Every week I run a Technorati and Icerocket search against the links of the stories from the Guardian’s Technology supplement to see what people have been saying about our articles. And pretty much every week I find at least one blog where they’ve taken all the content, lock stock and barrel, and simply reposted it on their blog.
This never fails to annoy me, I’m afraid. The point I make is that by doing this they’re contributing to a spiral which goes thusly: people read the content away from the Guardian; people don’t come to the Guardian pages to read it; Guardian reading figures fall; advertisers pay less and less to be on Guardian site; Guardian has less money to pay contributors; less is on site; nothing to rip off from Guardian site. So by nicking our content, these folk are cutting off their own source of stuff. (Sure, they’ll just move on to the next paper, but the idea that they’ve liked the stuff enough to take it from us is an indication that they think we’re worth something, surely.)
When I point out that this is theft and that they could be done for copyright infringement, most react by taking it down fast. Some apologise and say they weren’t aware. (This is I guess excusable; most people don’t get schooled in copyright law for everyday use.)
Some sites keep doing this; generally they’re in the US and use forum software.
But what’s remarkable is when you have a group of people who I’d always thought were very protective of copyright – photographers – who then go and do the same to not only the text but also the picture from a story.
Thus it was with Bruce Schneier’s latest piece, about the imagined threat that people taking photos of buildings poses to our safety. Because we’ve seen dastardly tururists taking photos of their intended target in films and TV, we assume that’s how it works in real life. Not so: it’s there for dramatic effect, so we’ll know what the target is and feel the unease at the people not knowing that they’re a target. When in fact all the terrorist attacks of the last however long haven’t had photographic reconnaissance.
Lots of people linked to this piece (unsurprising: it’s a very good piece, like his previous one about how border guards may take a copy of your hard drive; Schneier has had a galvanic effect on readers). Including photographers. Who in some cases copied the photo from our site and stuck it on theirs – no credit, no nothing. What is with these people? (One was here, another here, another here, another here.)
Update: the last of those four sites, who didn’t take all the copy but did (in the first version) copy the photo, belongs to a professional photographer from Manchester who in his comments is insisting “Good god do you people not know how the internet is changing and raising all kinds of questions about ownership etc. Wake Up”. Obviously, he’ll want you all to use his photos for free without crediting him if this chain of logic is followed through…
One person (not the Manchester photographer) wrote back and said:
Thanks for your note. Stealing is a harsh word when it could just be a misunderstanding first and foremost. (Also, we’re not a site about copyrights, it’s a site about photographers’ rights. There’s a difference.) Every picture we link to we will credit that site. We’re not in the business of stealing images. It’s a simple personal blog, so there’s really no need to get so hostile.
I did use the photo from the Guardian, with a link. There was no photo credit on the Guardian’s site. It looks to us like a still from the movie. Check out the post again. What more would you like?
A photographers’ rights site that doesn’t understand copyright. My irony meter just exploded. What would I like? Well, for you not to have copied the image and stuck it on your site, and left the credit to the very end of the blog post.
I know one thing: I could never work in the music or film industries. I’d simply spontaneously combust at all the expectations of people that because you’ve made something, they can get it absolutely gratis. Some people have the attitude that they’re being forced to acquire the music industry’s output, and that it puts Evil Price Barriers in their way. Uh-uh. Nobody’s forcing you to buy these things. people.
Bonus link: Wendy Grossman’s story from the Technology section from last year: A picture paints a thousand invoices:
Copyright owners are cracking down on the unlicensed use of images. A sample case: Geoff Cox runs Quest Cars, a small cab company in Taunton. In 2001, he hired a small local web developer (since gone bust) who decorated the resulting website with a few small photographs. Then in July, Cox received a letter from the legal firm Baker and Mackenzie saying that one of those photographs used on the website was copyright to the large picture agency Corbis and asking for £1,300 for a one-year licence to use that photograph (to expire a month later) plus administrative fees. The letter quoted copyright law and stated that there would be no negotiations.