Culture is future » Innovation and digital

10.28.2011

DEBATES 2011 - Intellectual property - The law versus the digital photographic image

A new type of photographic image has been born with the digital era. Its original nature and form have changed, slowly and in an insidious way. We have been witness to a real fracture, which has caused a deep transformation we are now just discovering. The film industry has been the first to suffer from theses changes. It has faced a real explosion that has created antogonisms with a drastic increase in the number of photographs being taken ; the professional copyright image is greatly losing its value day by day and is entering into a new economy.

The legal system is experiencing a similar problem in regard to copyright laws. The law has not been able to adjust accordingly to these changes as the digital image has not yet been clearly defined. If the intellectual property rights has always had a complex relationship with the photographic image, the arrival of the digital era has amplified it. The copyright is not anymore enough to protect the image, which has lost its original value and been replaced by metadata. Moreover our legal law does not seem to know how to act and react towards those photos taken by amateurs, freely exposed on the web, giving to the image a new dimension: the dimension of the “image for everyone”. The irony is that the copyright applies indeferently to the amateur or the professional. In the end it would seem the copyright has no choice but to change its status when confronted with an image which has undergone so many inner changes and has lost its value in the analog world.

Slowly but surely, the image is sliping into a economic and legal space profoundly different: the public goods (for the economists) or the common things (for the lawyers).

A contribution of Catherine Saison, lawyer, PhD. student.