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Copyright infringements by MPs, taxation of interest on Payment Protection Insurance payouts, compulsory self-billing, the PLUS registry, finding a good copyright lawyer and ‘Stolen photographs: what to do?’ – Simon Crofts’ excellent article published right here on the EPUK web site.
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On the PLUS side
The PLUS Registry sounds as exciting as a phonebook, but promises the largest evolutionary step for the imaging industry since the internet arrived. EPUK moderator Tony Sleep explains.
25 July 2011
Nonplussed by PLUS?
The PLUS Registry recently launched a public beta, and is now inviting photographers to sign up.
Was that a yawn?
PLUS does not immediately stand out from all those folio sites, SEO chancers, competitions, agencies and directories that claim they’ll change our lives but just make their owners rich.
Just like them, it offers free basic registration, pay if you want extra stuff… Big name logos on show so it can’t really be a scam. So what the hell is the Picture Licensing Universal System anyway?
It turns out the answer is radical and profound. If PLUS gets its way, it will be career and life changing for imaging professionals.
It’s easiest to start with what PLUS is not. It is not a stock library, agency nor marketing device. It is not a company aiming for a Google buyout or IPO, it is constituted to be impervious to either. It is set up never to make a profit but is not a charity. It is not a representative organisation for photographers. What it offers is not even primarily aimed at photographers, but at image users.
There is actually nothing like PLUS anywhere in the world. It is a unique cooperative assembly spanning 32 countries, that brings together the factional interests of the global imaging industry under the bland-sounding mission statement “To simplify and facilitate the communication and management of image rights”.
So it’s some sort of tedious industry talking-shop, figuring out new ways for the big players to grab more pie? Well, no. Participating organisations are obliged to leave that stuff at the door. It’s more like Noah’s ark, working on how to turn the disastrous flood that is Photography 2.0 into an eco-friendly hydroelectric scheme that might sustain us rather than drown us. And it might just work.
A long process of addition
Noah, on this occasion, tasked with bringing together animals that generally try to eat each other, is PLUS CEO Jeff Sedlik. A 49 year old LA-based advertising, editorial and fine-art photographer, ex-APA president, professor and copyright consultant, Sedlik has a strong history of defending photographers’ interests. He gave evidence to Congress and was pivotal in the resistance to successive attempts at passing orphan works Bills in the US. He has also helped UK photographers out in the past with tactical and legal advice, notably regarding the Digital Economy Bill. Sedlik is as unlike your average CEO as PLUS is unlike any corporation.
He welcomes anyone to PLUS participation, but there are house rules : “The collective is ‘industry neutral’ by design, while each participating industry sector is asked to participate constructively and collaboratively in order to ensure that the interests of its constituents are adequately represented within the collective. This necessarily requires setting all political, regional and competitive differences aside, and focusing on achievable results. We are by design independent of regional, industrial, commercial or political bias. We are the creators of the world, uniting with the image users of the world, to create a solution that is designed from the ground up to serve the interests of all users, and thus to serve the interest of each individual user”.
That last sentence sounds like hubris. It seems preposterous, an overreached fantasy, but it is no more than the truth.
The result has become a grand design for a sustainable photographic ecology adapted to the internet age, evolved and refined over a decade of bridge-building and dialogue with thousands of companies, publishers, agencies, industry groups, lawyers, conservators, museums, art buyers, academics, creators and representative organisations from around the world.
Sedlik admits “I am a madman” to have even attempted such a thing, let alone to have persevered for years at herding so many cats into collective effort. The thing is, though, that every facet of the imaging industry knows it is in deep, calamitous trouble. PLUS is the only attempt and opportunity to systemically reinvent an environment that no longer works for anyone. Many companies and organisations have donated resources, expertise and money; thousands of volunteers have helped build momentum. Unlike at the beginning, he says people now come to him asking to participate. That’s how Corbis and Getty became contributors.
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