Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Written Evidence

Memorandum submitted by Redeye—The Photography Network


  Redeye, the Photography Network, is based in Manchester, UK, and has over 3,000 subscribers and over 10,000 regular users of its services across the North of England and beyond. It aims to form a clear picture of the ways photographers and photographic artists are working now, and thus give them access to events, opportunities, advice and information that are relevant to their work and difficult to find elsewhere. We believe Redeye is now the fastest-growing and most successful organisation of its kind in the UK.

2.  2006 SURVEY

  In February 2006 Redeye surveyed photographers on various issues, including the effects of new technology on photographers' work patterns. We received 487 responses, of whom just under half are full- or part-time working photographers. Their work is evenly spread across editorial, commercial, social (wedding/portrait) and fine art practice.


  We asked those who had been working for five years or longer to compare their work now with their work three to five years ago, and also asked them to comment on whether or not these changes were wholly or partly caused by new technology (the internet, computers, digital cameras etc).

    —  88% said that more non-professionals are getting their photography used in a professional context because of new technology

    —  74% noticed more photos and images being copied, or used on the internet, without authorisation

    —  69% said that more of their clients were taking work in-house because of new technology

    —  66% said that more of the kind of work they do is now going to non-professionals and students because of new technology

    —  64% thought they were being undercut more often because of new technology

    —  61% noticed a general reduction in fees, 52% noticed a reduction in the amount of commissions they had received, and of those 73% thought that was caused by new technology

    —  50% thought that the total time they spent on a job was longer (27% disagreed)

    —  50% thought their work was getting more difficult (25% disagreed)

    —  77% have diversified the kind of work they do within photography in the last three to five years

    —  46% have diversified the kind of work they do other than photography in the last three to five years.


    —  33% had noticed more clients asking for copyright than three to five years ago

    —  However 53% did not use licensing with commissions, or didn't know about it.

  We also asked for comments on the above issues. The following summaries are listed in order of the number of comments received (most popular topic first):

    —  A large number of respondents said that cheap stock (library) photography, often produced by non-professionals, was having a major impact on professional work;

    —  Digital manipulation allowed companies and designers to make more of poor photography;

    —  It was easier for beginners to give the illusion of competence and thus get a foot in the door;

    —  Many beginners wanted publication regardless of what they were paid, and clients are taking advantage of the flood of freelances;

    —  Some said that the skills of the photographer are still important.


4.1  Changing work patterns

  These results indicate major changes in the way photographers are working. Times are certainly harder for photographers and new technology is a major cause of this. Overall reduced fees and a reduction in the amount of professional work may well be caused by the following:

    —  Cheap non-professional stock photography flooding the market.

    —  Work being taken in-house and done by non-professional company staff and are also connected with:

      —  The increase of unauthorised use of photographs and digital images;

      —  The lack of knowledge of copyright and licensing issues by photographers; and

    —  Exploitation of this by clients.

4.2  Copyright

  Redeye notes that while the number of clients demanding copyright is still in the minority, it is growing, and if the current rate of growth in this practice is sustained, it is expected to become a majority within a generation. This practice of enforced copyright assignment contravenes the spirit of copyright protection generally and of the 1988 Copyright Designs and Patents Act specifically, which are intended to protect the individual creator's work. However many individual creators are finding they cannot get work without giving up their copyright.

  Redeye is particularly dismayed that the government sets such a bad example on this. Almost all government departments now demand copyright. The guidance issued by the OPSI on copyright in works commissioned by the crown is worded so as to encourage departments to seek assignment, with no note of the disadvantages of doing so listed below. (see

  Redeye notes the following on the question of enforced assignment of copyright:

    —  The future earning potential of creators from their own material is negated, so up front charges will need to increase significantly.

    —  Long-term, creators who assign copyright, who do not increase up-front charges, and who find themselves unable to work will have a greatly reduced earning potential. Creators in general tend not to have good pension provision. It is likely that many more will be impoverished in old age.

