This week I attended fotofringe London 2019, the annual gathering of the image-licensing sector. The event is coordinated by and follows a democratic principle where all the exhibitors are allocated an equal sized table from which to sell their wares. What every story you have to tell – finding the right visual image adds weight and gravitas in getting your message across. And, if you’re looking for a specific image you most probably will find it there.

Credit: picture by Robert Piwko

Some interesting innovation is happing in the sector, with some notable work from Capture Ltd who are recognised leaders in digital asset management and the image licensing space. The image community licence the use of images as either royalty free or rights managed. Royalty free licensing terms are more permissive and you can use the same image as often as you want, whereas rights managed tend to be more restrictive and often the image is licensed for a specific use.

Blockchain is a possible way forward to address some of the IP challenges within the digital economy. KODAKone – are building a blockchain solution for the creative sector with technology to help control, protect and enforce licensing terms for creative content. A novel approach is being used to address ‘the rampant abuse of copyright’, by adopting a decriminalising position towards infringers and encourage them to retroactively ‘post-license’ any unauthorised use of imagery. In the future when the blockchain goes live, content will be registered on the ‘immutable’ or tamper-proof blockchain will become the source of truth, and may be used by creators. Maybe now is the time to see beyond the hype of blockchain towards a future where the technology can positively help with managing copyright and IP within the digital economy.

When it comes to recognising the contributors of creators there were two stands that stood out for me. First, Majority World – a UK based photo agency with over 300 talented and local photographers across Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. What makes it distinctive is that local photographers on the ground are able to provide unique insights and interpretation of local cultures, environments and development issues. Second, Source based in Belfast ‘publish emerging photographic work and engage with the latest in contemporary photography’, and also run an image gallery for graduate photographers to showcase their work and gain wider recognition. A positive support to photographers emerging into the competitive landscaped of photography in the digital age.

There is much to learn from the experience of image licensing that we could bring back home to the geospatial world. It is an exciting area where geography and creativity intersect and magical things will happen where the two worlds come together.

#fotofringelive, @majority_world, @sourcephoto, @CaptureLtd, @KodakOne