Working for FREE

- - The Future

So, I just noticed that CNN has an i-report feature added to their website where citizens can submit news stories to be published on the website or even on TV depending on how the producers feel about your reporting skills.

Here’s the “now standard” web 2.0 work for free clause:

By submitting your material, for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge, you hereby grant to CNN and its affiliates a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license to edit, telecast, rerun, reproduce, use, syndicate, license, print, sublicense, distribute and otherwise exhibit the materials you submit, or any portion thereof, as incorporated in any of their programming or the promotion thereof, in any manner and in any medium or forum, whether now known or hereafter devised, without payment to you or any third party.

More importantly in a section called “trade secrets” they tell ordinary people how to take professional photos. Not only are they giving away the “rule of thirds,” a high level top secret technique they’ve got this gem posted:

Take as many photos as you can
It’s always better to have more material than you think you need. And who knows, the photographs you take on a whim may turn out better than your planned shots.

Shit. I didn’t think that one would get out.

Eventually people are going to figure out that CNN is selling advertising against their free content… aren’t they?

There Are 18 Comments On This Article.

  1. I’ve got your point, but in reality, they are not talking exactly about *working* for them. Rather, if some amateur will randomly come across some news event, he can record it and send to cnn. It’s not the same thing.

  2. “Eventually people are going to figure out that CNN is selling advertising against their free content… aren’t they?”

    …well photographers have not figured out that Vanity Fair is selling advertising space at @120,000/4C/page/insertion against their $350 page rate…


  3. ok so that is “inflated”, Modern Bride is selling the same space at $31,000.

    but they have this:

    Terms of Sale: Payment is due thirty days from date of invoice. Interest will be charged at a rate of 1.5 % per month on past due balances.

    I’d love to charge interest…


  4. If content is truly worth publishing, then it has value, and as such the creator of said content should be compensated for its use.

    “…for good and valuable consideration, the sufficiency and receipt of which you hereby acknowledge…” I guess they think the pure joy of seeing an image used is enough. For me, Billy Preston lyrics come to mind:

    Nothin’ from nothin’ leaves nothin’
    You gotta have somethin’
    If you wanna be with me

    “…a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide license…”
    At least one can sell it elsewhere while CNN can run it for free forever. Hmmm.

    I give away the rule of thirds and the shoot a few more notion all the time.
    I figure my friends will wind up with better family photos and heck maybe even some desirable stock. But whatever they do, my advice concerning photos also always includes an urging to not do what the Red Hot Chili Peppers say.
    I repeat DO NOT: Give it away, give it away, give it away, now.

    It just doesn’t add up.

  5. Nice work if you can get it. We should all be in the position that CNN is in, that is to say, taking advantage of an ignorant public.
    Unfortunately, most of us have some ethical basis for what we do and how we treat the people we deal with (customers and clilents) who have less knowledge our business than we do.

  6. This is the Youtube world we live in. People want to get noticed.

    What used to be people bouncing up and down behind a reporter is now the people taking the camera and going.

    Too bad some of these motivated people did not simply setup their own website.

    My local newspaper calls me monthly seeing if i would let them use free images I make for customers.

    I simply tell them, they can come assist me at any job, free, and they do not get the point.


  7. I only noticed the i-report feature after watching a story that looked like shit and was trying to figure out why.

    Old media embracing new media by lowering their standards.

    Let’s see if advertisers who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a quality product will stick around.

    Let’s see if consumers who would like a quality product will stick around.

  8. blah blah blah.

    if you are good you will get paid. if you suck you won’t. what is so hard to understand about that.
    Nothing makes me laugh hard to myself is a bunch of crappy photographers crying about people doing stuff for free. get over it.

    The lesson is, if you are amazing you will get paid and you get what you pay for.

