Much forgotten by the European Copyright Directive voted on the 24th of March 2019, the photographic industry has not shown the same vigor as those of music, cinema and the media in defending its rights. Yet still images bring much more to the Big Four.


Article 17 of the European Directive requires online sharing platforms to consider and respect the copyright of audio, video, and still images creators. In other words, it requires platforms to remunerate creators and producers whose content they share. But to do this, one must start by being able to identify the creators of content precisely at zero cost.

There is a general understanding that Article 17 is written for music and videos, with the YouTube content ID system in mind.

But while music and video are historically well organized and represented industries, photography is not because of the widely dispersed multitude of its creators and producers.

Article 17 : still looking for the word “photo”

Still imagery - photography - appears to be the forgotten weak sibling of article 17, while its "sharing" value is preponderant ; when video and music sharing platform Youtube generated 15 billion dollars in revenue for 2019 photography platform Instagram brought in $20 billion. Adding Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Snapchat into the mix and photography is undoubtedly the most shared media, by far.

But the platforms have not paid any cents to the copyright holders of the photos, while YouTube (which belongs to Google) has already paid several billion dollars to the rights holders of the music and videos uploaded by the users.

The value of the still image : find out where the profit is

To understand what the Big Four* (Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple) have to lose in remunerating the rights holders of still images, though they did not wait for the European Directive to get along with the majors of music and cinema, we must look on the bright side of the spyglass. Not on the side of the professional photographer who will get a few cents from Getty, or the influencer who will be happy with a few likes, but rather on the side of Pinterest and Instagram - platforms exclusively powered by photos - which generate more income than Youtube.

Everything is there : the revenues from the exploitation of still images constitute a much larger cake for Big Four than that of music or video.

For rights holders, how can we capture the hidden value of these images ? Inevitably, starting with creating a content-ID for photography


Stay tuned!

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Thierry Secretan

Thierry Secretan

French photographer, author and documentary film director. Thierry’s career in the sectors of photo press agencies, media and culture led him to investigate and adopt, for the members of a photographers trade union he founded, the Imatag technology.

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