Photographers to Get (Small) Reward for Their Creative Commons Images


Image courtesy: Dotspin

Someone is benefitting from your Creative Commons-licensed images, and it probably isn’t you. Sure, you might get a little thrill out of knowing that you’re helping a designer with a small budget (or a blogger with no budget) to use an attractive image. And if you’re able to see your pictures in use, the validation can be a fun boost. But that’s a big ‘if’ and it’s pretty much where the benefits end. One new company, though, believes that photographers willing to give away their pictures should receive more for their efforts. Dotspin is trying to line up gifts for photographers who apply Creative Commons licenses to their pictures and give them away on social media sites.

The company has been online since the beginning of May and is still in beta. Its aim, says co-founder Gastón Paladini, is to reward photographers for their contributions to the Internet.

“The idea come from a vision to have a more fair web for all. We think that social media users should be recognized for good content (photos) shared and to be protected in a legal way (copyrights).”

Dotspin is connected to both Instagram and Twitter. Having signed in using an account on either one of those services, Dotspin’s users can take a picture, apply their filters and upload it to their account, tagging the image with the hashtag #dotspin.

The hashtag ensures that the photo is also submitted to Dotspin where, by default, it is licensed as Creative Commons. A settings page, however, allows photographers to change the type of license applied. Rather than selecting one of the various Creative Commons licenses in use, they’re asked whether they’re willing to allow modifications and commercial usage in addition to personal use.

The image will appear in Dotspin’s galleries watermarked with a colored dot, but not before the community has voted on it. Users are presented with two random pictures and asked which they prefer. Images that receive a large number of votes receive “dotcredits,” points which they can redeem for rewards.

At the moment those rewards come from Dotspin, based on “some agreements with Amazon.”

“But we think that soon the suppliers and brands will come to us to offer their products on the Dotspin catalogue,” says Gastón.

Put Your Ads in Front of… Picture-Takers

He may be right.  Instagram currently has more than 100 million users, offering a massive potential market for sellers looking to promote their goods. It’s likely that Dotspin will be able to find some companies who are willing to offer vouchers or freebies in the hope of turning the winners, as well as the site’s users, into future customers.

But the site will face a number of challenges too.

The first is the lack of demographic data. Awarding points that users can redeem means that suppliers can’t target their advertising. They’ll have to settle for offering their products to a demographic made up of roughly of people who like taking pictures. That’s a broad category.

The voting system, too, leaves much to be desired. At the moment, two images are placed against each other at random, forcing users to choose between a picturesque sunset and a mirror-shot selfie, for example. A voting system that pitched two images showing similar topics or that were shot in similar styles against each other might be a more serious way of judging talent.

But a bigger problem is the site’s goal itself. Gastón’s aim to reward people willing to give away their images may be fair and reasonable, but the lack of rewards on offer so far hasn’t stopped people from sharing their pictures. Flickr alone has more than a quarter of a billion photos available under one form of Creative Commons license or another. Donors of those images have made them available with no hope of reward. Gastón wouldn’t say how many photographers have signed up since the site’s beta launch but he did indicate that the numbers are “much more than we thought.”

That could be a good sign but it will be interesting to see whether Dotspin is able to capture a good chunk of the photographers willing to allow people to use their images.

Creative Commons Users Want Tracking for Their Photos, Not Thanks

The most likely outcome is that some photographers currently sharing their images through Instagram and Twitter will sign up to Dotspin and start adding the hashtag. They’ll enjoy the extra feedback provided by the voting system, especially if it’s enhanced. And if the site is able to bring in donors, they might feel a rush if they’re able to win enough credits to pick up a free app download or a discount from a printing service.

But none of those rewards is likely to have an impact on photo-sharing as a whole. They aren’t likely to encourage it and the odd prize isn’t going to come close to rewarding photographers for giving away for free an asset that costs other photographers a great deal to produce.

That’s because when photographers add a Creative Commons license they aren’t doing it for the reward. They’re doing it because they want people to use their images — even the images that few people are ever likely to use. And most of all they want to see their pictures in use.

That would have been a much more powerful reward than goodies redeemable against voted credits. If a platform were produced that highlighted the best of the most recent Creative Commons-licensed images, helped publishers, bloggers and editors to find them, and informed the photographers each time an image was downloaded and told them where it was going to be used, that would be much more rewarding.

And if that service also gave the photographers a share of the page’s revenues, then photographers who applied Creative Commons licenses to their images would really start to feel the benefits.

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