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August 5, 2013

Copyright Followup Facepalm (Updated)

by at 10:16 am.

I can’t begin to stress just how disturbed I am right now.

Look, I’m a blogger, and a graphic designer. I’m no lawyer, and I’m certainly no better informed than most journalism majors finishing up their junior year as an undergrad. So when Christopher Scott, Enterprise Editor of the Lowell Sun, responds on Facebook to the copyright scandal with the following:

Good morning Jenn. Just want to set the record straight on this one. I’m 99.9 percent sure no one lifted the picture you’re referencing from your FB page. Rather, someone, might have been me, Googled a picture of the mayor and that one was selected.

So let me get this straight. Lifting the photo from Google sans permission is better than lifting this photo from Facebook sans permission? I don’t care where the photo was found via Google images (in this case, Jen says an article from Latitude News “regarding the connection the Mayor has created with the Cambodian community” used the photo with her permission). And then you go and list it in print as a Sun File Photo?

Are you kidding me? Does Scott not have a clue as to how copyright works as applied to the internet?

Bet you dollars to donuts, if I started lifting actual Sun File Photos from their website and putting them on my blog, they’d be after me faster than a canal minnow on tossed bread (and that’s fast, I’ve fed them, those suckers EAT).

Bad form, Lowell Sun, you got caught and called out, and your lame ass excuse just digs you deeper. Just admit it, you know crap all about what you’re doing over there, kids. The Museum truly is a museum - they can’t even catch up to two decades of the internet, for heaven’s sake.

Someone please clean house over there before they hurt themselves.

Update I: Apparently, this is not the first time the Lowell Sun has blatantly stolen photos from others. In fact, it appears to be pretty common. In regards to a recent post on the Lowell Sun Column blog, another commenter on Jen’s status caught them again:

Perhaps the “column” photo was “borrowed” from LHS Photography student Monita Khuth/ http://www.panoramio.com/photo/52773728

These students have produced some outstanding work. And if you keep an eye on them you’ll see their progress year after year.
[And later:]
Check the link…that photo of LHS has a copyright.

Photo details:
Uploaded on May 16, 2011
© All Rights Reserved
by LHS Photo

You can see where the Sun Column blog stole that photo, with apparently zero permission, zero attribution, here.

And from Dan Murphy, the Mayor’s brother:

Not the first time this has happened. The Sun stole a picture of Patrick and his wife off the “Google” when they found out he was getting married.

I’m sure there’s more, anyone wishing to jump in and find more violations feel free.

19 Responses to “Copyright Followup Facepalm (Updated)”

  1. Tim Little Says:

    Interesting insight from the American Society of Media Photographers:

    Willful copyright infringement — that is, when the infringer knows exactly what he’s doing and does it anyway — can get the pirate a federal suit that could lead to jail time or a big fine, or both. Consider: if the willful infringer uses, without permission, a copyrighted item with a commercial value of more than $1000 but less than $2500, that could earn him a year in the federal prison, or cost him a sizable amount in a fine. And a civil case could slam the offender with damages as high as $150,000 per image pilfered.

    Of course, hopefully the Sun will do the right thing and simply compensate Jen for use of her image.

  2. Lynne Says:

    And Tim - can we really doubt, if someone was willfully infringing on the Sun’s images, they wouldn’t at least threaten to prosecute?

  3. Jack Says:

    Almost every time I mention the Blog of Record, I link to them. This is a courtesy bloggers extend, even to our ‘foes.’ The only time I do not link back is when there is NO LINK, e.g. archived articles.

    We do our best to respect ‘fair use’ and to provide attribution. The Sun on the other hand, writes things like ‘Mr. Mitchell said, in an online forum, that “Mitt Romney breath stank.” ‘

    I am not perfect, but I try to act within the ‘blogger handbook.’ The Sun is arrogant.As if, we are petulant brats. Apparently, brats they are scared enough of, they will not give proper attribution to.

  4. Christopher Says:

    I still am amazed the Sun didn’t have multiple actual file photos of the Mayor in their collection. Certainly his picture has been snapped by a Sun photographer a time or two by now.

  5. Lynne Says:

    Good point Christopher: why would they have to rely on a Google search in the first place…is a very good question!

