What is the future of photography rights in the age of sponsored content?

The internet is tough enough for photographers trying to secure the rights to their pictures, how will they navigate the world of sponsored content?

I have a deep respect for
photography the same way I have a deep respect for writing – both are crafts
that take skill, practice and a point of view. Just like reading a great novel,
a great photograph needs an editorial vision, expertise and execution. Great
pictures don’t just happen, but they are created by people who know what they
are doing with a camera.

With that said, I am the first to admit the challenges that the
Internet poses to photography. Photos are often ripped apart, chopped up, misused,
mis-attributed (or not at all) – and the photographer has very little control
over where images go and how they are used once put up online. Occasionally,
when an image becomes so iconic it no longer belongs to anyone other than the
public and it enters the realm of fair use. That is the exception though.
Generally, those who create a visual message online must go through licensing
procedures and copyright laws before attaching an image to an advertisement or
article. Outside of hiring your own photographer, there are multiple places
online where you can buy photos for a variety of uses in editorial, marketing
and advertising efforts.

But a new challenge is facing us. As I wrote about previously,
the lines are becoming blurred between commercial and editorial content
and
photos are no exception. Even with the ability to point, shoot and click a
photo with your phone, there is still the need for high-quality, high-resolution
images of people, places and things. Here we are faced with yet another new
dilemma: how do you license photos for sponsored content? Which bucket do you
check when searching for a photo to use with a sponsored post on Facebook? The
obvious choice is to select photos that can be used commercially or to take the
photos yourself. But unfortunately the pace of online content creation doesn’t
always allow for that and given these images help not only to sell an idea or
product, but also tell a story – is there room for more editorial images to be
used within the online advertising space?

The answer will need to come from the photography community and each
photographer will need to decide how he or she wants their work to be used in
the future. But until image licensing companies like Getty, Corbis and Flickr
create a new in-between category for “advertorial usage” those who are tasked
with the creation of vibrant, visual online content supported by ad dollars are
stuck in a strange limbo. If photographers can address the emerging demands of
the online marketplace it could help those who are frustrated by the existing
options and create an entire new path forward for photographers to make a
profit from the newfound in-betweenness of storytelling and advertising.

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