Monday, October 23, 2006

Another Copyright Infringement, Another Blogstorm

Once again, a blogger has found his work appropriated without compensation or attribution and once again bloggers are not amused. Scott Bakalar alerted the broader blogosphere to the plight of TMC News. TMC is a blog by a former free-lance photographer and videographer who covers accidents, fires and events in Lorain Co. TMC describes what happened next:

    Last night a story aired on WOIO 19 News during their 6pm newscast about the trench rescue in Eaton Township. I learned around 3:30pm that WOIO was working on the story and that they were going to be using photos that I had taken at the rescue. When I discovered that the story they were working on was that they believed a fight between the Metro LifeFlight crew and the Firefighters at the scene took place. I contacted WOIO immediately and spoke both with the managing editor and the reporter preparing the story. I was told that the photo was sent to them through an email therefore they could not determine the ownership of the photo so they were going to run with it. I advised them that all they had to do was view my website to confirm ownership. I advised both the managing editor and the reporter that I was NOT granting permission for them to use any of my photos for their story. Both dismissed me and they ran the story and the photos anyway.
I agree with Scott that this is, if anything, worse than what has gone before. As Scott notes, WOIO was notified ahead of time by the holder of the copyright, but ran the story with the pictures anyway. In addition, the blogger was at the scene and contradicted the version of the story WOIO was running -- still they didn't care.

What’s more, a news station is in the business of creating intellectual property. The station can, for example, sue to protect copyright if snippets show up on YouTube (the success of that suit would depend on whether circumstances give rise to a “fair use” defense.) As an organization, they surely are aware of copyright law. In this case, they just didn't give a damn.

What’s more, TMC appears to be working his site into a business, at least judging by his “100 Days” post. So WOIO in fact stole from a nascent news organization. Wonder how the PD would react if someone emailed one of their pictures.

Bloggers have rallied to the cause. In addition to Scott’s post, which BFD picked up,
Jeff Hess
and Redhorse have weighed in. It’s easy enough to fix this – pay the guy for his work, run a correction story giving attribution and don’t do it again. We’re still waiting to hear from WOIO.

It appears that organizations appropriating images from blogs do so because they feel they can get away with it. They rely on bloggers being unable to finance a vigorous defense of their copyrights, and minimal damages because by and large we don't lose business as a result of the infringement. Meanwhile, bloggers need to decide what to do about this going forward.