I was quite shocked yesterday to read a short article from the BBC regarding use of images from The Twitter and The Facebook during the recent London riots. The article revolved around the fact that one Andy Mabbett complained about the BBC using photo’s from Twitter, and other social media sites, in their coverage of the riots without permission from the owners. The complaint (and subsequent response from the BBC) is here: http://pigsonthewing.org.uk/bbc-fundamental-misunderstanding-copyright/.
Apparently though, this response was incorrect so the BBC Editors set out to make an official statement of how they deal with such situations. You can read it here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/theeditors/2011/08/use_of_photographs_from_social.html
So, what was I shocked and appalled by?
In terms of permission and attribution, we make every effort to contact people who’ve taken photos we want to use in our coverage and ask for their permission before doing so.
And so they should when using other people’s work! But that part is fine; now, read on…
However, in exceptional situations, where there is a strong public interest and often time constraints, such as a major news story like the recent Norway attacks or rioting in England, we may use a photo before we’ve cleared it.
Sorry, what?! You would happily use a copyrighted image without permission?! No, that’s just wrong! If you don’t have permission then you should not use it! It’s very simple.
We don’t make this decision lightly – a senior editor has to judge that there is indeed a strong public interest in making a photo available to a wide audience.
I think that makes it even worse. Whether you commit a crime without any care in the world or if you spend a short time deliberating over it, it is still wrong. Just because a “senior editor” says it is OK to steal, that doesn’t make it better. If a “senior mob member” said it is OK to steal I guess that also excuses the rest of the mob?
Imagine if I took that stance. There are a lot of British ex-pat’s that live in Spain that would probably love to see the current series of Dr Who (one of the BBC’s finest televisual outpourings). However BBC’s iPlayer does not work in Spain (it requires a UK IP address for obvious license-paying reasons so these people cannot see it). There are a lot of them so it could easily be argued that it is in the public’s interest for these people to watch Dr Who. So, I will email the BBC to ask permission to rip the video and post it online, publicly, for free for any member of the public who wishes to see it. I will give them a couple of hours, maybe a day at most, to let me know whether or not I can. It’s quite important, and in the public’s interest, to see Dr Who as soon as possible after broadcast as there are many online discussions that may provide spoilers for these viewers. If I don’t hear back from them then that would mean it is OK to act in this way.
I presume you can see the idiocy of this stance? I wonder if the BBC will…
The 2nd half of Dr Who starts again in a couple of weeks. I have plenty of spare webspace and bandwidth…