Two separate news reports reached me last week. And when connecting the dots, it lead me to the question in the headline.
Which is a reference to a quote from Mr. Getty, former owner of Getty Images, a stock photo company. When he used his inherited oil money to buy up rights to images worldwide, he said (source):
Intellectual property is the oil of the 21 century. Look at the richest men a hundred years ago; they all made their money extracting natural resources or moving them around. All today’s richest men have made their money out of intellectual property.
And almost as to proof his point, Bill Gates followed suit. He founded Corbis, which acquired images, and then licensed rights.
But last week it was announced, that the Corbis archive and others owned by Bill Gates are sold to Visual China Group. And Visual China Group cooperates with Getty Images. Which Mr. Getty has sold already years ago. So it seems, the rich people are getting out of that business. Why?
Maybe it has to do with the other news. Google Cultural Institute announced to have added thousands of images to its online library. Google is not only scanning the books of the world. Google is also making images available online. And so are others, often non-profit organizations. Google also knows better than anyone else, how many free (!) images are created and posted online every day. I wrote about that earlier on diablog.
With this vast source of free images, who needs to pay Getty or Corbis?
Maybe the copyright royalties are going the same way the oil price is going, which is down?
If you think I am wrong, would you let me know, please?