Home > journalism industry > Copyright, Part II — Daily Mail Thinks TwitPic is Public Domain

Copyright, Part II — Daily Mail Thinks TwitPic is Public Domain

My last post was about the NPPA’s Multimedia Immersion session on copyright and privacy. During the session, we talked about copyright, but mostly in the context of what a freelancer or newspaper’s copyrights are. I know we did discuss how we use other people’s work without violating copyright, but this seemed to pertain mostly to music (which I will cover in another post) and Creative Commons work.

In the end, it all comes down to something Mickey Ostericher said:

The whole idea of copyright law is asking permission.

The Daily Mail, in London, is getting a virtual wrist slap (that could turn out to be much more) because they used TwitPic photos without permission and then claimed those photos were in the public domain. This, despite the TwitPic Terms of Service clearly stating:

All images uploaded are copyright © their respective owners

The right thing would have been to find other pictures or to ask the account user if they could use the photos. I especially like flickr in this regard, because of the search engine that can specify what kind of Creative Commons photos you are looking for. Of course, Creative Commons case law hasn’t been established but, for the most part, the people who put their images on Flickr as Creative Commons (like me) just want their work to be used.

Instead, The Daily Mail was sent an invoice of 1,170 pounds and will likely end up in some sort of small claims court.

Then there’s the case of NPR who used a YouTube clip but didn’t aggressively credit the creator of the clip. The video showed the creator’s website address at the end of the clip, but the idea is that if a viewer didn’t watch the whole video, they could be under the impression that NPR created the video.

This is an interesting case because it’s something that the properties I work for are probably not aggressive enough about. Embedding a YouTube clip creates an automatic link back to the page which could easily give credit to the source. But what kind of credit is required for intellectual property when the uploader may not be the original creator? How should a news site credit the clip if the creator is ambiguous or not clearly stated? In that case, should the site not use the video at all?

But in some cases, pictures or videos themselves were the source of a news story in and within itself. In that case, an argument for fair use comes into play.

The best example I can think of in this case is that of Meghan McCain, who took a picture where her breasts were prominently shown which created an uproar (of sorts) amongst her Twitter followers. The uproar in the media was even bigger and almost every site that reported on the incident used Meghan McCain’s TwitPic photo. I wouldn’t be surprised if most of this usage was without McCain’s permission.

In this new content-rich world where everyone is a producer, what should the mainstream news be doing? Many people have said that the future of journalism is to embrace this break into the fourth estate and we should become news aggregates and forgo this idea that journalists are the ones that work for the paper. But we also have to be as respectful of others’ copyrights as we’d want them to be to our own.

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Categories: journalism industry
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