As society continues to embrace social media in order to reach out to the millions of users currently taking part in it, the monetization and regulation of such markets is increasingly apparent. However, it would seem that these millions are, for the most part, lost on that part of social media.
We recently ran into an issue where a user on an art forum was reposting photographs in his gallery that he had taken off of numerous Source Interlink Media (our parent company) magazine websites. He wasn't taking credit for the images, which seems innocent enough, right? After all, people post and repost things on Facebook and Twitter all of the time.
Going a step beyond simple reposting, this user was removing the watermarks from many of the images. If you go to our website www.mustangandfords.com, you'll see the magazine logo on the photos somewhere; that's a watermark, and it's there to let you know who has the rights to, or the ownership of, the photo.
Much like the imagery in the magazine, the photos on our website usually require a substantial investment in labor and equipment to create. (They're usually the same images from the print articles.) When we hire a professional photographer to shoot a vehicle, we are buying his time as well as his equipment, which can often run into thousands, or even tens of thousands of dollars. For that investment, we expect exclusivity in using those images, whether it is in the book or on our digital properties.
In this day and age of posting camera phone pictures on an hourly basis, it's understandable that people become loose with the rules of ownership. Everything is shared and liked and tagged and tweeted—it all becomes a nebulous swirl of digital information, and as a consequence, little value is placed on it. In fact, the next image has likely been uploaded and your phone is sending you a push notification right now.
It's exactly that freedom that has allowed the interwebs to grow and expand so rapidly, but the flipside is that companies like ours and/or other artists that generate such content, lose money in the digital marketplace. Our digital properties increasingly contribute to our bottom line, so it's essential that we maintain ownership of our content and crack down on its unauthorized use, thus we have more regulation and monetization.
It remains to be seen whether or not this will affect social media use, or if people will just adapt to the changing nature of the situation like they did when Napster was shut down and iTunes sprang up. In the end, if you want to have pictures to show someone, buy a magazine. It's yours to hold onto for as long as you like. Just don't post the pictures online. That's what our website is for.
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