Copyright – Rights and Wrongs – Part 2

In Part 1, I wrote how a government department (a local council) had used one of my photographs without permission and, after alerting them to the issue, they decided to remove the photo rather than giving a simple attribution of ownership. It’s somewhat disappointing how people assume that because a photograph is on the internet, it can be used freely and especially without any attribution. The hardware store chain where I work part-time, held a competition this month seeking photographs that depicted the local area. The store submitted some of mine and, at the end of the competition, the organisers sent out requests to confirm that photographs submitted were authorised, as many were simply taken from the internet (Google images), with no permission evidently sought.

Copyright - It really is black and white.

Copyright – It really is black and white.

So it was with some surprise (perhaps not) that while I was doing a Google search for something, I came across one of my photographs that I’d taken in Aug 2014 and discovered that it had been published in The Age newspaper in April 2017, ‘Tributes flow for popular Thorpdale publican John Bantock killed in fire‘, without my knowledge and attributed to a Twitter user. I contacted The Age (via their convoluted on-line system) to alert them to this copyright infringement and requested that, at the very least, a correction and correct attribution be made. While the general public are usually oblivious to copyright rules, newspapers should be intimately aware that photographs submitted need to be verified as to ownership. But then, from much of what I’ve been reading, this is a very common occurrence and the media just doesn’t seem to care where photographs come from and who owns them. Unless you’re a well-know identity, they clearly assume that there’s no risk of litigation or other consequences.

The late John Bantock at the Thorpdale Travellers Rest Hotel - (source: The Age)

The late John Bantock at the Thorpdale Travellers Rest Hotel – (source: The Age)

To say that the Age has a very obscure contact system is an understatement, as there’s no direct way to make any contact with a relevant section, you have to chose an option and hope for the best. So I chose the Editorial Feedback link in the main contact page, which takes you to something that’s a dog’s breakfast. It actually doesn’t matter which selection you make, you get to the same page every time. So I filled in the ‘Submit a request’ form and did get an automated reply saying ‘Thank you for contacting Fairfax Media Subscriber Services. To add additional comments or information about this enquiry, please reply to this email.‘ But what does this actually mean? I have my doubts that a human being is going to respond, but you never know and any response will certainly be enlightening.

The Age contact system (source: The Age)

The Age contact system (source: The Age)

The Age contact system (source: The Age)

The Age contact system (source: The Age)

What’s doubly worse about this copyright infringement is that if one searches for my particular image, or searches for ‘Thorpdale’ in Google images, all that comes up is the one posted in The Age article, to wit, all ownership information has effectively been transferred to The Age. The closest that comes up in a general Google search is a link to my original actual article, but that search also reveals that the photograph has been used by other Fairfax news publications as well. You have to start wondering how many photographers have their images taken without a formal request by newspapers, simply because they don’t care to do due diligence or simply don’t care that they are effectively misappropriating other people’s intellectual property.

The late John Bantock at the Thorpdale Travellers Rest Inn - (source: Google Images)

The late John Bantock at the Thorpdale Travellers Rest Inn – (source: Google Images)

The late John Bantock at the Thorpdale Travellers Rest Inn - (source: Google Images)

The late John Bantock at the Thorpdale Travellers Rest Inn – (source: Google Images)

I also followed this up with a formal take down request to Google, so that the photograph linking to The Age is hopefully removed and that mine will appear in relevant searches. How all of this will pan out is another thing, as Google apparently gets a huge amount of such requests every day/week, so I don’t expect a rapid response. Had I spotted this earlier, perhaps it would have been easier to address, but even that’s not a given. The other issue is that were I to use any of The Age’s imagery without attribution and in a similar context, I suspect that I’d be pounced upon by their lawyers, if they found out. As I mentioned in Part 1, there’s a difference between using images from other sources, for example, for criticism or review vs just to fill an article because you don’t have an image of your own.

  • research or study;
  • criticism or review;
  • parody or satire;
  • reporting news; or
  • professional advice by a lawyer, patent attorney or trade marks attorney.

I have also sought some advice from the Australian Copyright Council, to which I subscribe, to see if they could provide any further recommendations, but there wasn’t much more that they could suggest. They did suggest placing prominent copyright watermarks on my photographs, but that’s something I’m reluctant to do, as noted in my earlier story. If nothing else, it may provide the Copyright Council with another example on how things are going awry when it comes to these things. Perhaps they may also do some communication with the media to emphasise the importance of due diligence when it comes to any content sourced from the internet and especially provided by individuals through dubious sources such as Twitter. I subsequently received a further email from The Age stating:

Your request (# 2791655) has been resolved or passed onto the relevant department for further investigation and resolution. If applicable, the relevant department will contact you directly.‘ again, clear as mud, so which is it?

A week later all has gone quiet. Several weeks later, a deathly silence. But why would The Age be in the least bit concerned about journalistic integrity and accuracy? No wonder things like this happen all too easily, as newspapers simply don’t bother checking anything nowadays. The media often can’t even bother to do check whether a photographer is fake or real, so little wonder people’s trust in the media is in the toilet:

Fake War Photographer Gets Exposed After Fooling the World

I honestly believe that today’s journalism is undertaken by inexperienced, lazy, incompetent and disinterested individuals who really should consider some other occupation, perhaps children’s fiction. But even that would require far too much effort.

Update 1. And talk about inexperienced, lazy, incompetent and disinterested journalists at The Age, ‘Eliminating the human:¬†we’re becoming numb to hacks and breaches‘, once again proving my point. Old and grumpy? No, just lazy, as a quick Google search will prove, or maybe it’s just more Fake News (my emphasis):

Facebook recently passed two billion users, so that’s roughly a quarter of the world feeling worse about themselves than they might be otherwise. Given the access to technology required to participate, it’s also presumably the wealthiest quarter of the world. So, maybe it’s just the universe balancing itself.

And maybe I’m just old and grumpy.

Just one quick and easy Google search saves you from making completely fatuous presumptions:

Top 15 Facebook User Countries - (source: statista)

Top 15 Facebook User Countries – (source: statista)


2 thoughts on “Copyright – Rights and Wrongs – Part 2

  1. Shawn K.

    You might want to pop a link to Part 2 at the bottom of Part 1.

    This is more of the melancholy of digital life. “If something is available with a right-click, it’s free, and who are you to tell me that photo is yours?” I really think that’s the beginning and end of the thought process, if it’s even that involved.

    It’s also part of why I have to pay $20 to watch a relative perform in a school event, but I can’t photograph anything in the hall, even though I pay thousands a year to the school in tuition, have a silent camera, etc. No recording of any kind – because the school retains the rights to everything. I grumble and leave my camera behind so I don’t have an usher fondle my gear, but I don’t care for the policy. The funny thing is that a few groups actively encourage recordings of their live performances and ask that they be shared far & wide – the Canadian Brass being one of the more famous groups that have embraced that level of sharing. Still, that’s their choice to make, not mine or anyone else’s.

    Ultimately, it should be up to the creator of the content (or the venue, etc.) to decide how photography and other recordings are used, which is at the heart of this series. I agree that taking someone’s work as they have is simply wrong.

    1. Ray Post author

      Thanks. I had intended to do that and put an update at the bottom of the page, but then forgot to include the link.

      Funny that, if you have enough financial clout you can force all manner of restrictions and litigate if necessary. All too many take advantage of this, even celebrities that use other people’s work and then thumb their noses at the creator because they know the creator doesn’t have the resources to take them to task.

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