Hey! That’s my photo not yours

The web has apparently over 3 trillion photographs so what are the chances of one of yours being picked  — or maybe the correct phrase is “lifted  without permission” from the few you have on your blog — and then seeing it on the front page of a Sunday paper? 

I would have said pretty slim, till I heard the popular “Mul Pituwa” program Sunday before last (15 March, 2009) host Bandula Padmakumara talking about a front page article on the Sunday Times article “Lost treasures to be brought home” and the photograph of Tara Devi.

Having written the blog post “Goddess Tara time to come home?” my ears naturally picked up. The photo glimpsed on the TV screen looked suspiciously like mine on the blog. Having had one more instance when another Sunday weekly carried a photo of mine without any credit. I did a dash to town to buy the paper and voila! there was my photo from my blog adorning the front page — not so much as a please, not even the much maligned phrase “courtesy of” – that is used blithely by most newspapers here. 

Infuriating was a mild term to describe how I felt, cheated is more like it, considering this photograph was taken by me during a short stop in London in 2008 when this statue was on display at the British Museum.  I had made a special visit to the British Museum for the sole purpose of seeing this statue, take this photograph and write the story.

My first letter to the editor went unanswered and no correction was carried last week.  Are we surprised?  Well, yes , since the other paper was quick to apologize and cartried a correction with a thumbnail photo. Today, after my second letter I got an e-mail response admitting that the Sunday Times obtained the photograph after a Google search but said ” We may have copied the picture from your website, but the website gave no credit line to the picture, and therefore, we could not have known the ownership of the photograph. As a practice we have no qualms in giving credit to an article, graphic or photograph, and would have been happy to give you the credit-line had we known it belonged to you,” and expressed “regret if we have caused you any inconvenience or pain of mind.”  Obviously, sending an e-mail to get copyright clearance didn’t cross their mind. And they missed the © Important: Copyright Notice: All images and text in this site is copyrighted. No material from this blog may be used except as a direct reference to this site

Of course as bloggers all of you know from the blog stats I can say how many people accessed the site prior to 15 March and how many came via a Google search and as for the missing credit line – it is there clearly displaced.  Further, a blog is your own personal diary and from what I learned during my graduate study days is that photographic works are protected by the mere fact of their creation. This is a fundamental basis of respecting works of authors . 

When I talked about the lack of knowledge on copyright issues among the media here with another media colleague and the need to educate the journalists here he had this to say:  “Society doesn’t need newspapers. What we need is  good journalism.  For a century, the imperatives to strengthen journalism and to strengthen newspapers have been so tightly wound as to be indistinguishable. That’s been a fine accident to have, but when that accident stops, as it is stopping before our eyes, we’re going to need lots of other ways to strengthen journalism instead.”

“So there comes a time when intellectual property of journalists, that maybe the work of accredited journalists or a 14 year old kid doing a blog has to be respected.”

On that debatable note let’s open the space for discussion – Are print newspapers as we know them dinosaurs in an age when most of us get our news from the electronic media and if they need to go foraging blog sites for free photos etc  how important are our blog spaces and citizen journalism sites. 

That brings us to the question what are our rights as bloggers and photographers — or do we not have any rights in this age when anyone and everyone copies everything possible.  see an interesting well written piece Copyright is for Losers by Rupert Gray on Shahidul Alam’s blog

Of course print newspapers can argue that they have gate keepers to ensure quality unlike us bloggers who write without editorial supervision but then again dinosaurs were big and powerful too at one time. … As I write my radio is playing quite appropriately the famous Belafonte song  “There’s hole in the bucket, Dear Lisa, Dear Lisa…”

12 thoughts on “Hey! That’s my photo not yours

  1. Be grateful that you received at least an email from a dinosaur under siege. Keep it safe, for someday soon it will be a collector’s item. Newspapers as we know it are firmly on their way out, and as one who worked in the industry some years ago (and left on a happy note), I would say that’s not a bad thing.

    Here’s an extract from a recent blog post I wrote: “Historically, organised and commercialised mass media have existed only in the past five centuries, since the first newspapers — as we know them — emerged in Europe. Before the printing press was invented, all news was local and there were few gatekeepers controlling its flow. Having evolved highly centralised systems of media for half a millennium, we are now returning to a second era of mass media — in the true sense of that term. Blogs, wikis and citizen journalism are all signs of things to come.”

    One thing is clear: the age of passive media consumption is fast drawing to an end. There will be no turning back on the road from Citizen Kane to citizen journalist.

