A while back I wrote an article creating awareness about passion exploitation. Well, this article is about another exploited situation which is just so wrong to begin with but has been accepted as part of a norm made by social media giants. I have been wanting to write about this issue which has long existed in our industry but couldn't really piece my thoughts correctly. To those of you who are constantly posting your work to your social media, have you ever come across your work being posted by these "profit making" social media giants without your consent and credit? Or out of a blue moon you discovered that your work was re-posted to their account after you were tag in the caption? Ask yourself, did you actually provide your content willingly or did you only notice that it happened after they are being used. And since it has happened and credit was provided so you will just let it slip?
In our line of work, photographs are practically known as part of our assets. Putting aside other factors, technically to create a good photograph you need to have a proper knowledge, right equipments, planning, practice, experimenting and constant investment. (The list goes on). You may argue that it is only just a simple photo and it can be done cheaper and easier. Of course there is and I will not deny that majority of the people out there are doing it since its convenient to snap photo these days and the gap between professional photographers and average photographers are pulled closer made possible by technology. Well let's keep that discussion for another article.
Back to topic, the issue with this whole situation is that these social media giants are constantly ripping off these valuable assets from people like you in exchange for "crediting" aka promised exposure for your brand / name. If you think that is reasonable, that is where the problem exist. You need to understand that exposure is not a reward by itself. It should be a byproduct of you doing good work. To put things into perspective, are you able to quantify the exposure into the dollar amount of return that you have gotten? If you were to think about it, your quality contents are actually providing them the exposure they need. Eventually these people form their own company and started charging brands for marketing ad campaign on their platform after building their own empire through other people's hard work. While you on the other hand the creator are chewing on the leftovers from the whole pie. Without your contents, they probably wouldn't exist yet alone making profit out of it.
This business model is technically risk free and profit generating as long as there are people who willing feed them with free contents. So what's the solution? First thing first it requires the creator to educate themselves about copyright and licensing. Also they should be knowledgeable enough to know the worth of their image. Social media giants should also be responsible enough to write in and ask permission before using the contents and assuming that it is completely okay as it is already in a public social media profile. (If those contents are generating you income, I think at the very least you should have the courtesy to ask). Side note, when the contents are public, we are publishing it for the general public to enjoy from our profile which also act as a marketing for ourself and not you. What good will that content be when you giants have literally stolen the spotlight and suppressing creator who are trying to create a name for themselves.
Well, I am not saying it is all bad. I do acknowledge that there are some that literally catapult their career with the help of these crediting. However, to the vast majority of the creator who aren't loud enough to voice out for themselves are literally struggling to keep themselves well fed. All this disruption to the industry are merely caused by the selfish and "parasite" business structure that existed just based on leveraging contents from small creators. I truly believe that when someone put in genuine effort, they should at least be well compensated.
Lastly, if a non profit organisation do need contents or the profit making social media giants must still rip off free contents. At the very least learn the proper way of giving credit to the respectable creators on social media. Below are the guidelines for you (If you giants happen to be reading this).
1) Do some research to find out the originator (If you can find the content then you can find the originator)
2) Tag the creator at the picture to their respective profile (Originator) and not those who reposted their content.
3) Tag the creator appropriately at the caption. (Example as below)
Image by: @social media handle/Website (Eg: @yzhensiang/www.yzhensiang.com)