How high definition will save the photography profession

17 Jun 2010

Christina Vaughan is founder and CEO of Image Source and president of the European trade body CEPIC, which represents more than 1,000 picture sources in Europe and held its annual congress in Dublin last week.

While the internet has made copyright theft easy, surely new HD devices such as the iPad and Samsung Wave HD must be good news for producers of high-definition (HD) images?

For as many threats that technology presents to the profession, there are as many opportunities. The first point is how easy it is to find images on Google – anyone born after 1990 thinks most things are free and that is a perception that most creators are riding against, from artists to photographers, musicians and writers.

“With the advent of Flickr and Facebook, people aren’t thinking to ask what is the provenance of this item I am sharing freely. But, conversely, there’s great quality arising, insofar as it is challenging for photo agencies to differentiate a professionally generated image from user-generated content.

But now there are some very interesting developments. The perfect example is the iPad. This will lead to higher expectations in terms of visual literacy – the original source of quality imagery will matter because the means will exist to define who is the copyright holder, who has the right to license that image.

The recession has proved challenging for publishers of newspapers and magazines and, in turn, photographers. Do you think this will change?

We predict a renaissance in HD-quality products will contribute to an upsurge in media’s fortunes.

Traditional media has been challenged, print has gone down yet more pictures than ever are being used. People are becoming more visually literate.

The next step is the fact that now with the technology, higher expectations of how images are represented on devices like the iPad will arise.

It really is a time of renaissance for the photo professional – this provides a lot of opportunity.

What technologies do you think will help image professionals to protect their creations?

Copyright identification techniques and technologies such as watermarking will be key. One company that presented at the congress was PicScout, which developed a software program where every image is credited. This makes it easier to track provenance.

Has CEPIC tackled the internet giants like Google or Facebook, on whose sites people are sharing and sending imagery, and ignorant of the fact that some of it is copyrighted?

We’ve been having conversations with Google specifically in terms of Google Images. There are amazing technologies that ISPs have available to identify the use of copyrighted material and we want to work with them to generate revenue streams for professional photographers and copyright holders.

There are so many parallels in terms of what happened in music and what has been happening with photography. There has been a negative side, but there can be a positive side, too.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years