Assume I, a photography amateur, took a really sensationalist picture (or small video) for which exists really high demand immediately. Assume virtuall all media companies are really eager to buy my footage to broadcast it in today's evening news. The footage could contain a spectacular event, or something interesting happening to a celebrity.

It is probable that the picture will be printed many times in the future.

What should I do if this were to happen? Pressure to act quickly would be tremendous.

It's probably suboptimal to go for a first-come first serve basis. On the other hand, it is probably infeasible to wait too long a time,

How can I get a lasting revenue stream? Should I sell it to a company? Which one? Do they offer a share-of-revenue payment model at all?

Should I go for a lump-sum payment? What would a professional photographer do in such a situation?

This scenario is fictitious, but I have asked this myself a few times in the past watching a certain type of news.


2 Answers 2


You call the 3-4 biggest news organizations in the country (no point going for smaller players because they have less money) and get them to bid against each other.

News have a very short shelf life, do everything fast and finish the deal before the evening news.

On the other hand, if it's something that will be reused for a long time license it stock-photo-style (payment per usage), if the image is in such high demand the big agencies (Getty, Corbis, etc. the agencies that sell expensive images to media companies, not the microstock sites) would love to represent you - you can even get them to bid against each other to get higher than usual rates


I have experience with a slight subset of this question. I created a YouTube video that went somewhat viral(1.6 Million views currently). At least in my case, everyone that wanted to copy and steal it, did. I found it incredibly difficult to protect my copyright. I had to go so far as to hire a lawyer to protect my interests on YouTube. One company in particular that makes money solely based on stealing such content and hosting it on their own website, tried to claim the video was in fact owned by them. They lied straight away to YouTube to try and hold onto the video as theirs.

The amount of theft wasn't small. I had primetime news programs in the United States blatantly steal the material, with no attempt to contact me. When I tried to contact them, they ignored me without any legal representation.

As far as lessons learned and tips that I can give you:

  • Make every attempt possible to label the material as yours, watermark, attribution on each site, etc
  • Prominently display your contact information where viewers are typically viewing the material, this will let people who do plan to credit you for the work to get into contact with you.
  • Hiring a lawyer is the only real way to put some people/companies off from stealing your content
  • You will lose some views/revenue from stealing, no matter how hard you try.
  • You would be surprised to find out how many legitimate offers you may receive to have someone represent the material for you. This might be a great option to take the burden off yourself but still bring in revenue.

To directly answer your question, how can you make the most money? Represent yourself rather than hiring a agent, find a lawyer and put them to work for you when necessary, and advertise yourself so people can find the content that want to pay for it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Wow... Sorry to hear that, but I am not surprised. I've had website content and photos stolen by unscrupulous people countless times and I discover more of them regularly. \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 1:56
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Itai - No big deal. It was a dumb clip and I just got lucky. Plus Google Ad-Sense is still paying out often, and some "funniest video" shows are still picking it up for fees. Free $$$! \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Oct 25, 2012 at 3:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ In hindsight, would hosting such a viral video yourself be better? You'd have better control over DRM. \$\endgroup\$
    – Fer
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 21:45
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Ferdy - Hard to say. Youtube does give you a certain amount of exposure that you probably wouldn't get otherwise. From what I have learned, many of the TV show producers have groups that just browse YouTube all day for new material. If I wasn't on YouTube, I'd be afraid of losing that potential. Someone did steal the video on YouTube and generated 2 million views on their own account, so my views and profits could have been substantially different from that revenue stream. \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Oct 30, 2012 at 21:59

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