    More at: http://movingimages.wordpress.com/2009/02/16/return-of-true-mass-media-let-there-be-millions-of-sparkling-conversations/

  2. Second Nalaka’s comments. As I noted last week, even the Daily Mirror carrying content without any attribution – http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2009/03/23/daily-mirror-plaigarises-content-from-dow-jones-website/

    Plagiarism by leading Editors and newspapers in Sri Lanka of content that appears on the web and in blogs is an eduring issue that I have covered in detail elsewhere – http://www.groundviews.org/2007/07/12/bloggers-and-mainstream-media-media-ethics-in-a-digital-age/

    The new Colombo Declaration may be a useful basis to advocate more rigorous attribution of content from online sources. See http://ict4peace.wordpress.com/2009/03/16/2008-colombo-declaration-on-media-freedom-and-social-responsibility/



  3. Pingback: Plaigarising our content: How should bloggers respond? « ICT for Peacebuilding (ICT4Peace)

  4. Same thing happened to me. One editor from Silumina asked me to send thishttp://www.flickr.com/photos/thushara_sl/1354400271/
    photograph for an editorial in Buddhism and I personally emailed the original file without a water mark. but when I see it in news paper there was no any credit for photographer. Their answer was if they need to put my name they have to make sure my ownership and copy right before publish it. but they did not have time. its a long process. there for published without any name. now I make sure to put a water mark before publish on web.

    its happening on flikr photos also. Sri Lankan press guys use flickr photos too.

    Your Rights as a Photographer by Thishya Weragoda. He is a good lawyer and a photographer

    Part 2 of the Intellectual Property Act No. 36 of 2003 deals with Copyrights.
    S. 6 (j) says that photographic works are protected works as “literary, artistic or scientific work” solely by reason of their creation and irrespective of their mode or form of expression as well as their content quality and purpose.

    The definition in S. 5 a “Photographic Work” is defined as the recording of light or other radiation on any medium on which an image is produced or from which an image may be produce irrespective of technique (chemical, electronic or other) by which such recording is made, a still picture extracted from an audio visual work is not part of a photographic work.

    Economic Rights of a Protected work. (in relation to a photograph)
    the owner of copyright of a work shall have the exclusive right to carry out or to authorize the following.
    a. reproduction of the work.
    d. public distribution of the original, and each copy of the work by sale, rental, export or otherwise
    g. public display of the original or a copy of the work
    h. public performance of the work
    j. other communication to the public of the work.
    – “Communication to the public” means transmission the the public by wire or without wire of the images or sound or both of a a work, ….. including the making available to the public of a work,…. in such a way that members of the public may access them from a place and at ta time individually chosen by them. (s. 5 definition)

    Moral Rights (s.10)
    The author of the work, independent to his economic rights/ when he is no longer the owner of the economic rights is entitled to the following rights.
    1. have his name indicated prominently on the copies and in connection with any public use of his work.
    2. the right to use a pseudonym used on the copies in connection with any public use of his work.
    3. to Object to any distortion, mutilation or other modifications or other derogatory action in relation to his work, which would be prejudicial to his honour or reputation.

    * this right is not transferable to another. which means that the Moral Right continues to be with the author of the “Work” and he can object to the use of it on above grounds even where he has sold his economic rights.
    * once the author is dead, such right can be transmitted by testamentary disposition or by operation of the law.
    * the author may decide to waive his Moral rights by way of a Written document.

    Fair Use (by others of works protected) (s.11)
    Fair use of works protected, including the use by reproduction or other means stated in s.9 for the purposes of CRITICISM, COMMENT, NEWS REPORTING, TEACHING (INCLUDING MULTIPLE COPIES FOR CLASSROOM USE) SCHOLARSHIP OR RESEARCH is not an infringement of copyrights.
    The following is to be taken into consideration to determine whether an unauthorized use is a fair use.
    *the purpose and character of the use – whether the use was for a COMMERCIAL PURPOSE OR FOR A NON-PROFIT EDUCATIONAL PURPOSE
    *nature of the copyrighted work
    *the amount and substantiality of the portion used in relation ot the copyrighted work as a whole
    * the effect of the use upon the potential market/ value of the work

    Acts of fair use
    * Fair use shall not extend to the reproduction (s. 9(a)of a work where the reproduction would conflict with a normal exploitation of the work or would otherwise unreasonably prejudice the legitimate interests of the owner of a work.

    irrespective of rights in s.9 (1) (a), (h), (i), and subject to the condition that THE SOURCE AND THE NAME OF THE AUTHOR IS INDICATED as far as practicable, the following are permitted without the authorization of the owner of the copyrights as acts of fair use.
    – reproduction in a newspaper or periodical, manner of broadcasting or communication to the public, or an article published in a newspaper on CURRENT ECONOMIC, POLITICAL OR RELIGIOUS TOPICS.

