Viewfind, promising but flawed?

Viewfind, front page

With the apparent demise of Demotix many photographers of news are looking for a new agency or library. Viewfind looks like an interesting model but there is a major reservation around copyright protection.

As we wrote recently our aim for 2016 is to work on documentary photo stories. We have been looking for someone who could syndicate such complete stories, even including words, rather than single images. Such representation has been difficult to find. So Viewfind seemed like a breath of fresh air.

The basic idea and its intentions seem good. It has experienced people in charge who have a strong photojournalism and picture editing background—mainly from the San Francisco Chronicle. Viewfind is looking to promote photojournalism and provide opportunities and grants for photographers to pursue projects. Even for photojournalists that Viewfind does not fund there is a wide range of support on offer. Their staff will work with photographers to polish photo stories with good editing, assistance with captions, sequencing and all the other subtle skills that turn a good idea into a great story.

By publishing the stories on the Viewfind website photojournalists should have a platform to build an audience and their reputation. Viewfind is seeking to fill the gap left by the newspapers and magazines that have largely abandoned the in-depth news story. As Viewfind develops it looks like it should become an ideal vehicle to help Photojournalists build an audience for their work.

Viewfind also propose to share the advertising revenue with photographers on whose work it appears. They also offer a generous (by modern standards) 70% of fees generated by syndication sales. There are some reservations about how that would work when the full story has already available to read on the web site and other web publishers could link to it without cost. Obviously print publications might pay for the syndicated stories, but then Viewfind has been created to fill the gap because such publications no longer use such stories. It does not seem to fit, but time will tell.

All in all the terms of use for contributors seem very fair. The photojournalist retains both copyright and control of their content, they can pull it from the site if they wish.

However, there is a problem, and it is a huge one as far as most experienced photographers are concerned.. The images used on the Viewfind site are full size, have no visible watermark or embedded metadata and copyright notices. Sadly that will make Viewfind a copyright thief's dream. There are 12Megapixel, possibly bigger, images on Viewfind that we were able to drag and drop straight on to our own computer. We will raise this matter with the publisher and share their response.

It is hoped that as the site is still young it is an oversight. But even that is worrying when the principals are supposedly  experienced photographers and editors and should have much greater awareness of the copyright issues. Proper protection of intellectual property should have been a priority from the start. Basic protection is not difficult so there is no excuse. Hopefully it is something that will be quickly corrected.

For the moment, at least, we will not be submitting top Viewfind. We will reconsider if they do more to protect contributors intellectual property. With their background they should be paragons. We recommend photographers look at the details carefully before making the decision to submit.

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