04/06/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

iPad Launch Can Usher In New Era of Image Responsibility

With Apple's announcement of the iPad, a new and intimate connection between visual media and the consumer emerges. People can suddenly touch and almost feel what previously was only seen and heard. The success of the iPad will also create a vast new market segment consisting of a new generation of publishers. This new type of digital publisher actually first appeared under Web 2.0, creating content in new ways for consumption through new media. The next wave for new media publishers offers one significant difference, - specifically, this new platform provides a viable economic model for them to sell content from the outset. Though a vast new market segment will have the opportunity to provide content and applications, consider that some have no awareness of the rights and responsibilities understood by traditional publishers. Thus a high degree of responsibility must be assumed by those who enable the technologies to be used.

Among the many observations and opinions that are circulating about the iPad and the channel for content distribution it opens, including the eBook publishing market, image piracy is a salient concern noted by many. Just as the digital explosion in music demanded a thorough address of music licensing, protection, and compensation, the same holds true for images now.

Marketplaces must step up to protect copyrights and ownership and facilitate commerce with some inherent automation of processes, and now is the time to do it. Acting now can establish systemic processes that identify ownership automatically for any of the new publishing media that the iPad and other tablets usher into being. Doing so will serve as an underlying education tool for the next generation of publishers, who without these types of technology advances, can find it all too easy to access and use digital content without attribution or payment. A solution is as simple as establishing a clearance center for image usage. As content owner and licensor business models embrace the technology advances, they can affect a complete model for image attribution and monetization. For content owners, there is a continual need to adjust to market demands and an increasing appetite for digital content, along with recognition that new media have different requirements that may not align with the established standards of image resolution and pricing. Adaptation to the new publishing markets' needs and demands is required for a system that successfully protects images, yet enables their use.

In order to ensure that digital images continue in abundance and vibrancy capable of meeting the desires of a public hungry for visual imagery, content users must acknowledge the role of content creators and distributors. When commercial use of images moved to online media, infringement exploded on the scene for the image industry. As a result, today online images are used without consideration all the time --infringement of rights managed images exceeds 85 percent for commercial websites. The new markets and channels of distribution and use engendered by the iPad and like products are not currently equipped with automated technical solutions capable of protecting images and their ownership. Thus, in the coming new publishing environment images may be vulnerable to more categories of infringement. It's important to meet the consumers and new types of publishers where they are as they encounter and interact with much more visual content in online books, magazines and newspapers. With the new breed of publishers expanding the use of imagery, the channel itself must address the need for image attribution continuation and compensation as images in a digitally accessed framework organically move from one use and are applied to another and another... and on and on.

In this new publishing territory, bloggers and new writers who previously may never have sought out a publisher, will surface and begin to self-publish and promote and sell new works through marketplaces such as the iBook store. In traditional publishing, standard practices have included gatekeepers checking that text avoid plagiarism concerns and provide accurate source references for attribution. Photo researchers also check images for sources and copyrights and proceed to buy the rights to use images in a high res format, at least a 300 dpi printable image. Adhering to these processes and assuming responsibility for them has not been established in the coming new environment where publishing is as easy as uploading material to an online store. Novice publishers may not even have the knowledge or an awareness of the importance of copyright, trademarks, and other relevant laws and publishing best practices. We can safely speculate that most of the routine practices performed in the established and lawful realm of traditional publishing could be lost in the very near future of streamlined publishing.

With book creation set to become easy and instant, it's important to look at how compensating content creators and protecting ownership and credit changes can work within a new framework and its processes. Text has always been easy to copy and paste to a word processor. Images for print, though, have usually required access to stock photo agencies or have been supplied directly by a contracted photographer. This changes in a digital book era, where images can be found using image searches and included in a publication as easily as a right-click-and-save-as, or even more easily with a quick drag-and-drop. It is this ease of use that has brought marketing and branding materials to the ludicrous level of infringement noted.

The iPad brings the kind of revolution to the publishing industry that the web brought to marketing and branding. The convenience of the web then brought new visibility, access, and distribution of marketing materials which facilitated infringement. This former revolution in digital is an instructive model as we look at how online access and management of materials facilitates processes and how best to work within the facility. The new publishing model should work for all the stakeholders involved. As Dirck Haltsted, editor and publisher of The Digital Journalist remarks regarding iBook publishing, "Ah, the end of printing presses, but also the end of free content on the web. Publishers aren't going to make that mistake again."

Taking a hard-learned lesson from the past, it's time for all parties in the business of images to take on the responsibility and automate processes that will assure that all images get credit every time an image is viewed, wherever that may be in the digital world. Within the image industry, there are a number of movements to address certain aspects of digital image attribution and assure image accreditation and restore integrity to image use. Examples of groups include Creative Commons and PLUS organization. Examples of technical standards include RDFa and Micro formats. Technology, such as PicScout's Image recognition capabilities, connects these efforts and standards to images wherever they reside. The PicScout Image IRC™ provides the ability to query images against known copyright holders and report back image credit and licensor information that can be used to clear image rights prior to use. With image indexing and crediting automated, images can be monetized and legitimately used in digital publishing.

It must be the industry that takes the lead, because without automated processes that provide attribution and means for compensation, educating this new generation of publishers and empowering them to do the right thing isn't likely to occur. With technology solutions, content creators and licensors can work with the new publishers and enable them to use images legitimately and with confidence. Now is the time to be pro-active and assure that all images get credit wherever they reside, so photographers and image licensors can fully participate and benefit from the iPad momentum, and publishers can continue to enjoy a breadth of creative content to use.