ImageRights International

A portrait of the artist as a technophile

January 13, 2010: 10:00 AM ET

The Internet has been an important distribution platform for artists, but piracy is having a chilling effect.

By Ted VanCleave, co-founder and executive vice president, ImageRights International.

VanCleave discusses the challenges artists face protecting their work online. Photo: Ted VanCleavel.

As a professional fine arts photographer, I depend on my website to market and sell my images. In fact, my site outsells galleries 10 to 1 for my work.

This is the case for many photographers, artists, musicians and content creators today: the Internet offers an unparalleled medium for global distribution and marketing of art and entertainment at a low cost.

But there's a dark side to free distribution: piracy is rampant. Various studies indicate that the music and entertainment industries lose billions of dollars per year from piracy and copyright infringement. In the business of photography, image theft accounts for hundreds of millions of lost revenue per year.

Unfortunately, it's easy for anyone with a computer (or increasingly, mobile phone) to steal content-- but difficult for the copyright owner to monitor unauthorized usage and recover lost income. Ongoing revenue loss due to Web-enabled infringement raises the broader question around the future of creative content. More

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