ASMP has a post on its SB2 blog that says, essentially, that Creative Commons licenses may be a good model for photography licensing going forward. I cannot tell you how appalled I am by that. But I can understand that attitude because if there is one thing the CC folks are good at, it is selling their snake oil. They can spin reality to make it seem like one is doing something fantastically morally decent and important when really the CC massive corporate backers are just using and capitalizing on every item given to the “commons” to expand their own businesses.
The clearest analytical error that is being made is blurring the B2C appeal of Creative Commons licensing (and “free”-based business models in general) and the B2B world. CC has been incredibly effective at selling “free” to the masses, because, well, who doesn’t like getting something for free? So, they spin the idea that if you give away something, you will build a following and that will result in more business for you. Well, yes, that may work with consumers (and even then I’m not convinced, see Malcolm Gladwell’s excoriation of C. Anderson’s book Free) but it does not work with businesses as your targets.
Think about it, you do not see any business releasing its fundamental IP-based product via CC or any “free” system. No, Google doesn’t give away its fundamental product when it gives free software licenses, because that IP is not its money-making fundamental product–advertising is. Anything else it gives away is simply marketing. It’s like getting the free t-shirt when you sign up for the credit card.
It just feels bigger and more like they are giving away something important because they are giving away something useful and cool. Also, it’s easy to sell IP-creators on giving away their IP if you (like Goggle) are giving away IP. But we have to remember, the IP Google (etc.) give(s) away is not of significant value to them! It is not their lifeblood, their product. No, what they give away is fluff in their business model. It’s a marketing cost on their balance sheet.
Your IP, your images, are not fluff to your business model. Your IP is your core product, and you cannot give it away.
The correct analogy for photographers who wish to use a “free” model thus is not “give away some photo (licenses) to get more photo work” but rather would be “give away t-shirts (or music or a book or a toaster or internet advertising space, even) to get more photo work.”