We have customers that range from individual bloggers to Fortune 50 companies. Part of it is, we think about it through our technology team, rather than just through our creative team. If we have a social-media partner that wants to work on metadata and attribution, as opposed to licensing, and we have another customer that’s wanting to receive all of today’s news, sports, and entertainment content in real-time, we have to meet the needs of both those customers.

It’s part of…to answer a question you didn’t ask…my big pet peeve about people describing these two supposed camps of technology or copyright. And that’s totally artificial. There’s not supposed to some sort of holy war between technology and content. They have to work together. And you look at the way that they schedule Congressional hearings on copyright, where they’ll have a technology day and a content day. For Getty, we could have shown up on either day.

Right, you also bought PicScout [a company which searches the Web and identifies images] in 2011. How’s that changed what you’re able to do?

There’s two branches. It permitted much more scalable copyright enforcement. 
We can go out and crawl the Web and find images being used without permission and report those out. The other thing is that it would have been difficult to go to a company like Pinterest that’s using and swapping millions and millions of pictures and tell them what their use of our imagery looks like. Now we can.

How do conversations like that go? 

We can say to them, you have a tremendous amount of Getty content on your site—as much as 3 to 4 percent of their total content might be Getty Images content. It allows us to tell them: Everything from pictures of pumpkin pies and kittens to pictures of red carpet events are being actively used on your site. What would you like to do about that? How can we help you use our imagery in a way that’s good for us and good for you? 

Companies that I think are more progressive on how they want to engage their own customers and their own technological capabilities want to work with us. They’d rather have it be easier for their customers to use as much great content as they can. 

Companies that are driven more by legal fear than by business realities want to go a DMCA [Digital Millenium Copyright Act] route. But that can be fairly disruptive for a company’s users to suddenly find tens or hundreds of takedowns coming. That causes confusions for customers and disruptions on their site. It’s a very 1991 way of approaching things, in my view.

I’m biased, given that we represent content, but I think people ought to make it easier for their users to use content, rather than to continue to fight the inevitable, and the inevitable is that people are going to continue to use more imagery.

So, with the Pinterest partnership, you’re talking to each other as tech companies. 

Absolutely. If we were a picture library, there was nothing we could have done with Pinterest to make it work with them or for them. Approaching Pinterest with a technology solution meant that we were able to work with them, instead of against them, and to be able to give them content in a way that didn’t disrupt their users and in fact enhanced their user experience. It allows them to grow, and it allows our contributors to get fair compensation.

But this is what I come back to—Getty contributors are not being compensated like they normally would, with a licensing fee. 

They’re not being compensated in a normal way. But what’s a normal way? What’s normal about the way people consume imagery today compared to 24 months ago? I started at Getty Images 13 years ago. Then, if you could see one image from the first half of a basketball game during the second half, it was extraordinary. Now when people go to their favorite site, whether it’s CBS Sports, or SI.com, or ESPN.com, if you can’t see not only a still photo gallery but a video clip of what you just saw on television, you’re irritated. 

Disclosure: CJR has received funding from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to cover intellectual-property issues, but the organization has no influence on the content.

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Sarah Laskow is a writer and editor in New York City. Her work has appeared in print and online in Grist, Good, The American Prospect, Salon, The New Republic, and other publications.