one thought about this crucial aspect of journalism!!!
Some issues to address in the piece that I find are misleading:
1) Images on Flickr are not for free. Many professionals use Flickr too to market their work
Everyone should assume images on the internet are copyrighted. Unless it’s your images, to assume it’s free is an ignorant slippery and dangerous slope. Anyone making this mistake will be slammed with a copyright lawsuit and it cam be costly, potentially $150,000 per infringement. As an industry we should be encouraging licensing images, even for modest fees.
2) Unexplained, is that there are different tiers of licensing models in Creative Commons. It is confusing to the general public. Not all images are in the public domain. You do see copyright suits because of this confusion.
Image theft is so rampant, professional photographers have been copyright registering their work in bulk to protect their work from unauthorized use and misuse.
It seems what Poynter needs someone like Ken Irby, someone who is knowledgeable and learned in the ways of photojournalism or who has worked more closely with NPPA onmissues that are concerning to staff and freelance photographers alike.
The posting of this article — and in fact, the mindset of its writers — demonstrates how wide a chasm exists at Poytner without experienced and learned hands in professional photojournalism.
- Slightly edited from the original email for better clarity.
- Other Medium Pieces Women Photojournalists: 10 World Press Awards, 10 Back Stories and One Piece of Advice
- Special thanks to Jeffrey D. Smith, director of Contact Press Images for the edit. Yunghi Kim has been a photojournalist for 34 years, is a special contributor to Contact Press Images and the founder of the Yunghi Grant in 2015. Follow Yunghi on Twitter: @Yunghi and Facebook.