p1070834-ny-crop-text-webOur industry is very much alive and kicking!

Over 200 delegates gathered in New Jersey for the annual DMLA Conference which this year highlighted many innovations and new perspectives, from China and the millennials.  We looked at protection as well as policing, at improvements in computer-automated keywording and image selection and the growth of the VR market.   And of course the opportunity to meet friends and colleagues from the USA, Europe and the Far East is not to be missed.  It was a very friendly crowd and the Opening Reception, which this year included buyers visiting the Visual Connections event with a bar sponsored by the DMLA Platinum sponsor, Adobe, was a lively affair bustling with animated greetings and hugs.

For those who weren’t able to attend we offer here an outline of what was discussed. For a longer version please contact us.

Opening Keynote Address – View of the Industry & Business in China

Chai Jijun, Co-Founder and EVP of Visual China Group (VCG) gave an excellent opening address to the delegates attending the DMLA Conference.  Chai Jijun started by contextualising the history of Xinhua News Agency founded in the 1950s through to the established and growth of the VCG working with various international partners around the world such as Getty and acquiring agencies such as Tungstar in 2010 and the recent purchase of Corbis Images in 2016.  The Chinese Market has seen a major change in the last 6 years where image sales, traditionally sold to the editorial print market, is moving towards New Media which accounts for 70% of VCG’s expected 2016 income.  This shift is primarily due to the rapid expansion of the mobile internet market where 90% of users (circa 700m) are using this platform daily.  Chai Jijun explained China is a good opportunity for foreign content as local material tends to be of a lower quality and there is a need for more global imagery.

Images are Weapons of Change

Karen Beard moderator of the session noted that each day 1.8b images loaded to social media. The panellists see this as an opportunity with Sheri R. Rosenberg commenting that visuals are taking messaging to a new level and enabling brands to mobilise their company.  Adam Levine stated the attention span of humans is 8 seconds, less than that of a goldfish – 9 secs.  In response to the question ‘does the market need to react to social change? and is it brand driven or brand response?’, the panel mentioned several companies who are now engaging more and doing things to reflect what their brand represents – e.g. healthier lifestyle, so ceased advertising cigarettes.  We were reminded that “most images are created by Anglos which is reflected in the images created”, i.e. the people and cultures represented.  However there is now a strong demand for images that people at a local level can identify and engage with. Each of the panellists presented a project that had particular meaning and impact for them, all of which showed new ways of reaching people, telling a story and touching viewers.

A 360 View on Immersive Content

The focus of this panel was to address the VR market and where it is believed we will see a major growth over the next four years; it is estimated the VR hardware and content could soon reach over $20million and by 2025 potentially a $80million business. Are we ready for this explosion?  Michael Villasenor, New York Times, explained how the company has changed it culture from hard edge news reporting to a leader in storytelling.  They are now producing more content including VR material and will see this grow over the next 6-12 months.  360cities a specialist agency from Prague which has grown it’s contributors from 10 based in Europe to over 11,000+ around the world, producing spherical panoramic imagery used across multiple platforms.  They see their next phase of VR to be in the gaming industry.  All the panellist agreed, including VideoBlocks, that this is an exciting time and there is a need to be involved in long term projects not only for the mobile and gaming industry but this technically is ideal for the education and medical markets.  It is good to know they are working in an area where larger players are making their mark such as Getty.

Free Legal Advice: Tips, Traps, and Recent Legal Developments Affecting Your Stock Content

A panel of legal experts gave an overview on the current legal development in North America speaking on subjects such as ‘Fair Use and Fair Dealing’, ‘Handling Form Agreements’, ‘Copyright Small Claims Court’ with in depth explanation of editorial vs commercial use giving examples of recent cases and the Court decisions.  The Moderator, James Oh from Adobe, presented various images of graffiti and street art and asked each of the panellists to give their expert opinion of whether the use of these images or part of the image would cause problems. After a lively debate, it was agreed each image and usage would need to be assessed individually to ascertain whether it is a ‘work of original art and fixed’. Within the US and Canada there are no copyright acts which protect graffiti works, even if the artwork was classified as legal rather than illegal.  Any copyright claims would have to be brought in the formal artist’s name, however as most street artists are unknown the infringement cannot be taken to court.  To date no court cases have been brought therefore there’s no set precedence to refer to.