  6. Lynne Says:

    (And given the Sun’s antipathy against the Mayor…maybe it’s not so surprising they haven’t managed to get pictures of him. Do they even show up to most things these days anyway? You used to see Sun reporters/photographers at most events…not so much any more.)

  7. Linda C Says:

    I have felt the Lowell Sun was too often biased in their reporting when I prefered to get the facts on issues and make my own decisions. Still I always thought they were professionals who recognized copyrights and acknowledged contributing media outlets. I am appalled that Christopher Scott is so cavalier and uninformed on this that he considers because he goggled something on the internet it is now within his purview to claim it and use it as he pleases without attribution. I am not a photographer but I am a writer and sometime poet and though of minor note, my work has been used by many here in the US and worldwide. In most cases, I granted limited permission mainting my rights to my own work and only ask the people reprinting my work to credit me. That said, I have also been compensated for my work by Card companies, book companies and libraries world wide. All this accessed through the use of the internet by these folks who found me and wanted to use my work whether it was a puzzle I created or a puppet play or most usually, a kids poem. Now, they may have goggled a subject where upon something of mine popped up but these folks did not feel, the work was theirs to do what they liked with and they sought my permission. When children, parents, teachers and even school committees as far away as New Zealand, who used my seasonal poetry in their curriculum, knew enough to contact me first, I have to shake my head at the lack of knowledge in this area of a reporters expertise. I would also like to point out that countries from Canada to Japan and even China in one instance followed the copyright laws. It is more than puzzling that a newspaper person does not have the same respect for or knowledge of copyrights.

  8. Jack Says:

    I’ll knock The Sun with the best of ‘em. I don’t like the whizzing around of the ’stealing’ motif. The Sun lifted a photo from a fairly public domain. The true sin, imho, is the false attribution. That was lazy, at best.

  9. Lynne Says:

    As someone in the arts, who produces copyrighted material all the time, it’s stealing, Jack.

  10. Linda C Says:

    Mistakes happen especially when expediency is called for however, lifting a photo from an article on goggle and then attributing the photo as a Sun File Photo is improper attribution. It should be corrected as belonging to Jennifer Myers or at the very least credited to the city of Lowell. This would be the appropriate thing to do.

  11. F Lee Bailey Says:

    The mayor is a disgrace. Time for him to go quietly into the shadows….

  12. Jack Says:

    Into the shadows? What? With chickenshit anonymous bloggers?
    #findafuckingclue

  13. Lynne Says:

    Non sequitur much? I do so love me the drivebys. (Our new friend F Lee here seems to have never posted before, according to his IP address.)

  14. Shawn Says:

    I’ve had my photos used regularly by the sun (most recently one or two of Dracut’s Tyler Dumont when he was being interviewed over winning and Emmy). Sometimes I get credit, usually not.

    I figured why fight it, I repost their stuff sometimes (with nary a complaint), so its a wash to me.

    Now if I was making money as a photographer, that would be different.

  15. Shawn Says:

    And in this world of “fair use,” you gotta wonder.. is using a picture that is part of a larger story, beyond the rules. They were not printing the entire article, just a percentage of it. And only lawyers could ever figure it out.

    Happens to them all them time, I would guess.

  16. Lynne Says:

    Fair use is a very specific thing, and it does not apply to wholesale lifting of an author’s work for commercial purposes.

    Even the “quoting a bit of an article” fair use is a bit of a fuzzy area, in that “how much” you can quote is up for interpretation, somewhat, though there are accepted guidelines.

    And the Sun has gone after people for lifting their copyrighted work, so they’re pretty hypocritical.

  17. Tim Little Says:

    “Fair use” also requires appropriate attribution, if I’m not mistaken.

  18. C R Krieger Says:

    Given our “Mickey Mouse” copyright laws, there is always frustration with those who are hanging on for the last pennies.  Then there are folks like Federal Attorney Carmen Ortiz, who engage in egregis overcharging in this area.  It is a mess.

    That said, reasonably recent photos should be respected out of common courtesy, if not for reasons of the law.  And, dead tree media needs to grant respect to the digital world.

    Regards  —  Cliff

  19. Jack Says:

    Not “Dead Tree Mafia?”

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