Image library Picfair has officially launched following £310,000 of funding from angel investors including Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian.

The platform, which allows anyone to license and sell images, was launched in beta in July 2013 by former journalist and Reddit Edit founder Benji Lanyado.

Since then, Picfair users have uploaded more than 40,000 images from 54 different countries, including China, India, Afghanistan and Iraq.

"The original idea for [Picfair] came from when the plane landed on the Hudson five or six years ago and a camera phone image got on the front page of the New York Times," explained Lanyado.

Although PicFair is "deliberately aimed at commercial clients", he said the platform is also a potential route for both amateur and professional photographers to sell their work to media outlets.

In fact, earlier this year an image of the UK storms posted to PicFair made the front page of the Western Morning News.


In addition to funding from Ohanian, Picfair has received investment from IDEO design director Tom Hulme and Duncan and Max Jennings, the founders of VoucherCodes.co.uk.

Lanyado, who has written for the Guardian and the New York Times and founded the Reddit Edit after learning to code through General Assembly, said he got the money by "annoying anyone I knew to get the right intro".

"It was all through hounding them on Twitter, getting introduced by mutual friends, using LinkedIn," he explained.

Central to Picfair is the ethos that photographers "deserve to be part of the process" when it comes to their images being used by news outlets or other businesses.

In contrast to some image agencies, many of which Lanyado claims take a cut of 70 per cent or more in royalties, Picfair takes a 20 per cent commission on top of the photographers' fee.

"There's this artificial scarcity in an age of abundance," said Lanyado.

There are millions of fantastic images out there that are fit for market that aren't getting thereBenji Lanyado, Picfair
"There are millions of fantastic images out there that are fit for market that aren't getting there, because the agencies want to keep everything professional and also want to keep their ridiculous cut."

Securing copyright for images posted online is a common concern for many photographers.

Picfair aims to protect ownership by pulling the username of the person who uploaded the photo into the image's watermark.

Lanyado added that he is also in the process of building "reverse image tools" to identify the original source of an image, to help ensure that copyright is "appropriately policed".

"Totally ensuring image use is 100 per cent legitimate, 100 per cent of the time is almost impossible," he said, "but Picfair does everything it possibly can."

The exchange of money also offers anyone using stock photos a way to "protect themselves" against accusations of copyright infringement, believes Lanyado, whereas on free sources such as Flickr Creative Commons "the attribution of an image can change overnight."

Although Flickr says in its FAQ that Creative Commons licenses "are not revocable once granted", this may be difficult to prove in the event that an attribution is changed.

Further, Llanyado believes the pool of Flickr images available for commercial use is shrinking as more photographers become aware of the potential monetary value of their images.

"Increasingly photographers are realising 'no, my images are valuable'," he said. "'Why would I give an image away to a commercial enterprise that's going to make money from my image?'"

"The days in which commercial news organisations say 'hey send us your images and we'll wrap them with adverts and give you nothing', I think those days will come to an end."

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