Most of you know I’ve used a rights-managed approach to selling my photography. My pal Trey Ratcliff – has posted a series of threads on his website and on Google+ about his views on Creative Commons and why he prefers that business model.
Trey’s argument is that the exposure he’s gotten via being open and sharing his photos with the world under a CC license has more than outweighed the cost in infringement. He rightly argues that most of the infringers are judgment proof so going after them is indeed an expensive waste of time and trouble in some cases.
Trey says his business is exploding because he is using what he calls an “open sharing” approach. Now here I start to get a little skeptical. Trey hasn’t done any A – B testing that I know of to prove his business is exploding solely because of his take on Creative Commons and more open sharing. When I asked him if he isn’t possibly failing to capture money he would if he used a rights-managed approach he turned my question back on me. He asked me how I could prove I wouldn’t make more money if I switched from rights-managed to Creative Commons.
That floored me because I had no good answer. So a test is in order. I have plenty of experience using the old method. We both make very good money using our current methods but maybe there’s more to be made using Trey’s way than mine. Trey argues we live in a new world where the new business models will triumph. He’s one of the most gifted and talented artists I know, not to mention a tremendous businessman. So why shouldn’t I listen to him? I’m not too old to change.
I decided to shake the chip off my shoulder and open myself up to ridicule (what else is new) and agree to give this a try. I won’t change overnight. I’ll take a month or two to run out this new model. I will have to re-structure my entire business workflow but frankly, I’m excited to see if it works. I want it to work. I do get tired of chasing down the infringers. And Creatives Commons is not really that different than what I am doing now. Let me explain.
Using a rights-managed approach – when people ask me for permission to use my photos in a non-commercial manner, I almost ALWAYS give it to them – free of charge. I only charge when people want to make money off my work. Using this new CC method, I’m merely giving that permission up front, skipping the step requiring someone to ask for my permission.
Will people abuse this? I am 100% sure of it. But I am going to try to take Trey’s attitude and say “whatever.” Karma works both ways. By my willingness to share maybe something good will come back to me and the people who abuse my trust will have to face their own karma. And if some people enjoy my work that wouldn’t have otherwise, well that’s not cash but it is a form of payment.
There are a couple of other facts to note. Even though Trey uses this open sharing / CC approach, he still registers his images with the Library of Congress. He has in fact gone after some of the big infringers who have the ability to pay. I too register my images and just like Trey, I’ll continue to go after the big fish who use my work in a commercial environment without permission. But I’m not going to worry about the small stuff.
If sharing more openly can both help grow my business and at the same time make some people happy, that’s great.
The license I intend to use can be found here:
Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs Creative Commons
I want to re-iterate – this is an experiment. I may need some help from all of you who embrace this model. I may need some guidance. I plan to do the best I can at making the transition simple and painless for me, for my clients and for my staff. I’m sure it will take some getting used to.
I want to thank Trey for leading the way here and I hope at the end of my experiment I am able to see the same results he has.