Amateur Footage: A Global Study of User-Generated Content


Quite a few of our interviewees referenced the impact of the small licensing companies springing up to manage UGC. They shared concerns that most of these companies were not set up by journalists and were operating without any sense of journalistic ethics. Many organizations were uncomfortable about or even refused to use these companies for reasons of ethics and uploader safety. While the agency Storyful does license UGC, it has very strict guidelines about not licensing videos that show gratuitous violence and death, or videos that have been captured by people putting themselves in danger or breaking the law. This is not the case for all licensing companies. One producer noted another issue—that uploaders often don’t understand the term “exclusive”: Those agencies are a bit screwy. There was definitely a Woolwichrelated photo where we got stung by an agency. It was one that was a wide shot of the whole street scene, but you couldn’t see any of the detail. We had originally said to the guy, to the individual, “Are you okay for us to use it?” He said, “Yeah, whatever.” And then a day or so later, we got an invoice for £350. But we’ve got a screen grab of [our Twitter conversation with him]. They [the agency] are still there say ing it’s fine to use it. So in that situation we’re not going to pay [an agency] for it. We took it down but we didn’t pay for it. It’s a bit of a Wild West out there. The world of licensing and UGC could run into an entirely separate section, but it is worth recognizing here the emergence of different payment models. Some agencies buy the copyright content outright, and resell it to different broadcasters. Other agencies and publishers are using revenue share models, whereby no money changes hands at the beginning of the agreement, but when a piece of UGC generates views on a player—whether on YouTube or a publisher’s own player, which is surrounded by advertising and has pre-roll ads before the video starts—the uploader, the licensing agent, and the publisher come to a revenue-share arrangement. This is clearly more appropriate for viral videos of talented babies or funny cats, than it is for hard-news content.