Catch Me If You Can

Doug Dawirs from DMLA introduced three different companies where each gave an overview on their technology which either protects copyright imagery on the internet or finds unauthorised uses and infringements.  Digimarc works with Photoshop where the copyright holder of an image can embed invisible barcodes within the metadata which are unable to be removed even if the image is cropped or edited.   Pixelrights has just launched a new service ‘SmartFrame’ which helps the copyright holder of the image to engage with the audience indexed by Google and features a built-in sharing option with Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.  SmartFrame also allows for the addition of attribution and caption, dynamic watermarking, protection and deterrent against drag and drop usage and provides copyright protection.  Image Protect offer website auditing, where they can crawl the net daily, weekly or monthly producing reports on infringed images allowing the rights holder to either seek a license or take further action with the end users.  All panellists agreed that the best way to protect your imagery online is to use a combination of their services: Digimiarc and SmartFrame for future content and Image Protect for material already distributed.

Advances in Visual Recognition

Each of the panellists gave an overview of their company technology and presented instances of where the use of computers to replace humans in certain tasks can be beneficial, and highlighted some of the limitations.  For Imagga the main aim is to make images recognisable.  Their technology is used to add tags to speed up the process of delivery of content from production to distribution on the internet.  EyeEm offers a free photo and editing app.  Curation is based on image quality and aesthetics, and can also be adapted to brand identity.  EyeEm train the computers to recognise quality and what is commercial making the process as automated as possible.  They tag the images with a specially controlled vocabulary and harness their knowledge to filter a vast quantity of content at speed. On average it takes 80 milliseconds per photo to sort and tag an image! Andreas Veit voiced the research perspective, and he believes computers can now surpass human performance in certain areas, but can’t get into the creative space well, being unable to ‘reason’. All agreed that computers are better at speed and consistencies, but for now they are useful tools, but have no instincts.

Young Guns

With charm and enthusiasm  moderator Ophelia Chong of  Stockpot Images fired a series of questions at a group of 6 ‘Young Guns’ whose average age is 26…

When did you first own a mobile? Average age 11-12; When did you first own a computer? Surprisingly most were in mid-teens; When did you first go on social network and which one?   Between 15-17, Instagram / Facebook; What’s your attention span – how long do you look at an image on Instagram? 5 seconds! (Less than a goldfish…!)

This generation uses stock as a way of selling clients into an idea.  Then they create their own imagery. “A lot of stock isn’t real enough for what we want to portray” and they will shoot something rather than use stock, and the stock they use will generally be crowdsourced. Instagram appears to be a source of choice for inspiration, providing ‘real’ imagery.

Ophelia’s final questions: The next trend= over-saturation; the next colour=pink, concluded with: Next act to die? – Facebook (!) You heard it first at DMLA!!

How some agencies are bucking the trend and growing their traditional licensing businesses

Each of the 3 companies on the panel is a hi-end imagery producer. For each of them nurturing their relationship with their photographers is central to the way they grow their business.  They have many new applications to join the agency but want to keep quality and curation high.  Caven’s Peter Hannert would like to see the number of images in a collection capped and that each image should earn its place. “Don’t make collections bigger, make them better.” ‘Curation’ is the term most used by all three companies.  Westend61 photographers are each allocated an art director.  Distribution is something that Westend61 and Caven give a lot of thought to – “you spend a lot of time protecting the relationship of your contributors so choose your distributor carefully” says Hannert.  Dissolve is sole distributor of its stock and creates its own brand promotional campaigns using stock film clips, successfully resulting in business from other brands.  But Aaron Booth says getting customers to look at your images is tough.  What stories are you telling around content to invite clients to look at it?  “All the work around the content needs to convey a message to make the customer care. “

One of the branded talks was the fascinating story given by Ophelia Chong of Stockpot Images, of how she started her company in California, to show the real story of cannabis. All her contributors are ‘real’ people – mums, grandpas, aunts… who are users and she herself has learnt all aspects of growing, fertilising and harvesting a crop. She found that there were no images that reflected the true image of cannabis users; it was all negative imagery which related to labels like ‘pothead’, ‘criminal’, and yet there are many very positive medical uses of the drug.  With the legalisation of cannabis in California the economic opportunities will increase and Ophelia’s images, all wholly owned, will be in great demand.

We met with many people from new and familiar companies and will be working on new projects which have come as a result of our  visit to the Conference.

The spirit of Halloween was very much in evidence throughout the conference period, with people of all ages walking the streets in the strangest of disguises, and pumpkins and spiders’ webs omnipresent!  New York was a wonderful place to be and we will be back next year.


  •  andrea@themoca.co.uk / +44 7986 831138
  •  mary@themoca.co.uk / +44 7986 386571