Over the past few weeks, I have been having several conversations with photographers about sharing images and about copyright. I will be sharing two of these with you in upcoming Depth of Field interviews. The first is with Marco Ryan with Focus for Humanity; Marco explained in simple terms the principles and philosophy behind net traffic and building up blog readership. The second is with Trey Ratcliff, a photographer and author with Peach Pit Press about his work, his website (Stuck in Customs), and how he has managed to gain millions of readers. The thing that kept coming up again and again was building “Internet trust,” that is building a community of online readers that trust your content and link their sites to your own. Building Internet trust builds up your readership through outside links and it also increases your Google rankings.
Marco and Trey discussed several approaches to doing this but it was Trey’s counter-intuitive approach that got my attention. It appealed to my creative bent to think “out of the box” and, as Hercule Poirot would say, it “exercised my little gray cells.” Trey’s philosophy is “create it and give it away… up to a point.” He does this using the Creative Commons licensing model which is an approach that lets you share your creative work in a way that allows others to share and build upon it but with certain restrictions that you specify. This is different than the “All Rights Reserved” approach that you probably have used and might sound a little scary. But scary as it sounds, I think the benefits outweigh the risk.
Here is how I understand the approach and it seems to be working for others. On a regular basis, I post one of my images as a part of the blog post or just a single image posted to share with my users. The image is large, an average of 950 pixels wide. I invite anybody to use the image for anything they want subject to certain conditions: They cannot use it for commercial purposes and they have to link my website. This gives my readers something to look forward to and establishes a regular flow of information across my blog. And, when the image gets used and the link to my site is established, it builds Internet trust.
Now, I can hear the skeptics moaning, “What about the people who take the images and do not link them?” According to Trey and others, those people are in the minority and most people follow through and link their images. It’s a matter of trust and integrity. Trey says that, using this approach to image release, he gets dozens of licensing requests a week. I can honestly say I don’t get that kind of requests for my images.
Another question is, “What does this mean for your clients?” of course, those images remain “All Rights Reserved.” And I just don’t post images that I shoot for my clients on the blog.
Do I have this all figured out? Not yet. It is an experiment. I’m going to give it a year, maybe two and we’ll see what happens. I feel I have nothing to lose and everything to gain. Spread the word: The Digital Trekker shares well with others.