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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 October 2005, 07:21 GMT 08:21 UK
Site protects rights of snappers
Screengrab of the Spy Media website
Spy Media wants to provide a fair marketplace to protect rights
An online marketplace has launched that lets people set prices and conditions for photos they want to sell.

Spy Media is aimed at creating a level playing field for mainstream and citizen media producers alike.

The trend to support "citizen journalism", where anyone can report events as they see them, is growing.

World events, such as the Asian Tsunami and London terror attacks showed the value of such reporting, through images taken on mobiles and weblog posts.

The site will also provide a commercial exchange market for blog entries, as well as news articles.

Tom Quinn, co-founder of Spy Media, told the BBC News website that the site was very much aimed at protecting web users' rights against companies that syndicate content.

I clearly recognised there was need to open community that services the world so that you can freely exchange photos and news and so on
Tom Quinn, Spy Media

He warned that there could be some troubled legal waters ahead for companies that are creating services using such technologies.

Syndication technologies, such as RSS (Really Simple Syndication), are becoming increasingly popular ways to keep up with the latest on the web.

They let sites share content, such as news stories, with other sites so that the content is spread around the web.

People can use them to "subscribe" to a website so that the latest content, such as a news story, is sent automatically to them.

"Spy Media will educate people. They are going to demand that their material not be sent through RSS where people utilise them without permission," said Mr Quinn.

Google came under fire recently for using such technologies to pull in content for their news search service, from other sources.

In March, news agency Agence France-Presse (AFP) filed a lawsuit seeking copyright infringement damages after Google put AFP headlines, photos, and story summaries on its news search page.

Google has now agreed to take down the links to the AFP's content.

In August, adult entertainment company, Perfect 10, filed a copyright infringement action against the search giant for using thumbnails of Perfect 10 images on its search site.

"I believe that copyright revolt is going to come to the photo world," said Mr Quinn.

"People are going to demand it. They are very fed up with companies misusing information and material."

Big shift

The founders of Spy Media said there had been a tremendous shift in the business of news.

"Spy Media was started because of a paradigm shift in the market," said Mr Quinn, former president of Novell.

Circle line Tube
People's own pictures helped to tell the story of the 7 July bombings
"I clearly recognised there was a need for an open community that services the world so that you can freely exchange photos and news and so on."

An estimated 38.4 million (24.4%) of households in western Europe own a digital camera, according to IDC research.

It is also predicted that by 2007, sales of camera phones will reach 147 million.

The founders of Spy Media said that this meant there was "enormous potential" for people to make a lot of money as they tapped into the news photo market.

Local news, in particular, was an area where citizen journalists could have the biggest impact, he said.

"No one is covering local stories anymore, only the international events," said Mr Quinn.

Tracking events

The service lets people search for images that are relevant to localities.

"It will be like an eBay. You will be able to type in a zip code/city code and have it so it will search areas and give you up-to-date information about an area or anywhere in the word."

Users of the site can keep track of new photos added that are relevant to that particular area. The site has a database of seven million cities.

Spy Media lets people upload their images for $1. Users can recoup that when they sell an image if they wish. All images are checked for validity and have to be uploaded with a full description and contextual information.

Anyone can register and upload their images, and buy them using the Paypal online payment system.

Users can browse and choose images from every member, or just those that are from "professional" photographers, journalists, citizen reporters, or anyone else, such as people who just blog for fun.

Members will be able to choose from four different types of licensing agreements.

Spy Media follows the launch of Scoopt in July which acts as an online agency for citizen and professional photographers.

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