Magnum takes swipe at Creative Commons


A new service from Magnum Photos is about to be rolled out and it's going to take a swipe at Creative Commons. For a flat annual fee, you can download and use ANY Magnum image without watermarks on your non-commercial website.

For the longest time, photography had been a barometer of human activity. Photographers have captured those precious moments on film and saved that for posterity but lately, photos are not worth more than a postage stamp — thanks largely to Photoshop and digital imagery.

Magnum, being the oldest photo agency on the planet can't have you taking their pictures with a creative common twist. Even though you only want to use it on your website for non commercial purposes (which is contentious at best since you earn traffic revenue from web advertising) Magnum has the right to send you a DMCA takedown for using their photos without their permission.

What is the Value of Digital Images?

For old school stock agencies, the last thing they want is to host photos from non-agency photographers. The deal behind Magnum Photos as a collective agency is that the whole library of images is set up to benefit Magnum members and since they can't be possibly  shoot the usual commercial crap one has known to expect from a royalty free stock agency, those images from the past should be worth far more than the postage stamp.

I have nothing but sympathy for Magnum Photos. I  have worked with them in the past and they do try very hard to innovate but going out to enlist bloggers by asking them to pay an annual fee to use photos without watermarks is probably asking too much. Bloggers are a different breed. Think Perez Hilton, who as a successful professional blogger wouldn't even pay a cent even when he's being sued for using images without permission. His best excuse? Let's toss in a photo credit and be done with that.

As a collective agency, I was once in talks with Magnum to get sponsorship from Sony to host an exhibition but that faltered for several reasons, first being that the bulk of their photos were shot on film rather on digital. And even if they were shot on digital, it wasn't shot on a Sony camera. Companies like Nikon or Canon could sponsor them but they too do not see the same value since they are the big shots of the camera scene. Leica could of course do this but heck, they are a premium brand. If you shot Fendi, Burberry or LV, maybe they might consider it. Photojournalism isn't a hot commodity these days as anyone with an iPhone can upload the latest video and pictures onto the Internet for free. Magnum built their reputation on photojournalism, which at this time is being savaged by the digital age. No one pays attention to where the photos came from—and much less of the photographer who took it.

Magnum is a prestigious agency and to shore up their revenue, they are hoping to convert up to 30 percent of their recalcitrant image thieves to their new membership model though I think they would have more success if they were aiming for between 1 to 10 percent. Frankly bloggers are not out to pay for images and even if they did, they would want to desecrate them into personal Memes which they can share online. Robert Capa and HCB could be turning in their graves as we speak....