Pinterest, anyone? by Spencer Lum

No doubt, you’ve been enjoying all of the Pinterest shitstorm goodness out there. If you’d like to read a great summary, check out the article on The Photo Life.

Here are two more. Christian Oth wrote a thoughtful article on the subject, and Sean Locke’s research was impressive.

Should we be offended by Pinterest? Sure, why not? But insofar as this all applies to wedding photographers, what difference does it really make? Copyright is so yesterday. Sure, it’s everything in the corporate world, where infringement is costly and the ramifications broad. But in the consumer world, it never had any teeth to begin with. Someone rips off this or that. Fine. It happens. It’s a pisser. But that’s the Internet, and it comes with the territory. And if the question is whether Pinterest is going to open an Etsy store to steal our goods as per their ToS, while a public with an insatiable appetite for low-resolution, watermarked images flocks to pay top dollar for our pristine pictures of kissing couples and crying brides, well, I think I can fairly say it ain’t gonna happen.

Look at Napster. Napster didn’t reveal that record companies lacked legitimate copyright. They won that battle. What Napster revealed was that record companies weren’t innovative enough address new technology, once it became apparent that the copyrights weren’t going to save them even after Napster was gone. It didn’t matter when it was a small-time make-a-mix-tape type deal. But when it was everything once it was about file sharing and mass distribution. The companies were so mired in the past, they just couldn’t cross the bridge to the future. You have to be willing to cannibalize yourself. You have to take the hit, or someone else will. They were an old boys club to whom copyright was a God-given right, and they milked it for all it was worth, until the well ran dry. Live by the sword. Die by the sword. The dam didn’t burst. The water flooded and ran right over it.

But remember what it was like when it was all about the negatives? Life was good back then. No copying. No duplicates. Huge print orders. All the money we wanted. Being a wedding photographer meant something back in the day. People respected it. We were flush, right up until everyone started entering the market and everything went digital. Now we have to spend all of our time chasing after people to stop them from violating our copyrights, reselling our images, and sharing their pictures with everyone.

Doesn’t sound very familiar, does it? Because it never happened. Success came as we embraced the Internet ethos. Whether it was because of it or along with it isn’t the question. It’s part and parcel to the way we do business. We opened the floodgates and took the risk long before Pinterest. Wedding photography used to suck. Who wanted to be a wedding photographer in the 80′s? The 90′s? No one. Sure, people didn’t expect to get the negatives and no one could steal our pictures, but so what? If people can live differently, they will live differently. And they are, and there’s nothing we can do to change that.

The real question is whether we use this momentum to our advantage, or we just push back and piss up a tree until the wind doesn’t blow our way. The Pinterest ToS agreement sucks, and some people aren’t to keen on seeing their pictures shared every which way, but we’re looking at a tempest in a teapot. Because this isn’t an issue of loss of rights and erosion of protections. That ship sailed long ago. We posted, we shared, we tagged. We already embraced the risks and turned a blind eye to them when it helped us. And while that doesn’t mean we gave up our rights, it does mean we’ve committed to a direction, and the world is changing.

Business is not about resistance and holding on for dear life. Business is about reading the winds of change, and using it. People want to share. People want to pin. People want to store information about what they find valuable. And it happens that Pinterest is the only game in town. Society has moved forward. We need to get ahead of that. Whether it’s the next big thing or not for wedding photographers, if it is, it’s surely true that it will be for those who use it wholeheartedly and commit to getting it done that make it work. The rest of us are just going to have to wait for the workshops.