As a "content producer", I can tell you that making sure the little guy (the artist) gets paid is roughly zero on list of important things for most publishers.. and paying them as little as legally possible is the standard. Artists see only a tiny portion of the profit produced, and it isn't by ongoing residuals. A good friend was a screen actor in the eighties, in a long list of movies and tv shows ranging from Doogie Howser to the movie Explorers. He got a check the other day for "Explorers" while we were chatting.. and I'll bet most here have seen the movie. Seven dollars residual. Quarterly. Now you know. We've become friends since he developed the same disease I have. The income to an artist for their work is up front, residuals make up real little money, even in cases where broadcast is still active (Explorers is a film that is in constant syndication). You might think that half a dozen movies and a bunch of TV episodes might provide you with a modest residual income. You'd be wrong. He's just as screwed financially as the rest of us. However, the movie studio and the tv stations all still make tons of money off the advertising during syndication, and licensing when it's on pay channels. The actor sees virtually none of that.
In 2010, I took a series of photos of President Obama when he landed with his entourage in our relatively small town, incidentally causing damage to the local private airport's runway due to the weight of armored helicopters and ground transport vehicles of the motorcade. Those photos are the most profitable "public interest" photography I have done, they were carried by Yahoo news, CNN, as well as the local news outlets.. twice, first when it was the news of the day and the second when the airport owners found out it was going to cost several hundred thousand dollars to resurface the damaged runway and appealed to the fed for assistance. It's important to note that it is a private airfield and not a public airport, the damage was to private and not public property. Anyway....
Do you know what I was able to get for the rights as a non-contract photographer? For GLOBAL rights, for FIVE YEARS... a grand total of one hundred and fifty dollars. In contrast, for private contract work, I underprice everyone else in the market when I charge a hundred dollars an hour for studio work. When I can work for money, I come cheap because people have to be willing to accommodate me. To make any money at all, you have to be under contract when the content is produced, particularly for news-type content that is time sensitive. I should also point out that my shots were the only ones that were gotten on the ground that day, in fact it was Hearst's own photographer who purchased the shots from me- after not getting the crucial images himself. Don't get me started on the fact he makes six digits not getting the shots I consistently do....The saddest part? The images were stolen by multiple outlets from the publisher I sold to (Hearst). It's a story told hundreds of times a day across the world. The publisher made their profits, the lawyers made theirs.. many thousands in both cases.. but the content PRODUCER gets shafted. It used to be that if you went to a photo studio, you bought prints of the portraits, and retailers supported that by not allowing people to scan in and print copies. The photographer made his money by selling the prints. NOW, retailers don't even try, and home scanners can do as good a job. The photographer therefore only gets paid for one print these days. I've watched several pro studios go under because of this. When I do paying gigs, I skip the pretense. I charge for the sitting, since it's the only time I can control the images realistically. I give the customer the "digital negatives".. I don't have a desire of the ability to try and chase down "pirated" prints.
Over the next few days I am deciding whether to accept an invitation to undertake a local news photoblog.. I do a lot of local public interest photography. The newspapers take three shots and walk away.. I take hundreds and donate the galleries. I've become depended upon by local theater groups for stage photography (I can't be paid for taking photos of a performance of a copyrighted play without paying fees myself), Parades and Cultural events (again, lots of interest, but nobody pays), and that type of thing. The ONLY reason that I am considering it is not because the publisher asking me is going to pay me (AOL Time/Warner is parent co)- they basically will just provide me with gallery space and visibility- but because if I publish THROUGH them, I could theoretically leverage their legal department into copyright defense of my photography. That's how tough it is for an "artist". Willing to work for FREE, just to have the copyright protection and visibility to an audience of about ten thousand regular readers. I'm an extreme case to be sure, but I know of others who have gone as far. When it comes to being a content producer in a media that is easily and wantonly stolen with little repercussions.. you can't defend your work on your own. You need to work for someone else, the bottom line is that you need to work for a lawyer, and that lawyer is going to make the lion's share of the profit. This is particularly bad in cases where the art form requires large expenses on the part of the artist.. instruments, equipment, expendables and media. I took out a three thousand dollar loan weeks ago to finance the purchase of equipment.. and the majority of it's use will end up creative commons license. The worst story of all is when I got a cease and desist order from a lawyer- who was hired to go after ME by someone who copied MY image illegally, and then claimed that I stole it from them! Happily I did in fact have ways to prove origination, and the lawyer backed off- but otherwise I would have had to hire a lawyer myself or pay a settlement to the thief!
The most realistic method of getting anything to help cover my costs when I do these things? Passing the hat. I'll be setting up to do that electronically soon, a setup with PayPal by which people can click and donate. I do my photography for my own reasons, and even if I am not paid I wouldn't be stopping, but at the same time I think that I ought to at least not be taking a monetary loss when others are using the content produced for monetary gain. A perfect example is the local business council.. the group is "nonprofit", and sponsors events designed to attract attention and business into the downtown area, which because they are public events, I end up photographing (like the town's annual "taste of downtown and brew festival"). Now, these events in reality are advertising events for the businesses. However, I get approached not by the businesses, I get approached by the City Council's office asking if the non-profit "Arts Council" can use my photography for their marketing of the event. Best of all.. they ask to use it only giving "Photo Credit". In the end, who actually ends up tossing me a few dollars? The parents of some kid I happened to get in a shot. Consistently, it isn't any of the businesses getting professional ad photography.. and trying to fight this takes a LOT of effort. The kind of effort that I simply don't have the inclination or the legal connections to fight. I'm disabled, and my photography is a way to escape from some pretty bad stuff. I can't waste my "good" days angrily trying to hunt down copyright infringement.. and it would make it all something that adds stress and trouble - the exact opposite of the reason I do it in the first place. I care more about the art than the profit. That's what makes me a sucker.
Content production isn't done for money anymore, not by the artist. The artist is a commodity and nothing more. The screaming about content protection will help the little guy as a side effect, but understand the laws being tossed around are about protecting the publishing houses and NOT the artists. In some ways, I guess I am lucky that I don't need to do this for a living.. because I would hate to think how tough it has to be for someone who does.
Telling: I was rejected by Kickstarter for a proposal of a calendar of photography produced by patients of chronic illness. Proceeds would finance art therapy photography classes for local hospitals for two dozen students, the financiers getting copies of the bound and printed calendar. Filed as a community arts project. This project was rejected (but six Burning Man floats sponsored by companies were approved the same day). Note that it wasn't even allowed to be run as a project.. not that it failed to generate interest; they simply disallowed due to the fact I was not proposing it as a part of a for-profit undertaking. Art and money rarely have similar goals. The reason given by Kickstarter (who claims to be a way to sponsor the arts) was that there was not ongoing profit potential. Explain to me how Burning Man floats provide ongoing profit potential! Even more to the point.. when did the definition of Art and Community get replaced with nothing but profit motives? Is art only Art if it can be used by others to make a profit?