Dear +Vic Gundotra
Google+ is positioning itself firmly as the social network of choice for creators. Google Photos makes it not just easy, it makes it fun to share my work. Your last Google+ presentation was all about photography.
But there’s something else happening. More and more users on this network are nothing but resharers of copyrighted content. Not that this doesn’t happen on Tumblr, Pinterest, Facebook, or anywhere else, but Google+ is somewhat unique in a few ways.
Not the least of which is your reaction to and (dare I say it) tacit support of content theft.
Stolen images can only be reported as stolen by the person who took the original image. Somewhere deep inside me a snarky curmudgeon wonders if that’s a ploy to get more people to sign up for Google Plus. But this community, as you well know being the network for creators, relies on friendly mutual policing. I have been supported by other photographers and writers who got thieves that stole my content suspended from Tumblr and Facebook. I have in the past done the same for friends and colleagues. I can not do this on Google Plus.
Worse, there seems to be little to no reaction to theft. Some extremely highly followed users (~100,000 and more followers) routinely steal from photographers on the site and, despite being reported as routinely, still do so. The snarky curmudgeon wonders if you simply care more for huge-follower accounts than the low-follower creators whose content is being stolen.
Communities that just exist to share images that are “guaranteed to raise your following” run rampant. If there are no consequences for accounts who steal, no consequences for communities who encourage it, and huge advantages to be a highly plussed account on Google+, people will keep doing it.
Simple, small, changes could turn Google+ into a fostering and amazing environment for creators. It takes much less time than making a snowfall Auto Awesome. And it would encourage even more use.
On the photo upload modal make it extremely clear that only content owned or with the explicit consent of the creator can be uploaded. Not somewhere in the TOS on page six. Simple language, right there.
Close down violators.
Make it easier for creators to help police each others’ content. Respond harshly to abuse of this feature but react appropriately and swiftly to violations.
When the thieves lose their platform, the creators win it. When a photographer of amazing things can make it close or even with those thieves in attention because they no longer have to compete with thieves who invest little time, they’ll focus theirs onto the network.
Dear Community Owners and Members,
Communities are an amazing part of G+. Sadly some of the photography communities are soiled by becoming hosts to more stolen images than originals. As owners please join us, the creators, in pledging never, ever, to allow non-original images or images to which the sharer has an explicit permission, on your community. State this clearly. Be receptive to communication that indicates otherwise. Ban members who violate those terms.
As a member don’t join communities that do not enforce those rules. Do not share to them. Do not follow people who share stolen content or Plus it. Confront the sharers and encourage your communities to do the same.
What are the likely consequences if this doesn’t happen?
Sharing of images will go back to the bad old days where Flash players are used. As creators find less acknowledgement and support of their work than the thieves, they will create less freely and less often, which leads to less amazing content.
Google+ will lose creators who move to networks that actively enforce (both communally and administratively) the rights of makers. At the end you’ll have communities full of the same reshared images, nothing new, nothing original, and lose the value that G+ has, namely access to great makers and thinkers.
But all things considered, the ball is in Google’s court. A few small changes to the way Google allows image uploads, a few changes to the way they allow reports and react to them, and the network’s potential will skyrocket.
This morning I paid Google $180 for a copy for Nik Software. I am doing this because it is the right thing to do, rewarding creators, instead of stealing the code from a torrent. I would hope that Google shows the same courtesy towards my creations.