"We didn't see this coming"

The Swiss Association of Picture Agencies and Archives SAB wants to continue to stand up for the rights of image creators 30 years after its founding. With the rapid emergence of artificial intelligence (AI), these are under scrutiny. SAB celebrated its 30th anniversary in the heart of Zurich. Werbewoche.ch was on site to catch voices and spoke with SAB President Stephan Werder.

On the 30th anniversary, Werbewoche.ch editor Beat Hürlimann spoke with Sylvie Fodor, Managing Director of CEPIC, SAB President Stefan Werder and Alexandra Mächler of Keystone SDA-ATS (from left to right).

Representatives of professional image providers in Switzerland celebrated the 30th anniversary of the Swiss Association of Picture Agencies and Archives SAB at its annual meeting on Wednesday at the Zunfthaus zur Meisen in Zurich. SAB President Stephan Werder and his predecessor Stefan Wittwer briefly reviewed the most important milestones of the past 30 years.

The SAB was founded in 1993 by 23 agencies and transformed from a loose working group into an association. Even then, its goal was to promote Swiss photo agencies and to set guideline prices for photographic material. Werder, a member of the SAB, emphasizes the continuing importance of fee and condition recommendations, especially in light of digitization and related developments in the image licensing industry. He also notes the growing importance of issues such as artificial intelligence and its impact on the visual industry. The SAB is becoming more involved in addressing these new developments and clarifying copyright issues for AI-generated images.

SAB, together with other associations of the image industry, had already actively and successfully campaigned for the protection of photography without individual design during the partial revision of the Swiss Copyright Act. Since April 1, 2020, the protection of photographic images is finally also in force in Switzerland. However, SAB is also internationally networked and maintains the exchange of knowledge across borders. Thus, SAB is a founding member of the Coordination of European Picture Agencies and Libraries CEPIC.

Together with the other CEPIC members, SAB is fighting to ensure that the legal adaptations of copyright to the realities of the communication society are not at the expense of creators. Last week, SAB board members attended the CEPIC Congress 2023, the largest network for companies in the visual world, in Antibes, France.

Finally, at Wednesday's anniversary celebration, Sylvie Fodor, CEPIC's executive director, was also present as a guest of honor. Vis-à-vis Advertisingweek.ch she says, when asked about artificial intelligence and its effects: "We didn't see it coming. The entire interview, including assessments by Stephan Werder and Alexandra Mächler, Head of Picture Content Management at Keystone-SDA-ATS, can be seen in the following video contribution by editor Beat Hürlimann.


"It is quite possible that new business models will emerge for all players"

Beat Hürlimann spoke with President Stephan Werder about the work of the Swiss Association of Picture Agencies and Archives SAB.

Werbewoche.ch: Stephan Werder, what do you particularly like about your job?

Stephan Werder: As owner and manager of the Dukas photo agencywhich is mainly active in the news and celebrity sector, I love having my finger on the pulse of the times. As President of the SAB, I can benefit from the exchange with the members. As a representative of the SAB on the CEPIC board, I also experience the development of the image industry on an international level and can help shape it, at least to a limited extent.


What is the core task of the SAB?

The focus is on advising members and, in particular, on the regular publication of fee and condition recommendations for image providers and image users. These recommendations have established themselves as an integral part of image sales in Switzerland and offer image providers as well as image customers guidance in pricing.


For whom is it useful to become a member of the SAB?

For all those who work professionally in the image sector and are concerned with the problems of image sales, image rights and licensing. Especially picture agencies and photographers with archives are addressed here.


As an association, what added value do you offer your membership?

Our members benefit from professional exchange, legal advice, support in all areas of the image business, international contacts and exchange with national associations in other European countries through CEPIC, of which SAB is a founding member.


What is your biggest challenge at the moment?

Bringing uncertainty to the image market with AI-generated images. These are becoming increasingly important. Manufacturers of such images are mainly large IT companies, which will certainly also achieve a certain market share with them. How large this will be is an open question. It is quite possible that new business models and opportunities for use will arise for all players as the applications advance.


How does AI affect the way we handle image rights in today's digital world?

At the moment, the discussion about image rights in this area is primarily causing uncertainty among those involved. For this reason, we as an association are also participating in the discussion about how copyright and data protection aspects are taken into account. After all, even in the case of images generated with AI, it is important to ensure that the images do not contain protected content or make inappropriate use of personal data. What the solution to this complex problem will look like one day, how far we want to count on the self-responsibility of the players or whether regulatory adjustments will have to be made, is still completely open at the moment.

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