  9. Is CNN milking free content or simply going with the flow of evolving communications?

    The mid-1400’s saw Gutenberg’s press; in the early 1900’s it was Marconi’s wireless. TV came in the ’30’s; Internet in the ’70’s and now communication hits a millenial trigger point: communication not just for the masses, but by them as well.

    It seems that Marshall McLuhan’s patented phrase, “the medium is the message” is as close to reality as ever it was; but at the risk of contradicting a fellow Canadian, I can’t adopt his premise. The message IS the message! The medium is but its slave; a set of tools through which we exchange the message.

    Handicam reporters, blogs, YouTube, personal websites – bad business models aside – what we’re seeing is a new paradigm in information transfer (ok, and mis-information, too). In due course, what will separate the wheat from the chaff is the calibre and quality of the content.

    Much as I deplore CNN’s foray into freebies as an erosion of rights and rates; I feel the only course of action for us as media specialists is to hone hone our craft to excellence and promote the ideals of fair use and value to the enlightened few who see media not as a venue for vanity but as a personal duty and calling.

  10. First off, in response to I heart photography: You must not be a professional photographer to make idiotic pronouncements like those above. Case in point and this only confirmed my recent suspicions. This morning I went to see my financial advisor and mentioned that this week alone I had lost 2 Ad jobs to “free” photographers, the art directors, so they say, pleaded against using my competitors, but to no avail, free is really cheap, have you noticed. To which he replied, “that’s funny because I see A LOT of trust funded kids launch themselves into the photography biz, they have millions at their disposal, they come here and withdraw large sums of money, just for that purpose”. If this was happening once in a while, what the hey, but it seems to happen with increasing regularity.

    I am sorry, I can’t compete against free, or so far below cost that I would actually be subsidizing a major Bank in one case and a large fashion house in the other. They went with moderately capable folks who apparently were perfectly happy to be shooting for free, to build their portfolio, editorial, sounds familiar. This has always been part of the biz but now it’s just so rampant that the advertising business is starting to take full advantage of it.

    And BTW, I heart, I am a 15 year veteran and have won every photography award there is to be won and have worked for just about everyone in the biz. I am a damn good photographer but to compete against free is not a possibility, even if I was loaded or no matter how wonderfully talented I may be. I consider it immoral and unethical and I would refuse to do it to a colleague.

    Robert from EP UK. Thanks for educating the masses, I as one of the original founders of EP and during the dot coms, a tiny window of opportunity opened up and we managed to change BusinessWeek’s day rate and Forbes day rate. We put our professional lives on the line and some of us suffered for it. Once the dot coms blew up, the window shut. Now we have free everything and I am not sure we can organize against free.
    Hopefully, we can, thru EP and others continue to educate emerging photographers into doing the right thing. It may be the way things are going but I do not have to like, accept it or take it. I certainly do not need some pseudonym to lecture me or anyone else about capitalism, and how “good photography” will always get paid.

    Now for entitlement…..!

  11. “Let’s see if advertisers who pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to create a quality product will stick around.

    Let’s see if consumers who would like a quality product will stick around.”

    I think the problem is people will stick around…youtube kind of proves that. There is no discrimination anymore, at least in terms of idle watching time. Perhaps we have 40 years of mediocre tv to thank for that.

    There will always be a place for good content obviously, but the middle ground, a place where a lot of creative types earned their living or subsidized their own real work, is vanishing. And it is vanishing to the “free”.

