The Future of Photo Copyrights: Blockchain?

 Photo courtesy of YouPic. Credit Wesley Overklift

Photo courtesy of YouPic. Credit Wesley Overklift

By now nearly everyone has heard of Bitcoin and other "blockchain" based cryptocurrencies.  (If you haven't, then you can read a super-simplified explanation of Bitcoin here.)

But blockchains are potentially useful for far more than just financial ledgers.  

This week, the photography portfolio site YouPic announced a new, blockchain-based initiative for tracking photo copyrights and ensuring that photographers get paid when their photos are used.

You can read their Press Release here. (Their non-native English is a little awkward, but the basic point comes through).

At a time when Bitcoin mania has reached fever-pitch, and when "blockchain enabled" everything is the buzzword of the day, I'm always skeptical of any newly announced blockchain application. (It's like adding "dot-com" to something in 1999, or saying "It's the Uber of X" in 2015.)

But YouPic's proposed copyright system actually seems like a good idea.

Of course, I have no idea whether YouPic will actually succeed in making a blockchain-based copyright system, and if they do, whether their system will become widely used.

However, I think it's almost inevitable that someone will create such a system, and that it may come to supplement, or even replace, the current marketplace for stock photo sales.

Consider some possible advantages of a blockchain-based copyright system for photos:

  • The photos themselves would have their copyright information embedded invisibly in an unalterable, unforgeable format.  No more cropping off the photographer's watermark and claiming ignorance of copyright.

  • This system could automate, or perhaps replace, the current clunky system in which photographers must register their photos with the national copyright office if they want the maximum legal protection.

  • Photographers could embed price structures and even payment mechanisms into the invisible photo metadata.

  • Middleman fees for stock photo sites could be reduced or eliminated in favor of decentralized photo exchanges that allow buyers to purchase directly from photographers — in fully automated transactions, based on the embedded price data, with no human oversight needed.  Payment would simply appear in the photographer's cryptocurrency account when a photo is used.

  • The embedded pricing structures could be far more complex than the standard fixed-price stock-photo schemes we see today.  For example, a photo could be used in a website in a way that automatically counts the number of views and pays the photographer on a per-viewer basis.

  • Copyright bots would automatically search the web for unauthorized use of copyrighted photos, and report any infringing use to the photo's owner.

  • Conceivably, a copyright infringer could even be charged automatically — via a cryptocurrency transaction — for improper use without the photographer even having to take any action.

These are just a few blue-sky thoughts off the top of my head, but I think you can see that there is huge potential for a fully-automated, trustless, decentralized, incorruptible system for tracking photo copyrights.

Someone will probably make this happen within the next few years.   There are similar efforts underway to protect other kinds of creative content, and perhaps one of those will grow to include photographs in a way similar to what YouPic proposes.

It's impossible to know at this point which system will win out, but it seems almost certain that copyright protection is about to undergo a revolution.

We live in interesting times.  

I look forward to seeing how this plays out.

—Phil

P.S. By the way, if you're interested in learning more about blockchains, Bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies, you can check out this online course by my affiliate partner Mike Newton (yes, the same Mike Newton we know as a photographer, and who appears in this goofy video of mine).  Mike has created an excellent "Cryptocurrency 101" class that makes this confusing subject crystal clear. I recommend it highly.


P.P.S. Reminder: Discounts Expiring Soon!
The discounts that I scored for you on these three products from Photography Concentrate are about to expire.  I love the fun, lighthearted that Rob and Lauren Lim teach photography. Their personalities shine through in every moment—and they are great teachers.

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The New Lightroom CC and "Lightroom Classic"

The official Adobe Announcement video:

This week Adobe announced a major change—a fork, you might say—in their Lightroom product line.

They have announced a new, simplified, cloud/mobile version of Lightroom which stores your photos online and allows you to edit them on any mobile device.  This new version will be separate from the desktop Lightroom we all currently use, and which my Lightroom Made Easy course teaches.

Our familiar desktop version will now be renamed "Lightroom Classic" and the new, simplified cloud/mobile version will assume the name "Lightroom CC."  (I call them, "Lightroom for Real Photographers" and "Lightroom for Mobile Phone Shooters" respectively.)

I'm not sure yet whether I will even test the new cloud-based system, and at present I have no plans to provide training for it.  Because, honestly, I have no plans to use it.  

Maybe I'm old-fashioned, but I actually prefer keeping my photos on my own computer rather than putting them all in a cloud server belonging to Adobe.

After all, have we not seen, again and again, data breaches and security hacks penetrating the systems of even the largest companies in the world (including the scandalous leaks of celebrities' personal photos from Apple's iCloud system)?  Frankly, I just don't trust the ability of any company to keep my photos 100% safe or private.

And honestly, I don't feel the need to do extensive editing of my photos on my mobile phone or iPad.  I prefer editing on the large screen of my home computer, or in a pinch on my laptop.

Of course, the members of the younger generation that Adobe is pursuing with this strategy often do not even have a desktop computer, and frequently do all of their photography on a mobile phone.  So it makes sense for Adobe to create a product for them.

But it's frustrating to me that Adobe has transferred the Lightroom CC brand name to this new phone-shooter product (which could have been called "Lightroom Elements" or "Lightroom Mobile" instead), and left us real photographers with "Lightroom Classic" which sounds like something on its way to obsolescence.

(It reminds me of the debacle faced by the Coca Cola company when they launched "New Coke" only to quickly backpedal and re-introduce the original as "Coca Cola Classic" when the new product flopped.)

