A History of the World According to Getty Images, is a film that makes your blood boil; content that should be in the public realm is pay-walled for no reason other than greed – a short that goes for the jugular.
How can something in the public domain not be publicly available? A critical investigation of public domain—a legal term that has nothing to do with free access or public availability—that uses powerhouse commercial archive Getty Images as its example. If the world’s visual history remains locked behind a paywall, who will ever see it?
Like music, when an image or video’s copyright lapses, either from being 100 years old or, in some cases like most 1980s films, with no one wanting the rights anymore, it goes into the public domain (thank you to the countless YouTube channels that have those schlock filled films by the way). But what may not be considered is that the digitised, high-quality quality, perfectly restored footage we all want to see is behind, quite shockingly, a paywall that not only charges exorbitant licensing fees but has levels to those fees. These videos are in the public domain, but via some clever dealings, seemingly not in the public realm.
The fact that companies found this avenue of profit is as impressive as it is sickening. Again, these are videos of essential historical moments that will be remembered for the end of time. Yet, here we are, stuck in the personification of capitalism. Richard Misek goes for the jugular here with his film, showing us a number of clips that if he wanted to license would cost him over $41,000. An utterly maddening number for what they are, he guides us through the ways in which companies like Getty take advantage of the situation and how for some specific content, like what NASA owns or oversee’s that it is just better for your pocket to go to their own website to get what you want.
He even gets around Getty’s own licensing rules himself by having these clips in his film, as by doing so, we can now obtain the main clips he uses as examples from HERE. It is all very clever, but his point is clear. This feels like an abuse of power from these companies; they know that by having their versions more front and centre, people will just opt for them. Misek wants to highlight this while also letting people know alternative options are available for the public.
Though not touched upon fully, one of the main issues with this is with the Public Domain laws themselves, as they are so horribly vague that they can be abused in any fashion. Thus, we get in the position we are in with A History of the World According to Getty Images. Misek is full of sorrow and anger in his film. In truth, in a world where we are becoming more digital, it still feels as if we are stagnating from allowing ourselves and the world around us to blossom. Getty is an example of a far larger problem, but what a grim problem it is.
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For more information and to download A History of the World According to Getty Images please follow this link.
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