0 comments on “Image copyright – beware of the bots”

Image copyright – beware of the bots

THE internet is a treasure trove of information and imagery, but journalists are finding out to their cost that assuming it is free can be expensive.

Copyright of an image is normally owned by the photographer who took it – unless they did it in the course of their employment, in which case their employer owns it.

Their rights last a long time too. A photographer owns copyright throughout their life and then it passes to their heirs for another 70 years. Material only becomes ‘public domain’ and free to use at the end of that 70-year period.

For freelance photographers, protecting their rights in an image is very important to their livelihood. If a photo is copied online without permission or payment it can drastically affect their income.

Many photographers and large archives are now using technical means to protect their copyright. Some picture archives utilise bots, such as Picscout, to crawl the web looking for unauthorised use of imagery and when they find such use, they generate an invoice.

Use of these technical means to detect copyright beach is on the increase. Pixsy recently signed a deal with Flickr to protect members’ imagery.

The detection can be quite nuanced as well. I have been contacted recently by people who have used a Creative Commons photo, but they neglected to comply with one of the conditions of the commons site where they obtained the photo – they failed to give the photographer a byline.

This omission resulted in invoices for £300 and £400, which the recipients had little choice but to pay – though with my guidance they negotiated the fee downward.

The lesson is, be careful of online imagery, owners can sometimes be determined in pursuing payment using technical means to do so.

If you want an image, contact the owner to get permission. If it is a Creative Commons site, make sure you read the T&Cs carefully and comply with them, so that what should have been a free picture does not cost you money.

If you or your organisation are concerned about this, I provide training in copyright and how to avoid these issues. It can be included in the general media law training sessions that I run, or as a standalone session focussed on copyright alone. For details see my Media Law Training page.

0 comments on “News websites – take care with comments, ECHR ruling”

News websites – take care with comments, ECHR ruling

NEWS website operators need to take care, following a judgement in the European Court of Human Rights.

This was the final appeal by an Estonian news site called Delfi, which took the case to the ECHR after it was found liable for third-party comments placed upon its site. The appeal claimed Estonia had failed to protect its Article 10 rights to freedom of expression by allowing such liability. The judgement can be read here – http://t.co/D1IPjE3Ltp

The case arose after the site carried reports of ice roads to islands off the coast of Estonia being damaged by the activities of a ferry operator. Some of the comments below the story from readers were aimed at the ferry company directors and amounted to libel and hate speech.

The Estonian courts held Delfi liable for the comments because of its failure to promptly remove these comments when notified of them.

The European Court of Human Rights rejected the appeal. It said Delfi by running the story had invited the comments and, knowing this was a controversial issue, ought to have been quicker to act when notified of a problem.

The implications for UK news sites do not immediately seem apparent. It is already well-established practice here that where comments are unmoderated, liability only occurs where a publisher fails to remove material once they have been notified of it.

Most news sites operate post-moderation and remove comments or other material that is flagged up to them.

However, what the Delfi judgement does suggest is that sites need to be prompt to remove. This could have a chilling effect on sites in receipt of a complaint where there is some dispute about the meaning of the comments.

Many websites already, understandably, err on the side of caution and take down material upon complaint. This judgement only reinforces that policy and inevitably this will lead to material that is not actually legally actionable being removed. Determined claimants will, once again, be able to stifle legitimate publication by way of legal threats.

I also think Google, Twitter and Facebook should keep an eye on judgements like this. The Delfi judgement says that it does not apply to social media. If I were in their management, I would still be concerned about the ‘direction of travel’ of the European judges.