Ok, this has been pissing me off for some time.
Why are artists obsessed with the idea that art is valuable? It's not! But that's a good thing. Because the internet has revealed that most art never did in the first place.
What the internet has done is open the doors of production and distribution. Unfortunately, that's where art used to make its money. An image was valuable because it was hard to get. This wasn't because artists tried to make it hard to get, although many did just that, but because of the state of the world.
To get an image, it had to be painted, or printed, or silk-screened, or SOMETHING. Little ones and zeroes could not be simply beamed across fiber-optic lines from California to Kathmandu. This resulted in a natural scarcity and value to produced art.
For many forms of art, that's no longer the case. Anything that can be reduced to ones and zeroes is now, effectively worthless. That's not to say everything in the world of produced art is worthless, but what can be perfectly recreated is.
Photography people seem to think that the photos that they have taken are somehow worth something. I can't even stress how wrong that is. The photos that I have taken and posted online? Worthless. The photos in the future? Soon to be worthless.
And that's not a bad thing! Far from it. It frees the average artist from the old chains of the art community. Previously, every step of the way required a passing grade from arbiter of taste. Be it a magazine, a gallery, or a critic, you had to impress someone. No longer shall artists suffer the tyranny of the art world. Now, they can directly serve their art to the hungry masses. Just because the old profit model was predicated on this now-defunct art environment doesn't mean the money is gone. In fact, there's more money to be made than ever before.
Many elements of photography are still valuable. For example, high-quality prints of your work are worth something. It's difficult to produce them, requires time and energy and a detailed knowledge of how to correctly translate digital, three-color, RGB (red, green, blue) images from a computer monitor to the ink, four-color, CMYK (cyan, magenta, yellow, black) images that are produced in print shops. It is that knowledge, work, and time that is valuable. The image itself is not. The goal of a photographer is to find ways to make money from what is scare and valuable and use what isn't scare to accentuate that process.
You want evidence of this? Just go to Deviant Art, or any artist's personal website. They've got images of their work galore... in low resolution, with watermarks all over it. Guys, if someone wants to steal your work, it's really easy to remove a watermark.
I went to Deviant Art and grabbed one of the top, all-time works. It's really quite good but has that massive watermark on it. You can view the artist's page here.
Here is my work at removing his watermark. You can still see traces of it, but that would be easy to remove with more time. My current work took, and I timed myself, slightly less than eleven minutes. It takes me longer to poop.
He rationalizes the watermark by complaining how people were passing off his work as their own, so he had to. But that doesn't matter. They're doing ADVERTISING for you, you idiots. People will see the work and want the artist. It doesn't matter if some dude is lying, because when they hire him and discover he sucks, they'll start trying to find the real artist. Or come across you by chance when researching the work. And if the thief tries to sell the work, then you can find out and simply sue him for very direct, cut-and-dry, copyright infringement.
Basically, the only way to stop people from copying your work is to destroy it before uploading it, which kinda' defeats the point.
On Photographic Reviews
This bring me to the second part of my rant: photographic review websites.
I can't even begin to describe how much they annoy the shit out of me. They seem to protect their images from their reviews as though they're worth their weight in gold.
Unfortunately, they truly are worth their weight in gold. Zero. It drives me up a wall when the shites... Freudian typo... sites put up their cropped images at JPEG 50. I don't five a shit what the image looks like in JPEG 50! Give me the goddamn RAW files! Give me .png files or JPEG 100's! I'm interested in THE CAMERA, not how good Photoshop is at compressing fucking JPEGs!
Give me the rawest image you can, so I can make my decision. That's why I'm going to your website. It doesn't matter if I found your image elsewhere, eventually I'm going to go get it directly from the horses mouth, because the creation of new work is always valuable. I want it new, when you write, as quickly as possible. As such, I'm going to be at your doorstep waiting for you to publish.
I found out about DPreview.com from a message board. Someone had copied all of these images. He didn't give any credit. He barely typed anything. I asked from whence the images came. Someone on the board said they looked like they came from DPReview. If that guy had not STOLEN their work, I might have never known about them. I now visit DPReview once a week and have purchased camera equipment via their links.
I don't mean to pick on DPReview. If anything, they're the best site on the net when it comes to not being idiots with their photos. They provide raw files, full-size jpegs, and tons of interactive images. No surprise, then, that they're the biggest camera review site on the net. (Seriously, they're fantastic. Go there)
But DPR is the exception. Even big websites like Cnet, don't give you anything. Go here to view the gallery of Nikon D3 photos. I've also ripped one from them.
How the FUCK are you supposed to determine anything from that? Give me the whole damned image or don't freaking bother! At the resolutions they're using, it would be impossible to tell the difference between the D3 and a camera that costs one-third as much.
If you're producing a product, namely art or a review, do everything you can to produce the best product and get me to spend money. Acting like some artistic miser gets you nothing, and writing a review for a camera that NO ONE who can afford it will ever read are not the ways to go about it.