This story originally ran in issue 15 of The Magazine. You can now read it here by virtue of that publication’s impressively author-friendly contract.
One of the Web’s most popular sites — and the exceedingly rare media property soaking up tens of millions of dollars in venture-capital financing — gets much of its content without asking permission to use it, much less paying for it.
That’s not news. But if you talk to some of the people whose images wind up in BuzzFeed’s endlessly clickable and heavily clicked-upon photo galleries, you may have your expectations overturned, as mine were: most say thanks for the exposure.
BuzzFeed at first looked like an appropriator that took value without returning it, irritating professional photographers who find their work both increasingly valued and increasingly used without compensation. But on closer inspection, BuzzFeed may be finding its way toward a safer course — a careful combination of conventional licensing and curatorial selection.