Digitization is truly a double edged sword. A digitized image is easier to manipulate for exposure and special effects. But as soon as it goes online, the owner of the image losses all control over how and where it’s used. This is because so many people will steal it for their own use. One estimate says that 90% of all images online are stolen.
So far, digitization has hit four industries.
Movie – Pirating and distributing digitized movies became extremely easy and profits from illegal distribution skyrocketed. Tracking illegal downloads and DVDs is nearly impossible. Even if you do find a download site and have it taken down, it just pops up a few hours later somewhere else.
Music – As with movies, illegal downloads and CDs were everywhere. Anyone could easily email, or upload music to a Torrent site for people to download. A Torrent site is where thieves go to upload stolen files (music, movies and ebooks) so that others can download them illegally for free. I have seen bundles of albums from major performers available for download. This results in a pirated album being listened to by thousands of people who never paid for it. So the artist receives no money for the pirated copies, which means he may not have the funds to create another album. All of his time must be spent at a 9 to 5 job to pay the bills.
On the up side, digitization lets many artists avoid large music publishers by selling their music online directly to their fans.
While this allows music to be released that never would have been heard before, the artists must work very hard to promote their music. Most artists don’t make a lot of money from online sales, and theft takes a chunk out of that income too.
Books – Ebooks came along, and criminals took action quickly. Ebooks were illegally distributed, mainly through Torrent sites, and the authors lost a lot of money.
I was able to track the illegal downloads of one of my ebooks, The Writer’s Resource Book Of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror And Mythology, on several Torrent sites for a couple of years. I tracked over $1,000,000 worth of illegal downloads. That kind of money would have made a huge difference in my life.
People need to realize that if Creatives aren’t paid, they will stop creating. Cameras, computers, paint, canvas, guitars, and all the other materials that Creatives use cost money. If they don’t have the money to purchase these tools for their craft, they can’t produce their art. They have to make enough money to pay their bills too.
Photography – There’s an old saying that, “Familiarity breeds contempt.” Cell phone photography has brought that saying into reality for the photography industry. Not only does everyone take photographs with their phone, but they become used to seeing tiny images and see no value in large prints. That removes a lot of potential clients who in the past may have purchased a print. Then the Internet lets people easily steal images to use on their own website, blog, newsletter and more. Even large ad agencies have used stolen photographs in advertising and marketing campaigns. Most people feel it’s perfectly fine to steal images from the Internet, which is a sad statement about our society. The microstock industry has also dealt a huge blow to photographer’s incomes. I know of several photographers who had to postpone, or come out of, retirement because the income from their stock sales cratered with the introduction of microstock.
Photographers must learn how to use digitization to their advantage. Each segment of the photography industry will need to do this in a different way. How can you profit from digitization in your specialty?