Editor's note: the following is a tongue-in-cheek, oftenirreverent, question and answer column published in the ASMP News solelyfor the entertainment of our readers. It does not necessarily reflect theviews of ASMP, the local chapter or other ASMP members. All opinions andanswers are solely those of the author, and he is welcome to them.

Readers' questions about any aspect of photography, or life ingeneral, are welcome and Dr. Photography will answer them in future columns,if he happens to feel like it. Send mail to:
Dear Dr. Photography

Dear Dr. Photography,

In the last several years, stock photographyhas become one of the most complicated and difficult aspects of the entirebusiness of photography today. Where do you see it headed in the yearsto come?

Baffled in San Francisco


DP: Stock photography has indeedbecome a more complex aspect of every professional photographer's business,as millions of new images are created and hundreds of new players enterthe market each year. With this massive expansion, the stock photographybusiness has created a number of problems in the industry ranging from adecline in new assignment photography to copyright infringement battles,pricing conflicts and past uniform capitalization requirements by the IRS. What a mess!

While in Washington, DC a few months ago, I had an opportunity to meetwith Congressional leaders who revealed to me a plan for yet another massiveseries of changes in the Copyright Law due to go in effect in the year 2000.

The new law will require that all works of art (including photography)be created on temporary media (such as film) with a total life not to exceedone year. At the end of this one year period, the media upon which theartwork was created would disintegrate (sort of like Mission Impossible). In the case of film photography, select images could be preserved beyondthis one year limit with reproduction onto registered and licensed archivalfilm. The trade off would be that any image thus saved would automaticallyenter into the public domain. This would allow for the preservation ofthe finest photographs and works of the masters for the benefit of all.

This new law is expected to result in massive solutions to the numerousproblems professional photographers are currently facing.

First of all, photographers and stock agencies would no longer havethe difficulty and expense of maintaining massive photo files as the materialthey actually owned would be limited to only what they'd created in thepast year.

Clients would be assured of a constant flow of fresh, new images andphotographers would be kept continuously busy shooting repeated assignmentsfor

clients who needed use of a particular image for longer than one year. Assignment photography in general would get a whole new shot in the armbecause most assignment photographers would no longer be competing withstock files.

Photographers would easily be able to charge large fees to clients whochose to hold images -- their clients would essentially be buying a significantpercentage of the life of each image they held onto before making a decision.

Copyright infringement suits would be drastically reduced (along withassociated legal fees) as no photo copyright would last more than the oneyear life of the image. (Currently, it takes at least that long just toget to court.) After that period, the image would cease being a photographand continue only as a memory or idea -- and of course, ideas cannot be copyrighted.

The new regulation would simplify negotiations of rights between photographersand their clients. Work for hire would become a less important issue withthe decreased time value of each image. Photographers would establish theirretirement funds based on their new increased day-rate earnings rather thantheir stock libraries.

Uniform capitalization of expenses related to shooting stock would neveragain pose a threat since the life and income potential of any image wouldonly be one year anyway.

Finally, photographers would be encouraged to spend more of their timein the studio or field being creative and doing what they love most -- shootingphotographs, in order to satisfy the ever increasing demand for new images. And we would all be on a more equal level competitively in the marketplacesince we would have minimized our competition with huge stock libraries. It would also eliminate the question "But what have you done recently" from portfolio presentations, as only work shot within the past yearwould still exist.

And of course, we should not forget that the new regulations might meanthat we would never again be subject to endless hours of watching old slidesand home movies at family gatherings. Such things would no longer existafter their one year life span. That alone might be enough to pass sucha law.

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©1991 Scott Highton
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