Simultaneous with this rebranding of Lightroom CC and Lightroom Classic, Adobe has also announced that they will stop updating the older standalone (non-subscription) version of Lightroom 6 at the end of 2017. This effectively means no new RAW format updates for newer cameras after that time in Lightroom 6.  Users of the standalone version will still be able to use the software as before, but those who buy new cameras in 2018 or later, and who want to shoot RAW, may need to upgrade to the $9.99/month Adobe Photography Plan with Lightroom Classic CC to get support for newer cameras.  I upgraded to this plan last year when it became clear that Adobe would eventually stop supporting the non-subscription LR6, and while I was reluctant to switch to the subscription model, I do think it's a good value, getting both Lightroom Classic CC and Photoshop for $9.99 per month.

Should You Update to the Latest Lightroom Classic CC?

If you are currently using Lightroom CC (now called Lightroom Classic CC), I encourage you to check the system requirements before attempting to update to the new release of Lightroom Classic CC.   One of my two computers will require an operating system upgrade before I can install this new release, and since I move catalogs between my computers, I need them both on the same version.  So, I will not be installing the new update immediately.

Also, I typically like to wait a while for the bugs to get worked out of any new release before I upgrade, so I usually wait a few weeks or months before pulling the trigger, even when I have no concerns about system requirements.

What Does the Future Hold?

As for the future, Adobe has promised to keep supporting and investing in "Lightroom Classic CC" for their serious photographer customers.  Let's hope they do.  If not, there are several competing companies that would be happy to welcome former Lightroom users.

But for now, I intend to give Adobe the benefit of the doubt, continue using my "Lightroom Classic," and wait and watch to see how this all unfolds.  

First Look — Zhiyun Smooth 3 Smartphone Stabilizer

Price it on Amazon
 

In this video, I'll show you my first test of the new Zhiyun Smooth 3 smartphone stabilizing gimbal.

Now, if you are worried (because of this and my recent mention of an iPhone photography course) that I have given up the DSLR in favor of smartphones, have no fear.
 
In fact, my next free video will be on a DSLR photography topic that dozens of you have asked me to address. 
 
But while I haven't given up the DSLR, or my many mirrorless cameras, I have to agree with the old adage that "the best camera is the one you have with you."  
 
And much of the time, the camera I have with me is my smartphone.  
 
That's why I'm trying to get better at using it.  Especially after the humbling experience that I wrote about recently.
 
So, while I work on my next DSLR video this week, I hope you'll enjoy this look at one more cool thing you can do with your smartphone camera.
 
Happy shooting!

As always, if you shop from my Amazon links you buy me a beer!

3 iPhone Photography Secrets [video]

Click here to get the iPhone Photography Course

In this short video, I teach you three mind-blowing iPhone photography tips that I can't believe I didn't know until now.

It's very embarrassing for someone who teaches photography to discover that I knew almost nothing about the camera in my iPhone.

What opened my eyes was iPhone Photo Academy.  (Use the link above to check it out, and if you buy it, Emil will share a bit of the proceeds with me to help me keep creating free photography tutorials for you.)

Honestly I was evaluating his course to see if it might be useful for my audience, because I thought I knew everything about iPhone photography.

And what I discovered in just the first few videos has already revolutionized the way I use my iPhone camera.

So Who Is This Emil Guy?

This course was created by Emil Pakarklis  (if you guessed he's Latvian, you are correct).  I actually met Emil last year at a business conference and got to hang out with him.  He's a sweet young guy (though he'd probably hate to be described that way).  And I formed two impressions of him immediately:

1. He's super smart

2. He's way to young to be as successful as he is

But now I know why he's so successful!

This iPhone course is one of the best examples of online training I've ever seen.  The content is concise and to the point.  The membership area is easy to use.  The course even includes a private Facebook group where you can share photos and get feedback from others who are taking the course along with you.

And did I mention, I've already learned dozens of things I didn't know about the camera in my iPhone?

My photos have improved dramatically, and I've only just begun the course.

Now I see why this is the most popular iPhone photography course on the Internet.

It has my highest recommendation.

Are There Any Drawbacks?

Of course, nothing is perfect.  If this course has a weak spot, it may be that Emil has a slight Latvian accent, which may be a small challenge for some people with hearing difficulties.  But for me, it is a non-issue.  I can understand him perfectly.  And his instruction is clear and flawless.

If you have an iPhone, you should get this course.  If you don't, you're wasting the huge investment you have in this amazing camera in your pocket.

Don't be an idiot like me and continue to take lousy iPhone photos just because you think you know everything.

If one good thing could come out of my embarrassment this week, it would be helping you make the choice to improve your iPhone photos.

Now, I'm going back to the course to continue learning.  Hope to see you in there.

—Phil

Click here to get the iPhone Photography Course

 

Rooftop Photographers — Behind the Scenes [video]

Here's a just-for-fun video that I thought you might enjoy.  

In March of 2017, seven well-known figures in the online photography world came together from around the world to drink beer on the roof of my building (well, we came together for a business conference, and I invited them over to hang out.)

If you'd like to go "behind the scenes," this is your chance to goof off with us.  You'll also see me doing some portrait photography that gives a sneak peek into my upcoming Advanced Off-Camera Flash course (the sequel to my original off-camera-flash portrait course.)

WARNING: The educational content of this video is approximately zero.   You may even lose a few brain cells by watching it.  Watch at your own risk.