    —  Assignment of copyright discourages creators from giving the client any more than the bare minimum required.

    —  Almost all of the top photographers in this country refuse to assign copyright.

    —  It is highly likely for these last two reasons that clients who demand copyright are therefore getting second-rate work.

    —  It is possible for creators to use a licence similar to that recommended by Creative Commons, which allows certain types of free public use of material while copyright is retained by the creator. However some creators are reluctant to do this while the policing of unauthorised use is so lax.

  Redeye also notes that the use of licensing, while vital to any solution to these issues, is poorly understood by both photographers and many of their clients.

  Finally we note that these problems are greatly exacerbated by the rise in so-called citizen journalism. Many members of the public are sending phone-camera pictures to be published without being paid for this, and realise too late that they have lost control of their work. Publishers and broadcasters are exploiting the lack of knowledge of the public on these matters, and profiting substantially.

4.3  Protecting creative content from unauthorised usage

  Misuse or unauthorised use of digital images and photographs essentially falls into one of four categories:

    —  Images are circulated with no identifying mark and re-used because the end user cannot tell who the creator was;

    —  The identifying mark in the image cannot be found because of incompetence or software incompatibility;

    —  The identifying mark in the image is removed;

    —  The identifying mark is changed to indicate a different creator.

  Redeye notes that this can be a complex matter and that users of unauthorised material often claim ignorance.

  We also note that penalties for offenders are low—in fact they are often only identical to the charges that would have been legitimately made.

  While market traders are regularly taken to court for breach of copyright when selling pirate videos, we hear far fewer cases of a large publishing house being taken to court for breaching copyright of individual creators. In most of the latter cases, even one as high-profile as Linford vs TSPL, an out of court settlement is reached where the creator receives only the fees he or she ought to have been paid anyway.

  There is little incentive for those breaching the copyright of individual creators to desist. There is anecdotal evidence that large photolibraries are treated better by clients than individual photographers in this matter.

Notes on protecting digital images:

  Traditionally prints or slides were circulated with a stamp or sticker on and it was very easy to tell who the creator was.

  Regarding protecting digital images, there are essentially four methods of marking an image with some information about its creator and/or caption:

    (1)  The file name. This very short text area is often limited to 32 or even eight characters. It is very easy to read and change.

    (2)  Metadata. This is text, typically caption and creator details, saved in a special area of every digital image. It is fairly easy to read using certain software, and some details can be changed or stripped out. It is becoming a universal standard.

    (3)  Visible text in the image. Typically this will be a strip of information at the bottom or side of the image, or a short piece of text with a copyright symbol visibly superimposed on the image.

    (4)  Invisible watermarking. Information embedded in the image that is hard or impossible to move, and usually requires proprietary software to apply or read. There is no universal standard and the software concerned usually has a financial cost.

  In the absence of a universal watermarking standard, metadata is the most useful universal standard for marking images with creator details. However Redeye notes that over 90% of the digital images and photographs received into its offices contain no user-assigned metadata. It is also possible to set up certain software used by picture desks to strip metadata out of an image. This is analogous to tearing out pages in a novel that contain the name of the author. Although it is hard to trace instances of this happening, we have anecdotal reports. Such practice may well be illegal.


    —  Penalties for large scale and systematic breach of copyright or unauthorised use of images should be increased, and help given to individual creators in protecting their rights.

    —  The practice of blanket enforced assignment of copyright should be strongly discouraged.

    —  The practice of licensing should be much more widely disseminated and understood among those making and particularly commissioning creative content.

    —  Consideration should be given to supporting alternative licensing models provided they can be policed.

    —  Government departments should be requested to give much stronger support to individual creators in the matters raised above.

    —  Work should be done to raise the profile of these issues at colleges and universities, not just those teaching photography but also PR, management, publishing and similar subjects.

    —  The usage and respect of metadata should be encouraged.

    —  Guidance needs to be issued on the legality of removing copyright information from digital images; this practice should be clearly illegal, and software companies alerted.

14 March 2006

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