Monday, October 19, 2009

PLUS, No Minuses

PLUS - the Picture Licensing Universal System, has been busy, of late, they just haven't been tooting their horn. Despite Paul Melcher's perspective on "Plus or Minus?", suggesting they've been quiet, they've been busy. Unlike spotlight seekers, who tout the arrival of a 1.0.1 to a 1.0.2 release like it's the second coming, PLUS continues to move forward with little fanfare or spotlight seeking. Melcher is a bright guy, so perhaps his focus has been elsewhere and not had PLUS on his radar, so here's a review and different perspective for everyone's benefit.

Almost a year ago, PLUS quietly achieved a major milestone, getting the three major publishers - McGraw Hill, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, and Pearson to announce "they will adopt the PLUS Picture Licensing Glossary definitions in their contracts, and that they encourage image suppliers to begin embedding PLUS license metadata in all images within one year." At that time, Maria Kessler, President of the Picture Archive Association of America said, “We are very pleased that these major publishers – the largest image licensees in the industry – are aligned in their support of the PLUS standards.” While this may not have been on Melcher's radar 11 months ago, getting his new agency, Picture Group, to have PLUS-compliant licensing should be priority #1 if he hopes to license images to these publishers given their adoption schedules.

(Continued after the Jump)

In March of this year, IPNstock committed to integrate PLUS licensing standards, and with Getty and Corbis having been substantial supporters of PLUS over the years, you can bet that they are focused on meeting the needs of their major clients - the publishers above - as they work to integrate PLUS compliant licensing in time to effectively service those clients. In the coming years, look to see PLUS compliant drop-down menus in licensing modules at major stock agencies.

In June, Jim Cooks' Hindsight Software became the first software solution for photographers to create PLUS licensing with drop-down menus and metadata that was both cut-and-paste as well as exportable.

In July, the Professional School Photographers Association (PSPA) joined PLUS, "ensuring that school photographers and their customers will benefit from simplified communication of rights information and automated recognition of image licenses by photofinishing services, photofinishing machines and consumer photo printers." This will make it easier for people to know what they can and can't do with their school portraits when they're thinking about going to Wal-Mart to copy the 2x4 proof with the big "PROOF" stamped across it, as if it wasn't obvious enough already.

My book, Best Business Practices for Photographers, Second Edition, uses heavily PLUS examples in the new chapter 26 of the book "Licensing Your Work", demonstrating how I have been using PLUS licensing for years, and which has been received with no objection by my clients over the years.

Melcher expresses concern that PLUS might feel beholden to ASMP because they have donated $85,000 and just announced a $150,000 contribution to PLUS. This is a small fraction of the monies PLUS has received from founders Getty, Corbis, Microsoft, and others, and further, PLUS has a 13 member board, only one of which is occupied by a photographers trade organization. Currently, that seat is occupied by ASMP, but it rotates to others over time.

Melcher also expresses concern about the PLUS-PicScout deal recently announced because it is an exclusive one. Right now, no other image tracking service is as big as PicScout in terms of images fingerprinted, and the integration between PLUS and PicScout requires a relationship exist for technology sharing and commitments of time and resources to make this happen. Further, just as Dell opted to go with Microsoft as the default operating system because it was needed to make the machines run, so too did PLUS need "someone" to do the fingerprinting, and PicScout apparently had the best to offer. Further, the exclusivity deal is not a "forever" deal just as Dell now sells other operating systems pre-installed, however the current deal certainly creates an atmosphere where PicScout can be candid with PLUS about capabilities to make this work - especially while PicScout is on the forefront of image recognition services.

What is not clear is how a PicScout image registry would compete with the PLUS image registry that is being funded by ASMP and APA, in part. What is clear though, is that there is no "mysterious agenda" on the part of PLUS. Melcher points to PLUS working with Creative Commons as one of their "strange relationships". Creative Commons, as much as I am not a fan of it, is popular among image users, and in order for PLUS to remain neutral in the advocacy arena when it comes to promoting photographers rights and income preservation, they must facilitate also what the end users of images need as well. PLUS makes things more clear and more concise when it comes to licensing, whether or not it is a $1M exclusive license of a celebrity photo from Picture Group, or a "for attribution" Creative Commons free license. In both cases, a PLUS license is the best way to make sure everyone is on the same page.

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