Copyright gives the owner of the copyright an exclusive right to distribute and display their images. 17 U.S.C. 106. This exclusivity
creates an effective monopoly on a particular creative work. In some instances this exclusive right gives the owner a lot of bargaining power
when dealing with those who want to use the content. (Just look at the music and movie industries, piracy aside.)
The NY Times reports that Wikipedia has a strong policy of using works that are licensed under a very unrestricted Creative Commons license which professional photographers are weary of. Because of this, Wikipedia does not have many good photographs of celebrities. But, at the same time celebrities want their (good) pictures on Wikipedia. But, because of the licensing restrictions on Wikipedia, if it can go there anyone can basically take and use the content – much to the chagrin of the photographers.
The article finishes with a quote from celebrity photographer Jerry Avenaim: “To me the problem is the Wikipedia rule of public use . . . If they truly wanted to elevate the image on the site, they should allow photographers to maintain the copyright.” It appears that as Wikipedia becomes more indispensable we’re going to see a much greater push of celebrities to get pictures of their likeness on the site licensing restrictions on the part of Wikipedia or not. Celebrities may eventually push for some photos of them to be distributed with a CC or other “copylite” licenses. In this case it’s Wikipedia’s relative exclusivity that beats out the content owner.