    I don’t think it has a lot to do with the photo industry, I think the corporate interests have done an end run around content creation in a kind of way, they have discovered what others have called “sharecropping the long tail”-they see a way to gain leverage in profit making by taking advantage of “user created content” as some kind of faux democratization of the creative process, when it is so far from that. It is pure exploitation. As long as you have American Idol running to suggest that the zero to hero trajectory is possible, the rest will follow. I don’t know if it is kind of romantic in a f’d up way that so many buy into this or if it is just sad. It’s kind of the american dream squeezed through a juicer. (I think we are the pulp).
    You look at the reactions to it and there will always be someone saying “get with the program” as above, “quit your whining”, and on a totally dispassionate level, I agree, you cannot fall victim to change, change is a constant. So we do have to adapt. But I am very suspicious of the Chase Jarvis’s of this industry who sound more like shmarmy art directors (or Tony Robbins) and less like photographers-up to a point, I think he is closer to Michael Dell than anyone. I think he and others who would advocate an adaptation to this new reality, their answer is in part a race to the bottom-not in undercutting costs but in a form of shooting on spec, stock photography on steroids. Chase would say “innovate” but from what I saw of his presentation at Photoshelter, it looks more like same old stock productions, but sold as advertising. My jury is out on him.

  12. “if you are good you will get paid. if you suck you won’t. what is so hard to understand about that.
    Nothing makes me laugh hard to myself is a bunch of crappy photographers crying about people doing stuff for free. get over it.

    The lesson is, if you are amazing you will get paid and you get what you pay for”

    How wrong you are. Thats the way it use to be.

  13. Robert Wright, I second your opinion. Well said. There is nothing wrong with change. Changes in photojournalism in the late 90s forced me to more or less give up on it but the resulting explorations resulted in some of my proudest achievements.
    There is nothing more valuable and enriching than change but change is not the issue here; exploitation, fear and greed are the issues here. What’s even worst is that so many of us are willingly embracing this abuse and these false hopes. “I love my husband even if he beats me everyday”.
    Robert is right, the overwhelming majority of photographers out there work commercially to fund their personal work and in more ways than one need to commercially conform to the times, even if we somehow think otherwise.

    I have never gotten a job because of my personal work, it’s too idiosyncratic but I have two portfolios and guess what, the less personal the work, the more I show my potential clients that I can solve their problems and play the game, the more work I get, or at least used to, before the free photographers came along. the more I emphasize my individuality the less I get. Institutions and individuals don’t make good bedfellows.

    If it was as simple as creating great work, putting it out there and then cashing the checks, there would be a hell of a lot of photographers out there running rough shot over an equally great number of mediocre photographers. Sometimes talent can be a crutch, while they preen in their own narcissistic juice, other less capable artists sense their lack of creativity and develop more important “commercial” skills. How does it go again, 10% inspiration, 90% perspiration. Change and competition are the very engines of creativity but “free” negates both.

  14. And the turn around has been that now you show your personal work and you don’t get hired, you get hired if you show a very commercial product-I think in previous years people wanted to see personal work.
    Now many people are running scared and we live in a very conservative time. We have a funny idea of individuality-it is making videos of yourself and putting them on youtube. This is not entirely true, there will always be something brilliant on youtube, it might just be the law of large numbers at work. There will be one or 5 or 10 out of hundreds of thousands. And this is the new model. You can call it crowd sourcing, mob wisdom, but it does make jumping on a marketing bandwagon easier.
    I have a very hard time looking at magazines now because to my eye, the volume is very high, slick, empty work. I just got Alec Soth’s magnum magazine “Paris Minnesota” and the funny thing about it is not the fashion-its the advertising-I think, or I hope this is a little pill from Alec, there are these vast landscapes of beautiful wilderness, and somewhere, not in a where is waldo way, in there tho, is some forgettable product, a bag, a perfume, etc. But what a contrast to a “real” magazine-you have the “content”-the fashion story, and then the “advertising” he has totally subverted and made you realize just how bloody loud it has become by the complete silence he evokes in these ads. It’s like when I watch TV and the commercial comes on (louder, always) and I hit the mute button. They’re Alec’s mute buttons.
    Long story short-we live in conservative times-its shut up mate-do what you are told-please don’t bother me I am making money can’t you see? Get with the program-this is what we want-make it slick.

  15. Just looked at the CNN “trade secrets”

    Hah, It’s like an intro to photography course… you know, the one where they hand you a camera and explain to you, “This is a camera, you take pictures with it…”