BAPLA: Online Copyright Infringement Report

In December 2019, BAPLA – The British Association of Picture Libraries & Agencies, published their report “Research Into Online Copyright Infringement – Assessing The Value Gap”.  The report was undertaken to highlight concern and answer the question “To what extent has copyright infringement online affected BAPLA members, thereby creating a ‘value gap’, and have social media platforms exacerbated the situation?”

BAPLA represents over 130 members in the UK and worldwide, ranging from some of the largest picture libraries to those run by rights holders and sole traders as well as cultural heritage archives and news agencies. The report is based on a cross section of its members and looks at the present market size, the extent and cost of online infringement, and the impact of social media.

The Present Market Size
The response to the survey by 107 members put estimates of market size at 274 million images for the UK and 17 million images for the rest of the world – slightly under 300 million images – with a total turnover of £12M in the UK and £16M from the rest of the wold.  Significantly, 62% of members based in the UK, had a turnover of less than £100,000; with 22% of UK members exceeding £500,000 and above.  The report therefore highlights the ‘value gap’ in the level of income for picture libraries and agencies compared with the level of income generated by online content sharing service providers (OCSSP).

The Extent and Cost of Online Copyright Infringement
75% of respondents stated that online infringement had increased over the last 10 years, whilst 22% stated that it had stayed the same, and 1% stated that it had decreased. The supporting evidence was image tracking technology revealing increased online infringement on social media sites, in particular Facebook and Instagram; the number of infringement notices being sent out; and the general public at large believing that images online are free to use.  73% of respondents also said that they actively pursue infringement by the use of copyright infringement services, court action, take down notices and commercial settlement.  However, these methods were fairly ineffective when dealing with infringements outside of Europe and the USA e.g. Russia and China; and loss of revenue reported overall by respondents was an average of 25% of licensing income; further emphasising the ‘value gap’.

The Impact of Social Media
There was a recognition among members that licensing conditions had changed to permit use of images on social media; 54% for and 46% against; concluding that use on social media for commercial purposes had an enormous impact on the image sector. In response to the question which social media platform most infringed content, the results confirmed that Pinterest had the largest number of infringing images (50%) with Tumblr the least (60%); and the majority of members finding that reporting infringements on social media, ‘highly difficult’.

When asked if they were aware of recently passed (April 2019) Article 17 of the Digital Single Market Directive and that if adopted into UK law, OCSSPs will require a licence from rights holders to display copyright protected images to the public; the response was 68% knew about Article 17 and 100% fully endorsed it becoming law.

The report concluded that ‘[w]hile the internet has opened up many online opportunities … it equally impedes controlling the illegal use of images that would otherwise be licensed’; and conclusively provides evidence that a ‘value gap’ does exist on a large scale for BAPLA members.




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2 thoughts on “BAPLA: Online Copyright Infringement Report

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