Tuesday, 9 June 2015

"Captain Mainwaring, we're all doomed!"

The business of using third party content in media projects has always involved finding the best material and then licensing it. Inevitably this meant using established and reputable sources - archive houses and stock agencies - but with the tidal rise of showcased material constantly coming online, this business and creative model is looking increasingly like a sand castle on the shoreline. While some sources are staying intact through output deals with big clients like broadcasters, the strain on the conventional royalty and copyright structures, is becoming critical. The greatest casualty could turn out to be the independent researcher who knows where to go for licensed content but is constantly made to look "old school" in the face of the much more varied range of material available outside the walls of the sand castle.

Clients are demanding this wider world be accessed for their productions which is very visible on the net, so keeping to known sources is beginning to look a bit like some restrictive union practice with no place in the 21st century. Where does this leave the creative world?...very like the Wild West with the legal profession as the marshals and sheriffs. There seems to be no longer any place for the skilled searcher, familiar with the terrain. That might just be a necessary evolutionary step but there's little sign that the implications have been considered or even noticed, accept among the practitioners under threat. It could be another example of sleepwalking to a slowly evolving disaster. After the independent researchers have gone elsewhere, the agencies and suppliers might look to fill the gap - and are doing that quite effectively already - but they might only be taking up arms to defend the embattled citadel for a little while longer. In the long term, it's a scenario of doom.

The answer has to be in finding some kind of accommodation with the evolving technology. The problem is: nobody seems sure where that point is.

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