    * irrespective of s. 9(1) (g) public display of originals or copies of work is permitted without authorization of the owner, provided that the display is made other than by film, slide, television image or otherwise on screen, if the WORK HAS BEEN PUBLISHED, OR THE ORIGINAL OR COPY DISPLAYED, HAS BEEN SOLD, GIVEN AWAY OR OTHERWISE TRANSFERRED TO ANOTHER PERSON BY THE AUTHOR OR HIS SUCCESSOR IN TITLE. (this means that once you have given a legitimate copy or original to another or sold it, you cannot prevent THAT ORIGINAL OR COPY from being displayed or sold to another!)

    Duration of Copyright (s. 13)
    – Economic and Moral Rights shall exists during the lifetime of the author and for a further period of seventy years from the date of his death.

    Presumption of Authorship (s. 15)
    the physical person whose name is indicated as the author on a work in the usual manner and in the absence of proof to the contrary is presumed to be the author of the work.

    Assignment (s. 16)
    the owner of a Copyright may
    – grant a license to a physical person or a legal entitiy to carry out any one or more of the economic rights
    -any assignment or transfer of an economic right and any licence ot do such act subject to authorisation by the owner shall be in writing signed by the Assignor and the Assignee, the trasferor and the transferee or by the licensor and the licensee as the case may be.
    – assignment or transfer in whole or in part of any economic right shall not include or be deemed to include the assignment or transfer or licence in respect of other rights not expressly referred to in such transfer!
    Originally posted at 9:05PM, 26 January 2009 IST ( permalink )
    Thishya Weragoda edited this topic 2 months ago.


  5. Being a dinosaur myself, I don’t understand any of the other comments but I do understand your position. Here’s a possible solution.

    It is possible to imprint your copyright on to your photo. Dominic Sansoni does it all the time – see the “Lanka Academic”. Do that to all the pictures you post and no-one can (as far as I know) reproduce your photo without printing your copyright statement and thus establishing your ownership. Nor can they say “Aney miss, I did not know”!

  6. Sock it to them Chulie!

    It’s a diabolical shame when a venerated member of the fourth estate such as The Sunday Times stoops to “lifting” material from a site and pretending that it’s their own despite copyright laws and its attendant conditions of clearances and notices. At the least is an apology heading your way? if not sue! We’ll start a fund-“Justice for Chuulie”! Good luck

  7. Chulie

    Be firm with the Sunday Times. I am happy that they belatedly acknowledged the source but they need to be careful in future. There is the press complaints commission (or what ever it is called) in case the Sunday Times acts tough.

    Best regards

  8. Well, Irrespective of what watermarks you put, the newspapers will still publish. Happened to me twice now. I called up the editors only to get blasted from them in Filth.

    One newspaper published one of my photos cropping part of my watermark. I have instituted Civil Action for Copyright Violation.

    Another Newspaper published a second photo and then threatned and challenged me saying go sue them if I do have “any rights” to the photograph. The photo being a sunset over Nuwarawewa. I have commenced Criminal Action against this guy 🙂 the Downside is the Sri Lankan Police don’t really understand head or tail about digital copying and copyprotection.

    They claimed 2 things.
    1. that when photos are published on the internet, it loses all copyrights
    2. as a newspaper, they have a right to publish anything found online!

    now both these are legally wrong.
    if hte photo is published online with or without a copyright notice, it is still copyrighted. they need permission prior to publication.

    newspapers have a right to publish things found online if it is on some current news event or related things. they can’t just use the fair use exception to get away from trouble.

    I think the Local Newspapers need to be educated properly about copyrights. Some of my friends and I are in the process of writing to the Press Commission, and the Editors Guild about this.

    The easiest and cheapest option in this type of situation is to go before the Press Complaints Commission for Arbitration. An award will be made in 30 days!

  9. Hi,

    Just checked my blog stats now and found a referror yahoo.groups. I clicked it and voila the group owner(?)/leader just copied my recent post about moringa tea. complete with text and pictures. No credit at all. I am not a professional with computers, just know how to type. would you be able to help me in protecting my images too?



  10. Hi again,

    Just fyi I copied this piece from your blog and I lan to post it on all my posts. Thank you.

    Important: Copyright Notice: All images and text in this site is copyrighted. No material from this blog may be used except as a direct reference to this site.

    thanks again.


  11. Pingback: Much ado about Hikka nudes « Chuls Bits & Pics

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