Give it a Link | a Guide for Responsible Web Sharing
There are many ways society and small businesses have benefited from the open source of the web.
- relational connectivity and trust building through transparency
- rise of new ethical standards and practices
- small businesses have access to large growth by eliminating geography as an obstacle
- word of mouth is now scalable
- customer service is back in focus for larger corporations
- a good cause can be organized and rallied for swift, visible change
All of this instantly accessible information has created a huge demand for images to illustrate and support content. On the surface, that sounds great if you’re a photographer or other visual artist. But what if the perceived value of those works is also dropping? There is now a flood of fantastic photographs just a click away — even extraordinary images are about as common as a McDonald’s french fry these days. Just because images are easier to share, doesn’t mean they’re any easier to create. This means creatives are working harder, longer hours for much less of a return (if any at all — see The Stolen Scream: A Story About Noam Galai). There are a couple issues distinct to photography.
- images are supportive in nature (they don’t promote themselves, they promote the message they are associated with)
- for the photographer, the image is the product (when it’s shared freely, there is no incentive to purchase)
- the act of creating photography is not scaleable; it will always be a custom service created for an individual client (no matter how amazing the work is, you’ll never be interested in buying a wedding album from someone else’s wedding).
- while music has found a solution in easy $.99 downloads, photography and has no solution in sight
- without a name and direct weblink, the creator of the work remains in the background and, in some cases on the internet, disappears completely
This suggests most of the open benefits of the web are growing at the expense of the visual artist rather than with the visual artist. The current conditions have set up a perfect storm where creative content providers are used, chewed up, and spit out for loving what they do. More of the increasing costs and burdens are being put on the shoulder of the photographer while receiving less and less of tangible rewards for their work. The intrinsic drive to create keeps him or her doing it without benefit, but how long before he or she is repaid with burnout or bankruptcy? To me, this stands in stark contrast to the heart of where this open sourced revolution really wants to go. But we can change that. We are currently writing the rules of conduct for this new road, do we really want to lock in ways that exploit those who help to pave it? If you’re like me, you want a culture that exchanges value, builds, celebrates and adds value to everyone by putting the days of exploiting others behind us.
Tomorrow offers an opportunity to discover better versions of ourselves. Is it unreasonable to ask for a simple gesture of gratitude? It’s like a nod of the head when passing by someone on the street. It’s time to call for a standard of common decency by giving linkable image credit every time we share the hard work of an artist. “Repin responsibly,” David Michael Moore advises, “Attribution respects our artists and innovators.”
Here’s an example by John Brandon at Inc. of how to give proper photo credit by including an active web link (NAME + LINK added just below image). It’s a small way to say a big thank you. It makes the future brighter for everyone.