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Make sure you get permission and attribute your photos

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One of the greatest dangers to bloggers and informal news aggregation websites is the lack of attribution that can run rampant through their articles.  The most informal news-source I currently follow is Gizmodo.  They post articles on technology and tech-related news that I find interesting, but what I find even more interesting is the lack of proper photo attribution.

Gizmodo does a good job of attributing the story to whatever source the writers first saw the story on, but there are few photo credits to be found on the website.  While a fair part of these photos are created by Gizmodo staff, many come from whatever website Gizmodo got the story from.  I’ve picked up three examples over the past couple days of stories that I feel should give better photo attribution as well as the short hat-tip they give at the end of the story.

Gizmodo posted this story about a computer repair man who loaded malicious software on computers to take naked photos of women.  While the writer properly attributes the original story to MSNBC, he neglected to point out that the photo was provided by the Fullerton (Calif.) Police Department to the Associated Press. It appears that Gizmodo is not a member of the AP because the writer didn’t just use the AP story like MSNBC did even though the MSNBC page clearly states it’s an AP story.  The online AP FAQ states:

All requests for republication of AP material must be in writing, clearly stating the purpose and manner in which the copy will be used. All republished material must carry AP credit. Unless specifically noted otherwise, all permission is given for one-time use only. No political candidate, political party, political action committee, polemical organization, or any group formed for partisan purpose may use AP copy in any publication. There may be a fee for reprint use.

Gizmodo is in violation of these terms because there is no credit in the story to the Associated Press.

Gizmodo ran a story about the discovery of an artifact related to Leonardo Da Vinci.  The story originated from a story posted on Daily Mail’s website. The Gizmodo story took photos from the original and used them in their own story.  The photos bear watermarks from Central European News, a group analogous to the Associated Press and Alamy, a stock photo website.  CEN and their photography sister company Europics, state in their copyright that, “This site is a commercial information service for subscribers. Redistribution and reselling without a written agreement with CEN Ltd is illegal.”  Alamy works on a slightly more complicated release contract, but users are still required to pay a fee for usage of Alamy marked photos.  Gizmodo used the photos without obvious permission unless they are a paying member for CEN and Alamy services.  Gizmodo also improperly credited Daily Mail’s competitor, Telegraph with the story origination.

Gizmodo’s final offense is a case of laziness that lead to theft and not ignorance of photo ownership.  The website posted a story about a threat posted on the Anonymous news website to NATO, warning of retaliation if NATO attempted to take action against the group.  The post credits story origin from NATO and  Anonymous via CNET, who also posted about the story. The photo at the top of Gizmodo’s story was taken from the original posted at the bottom of CNET story.  Underneath the photo is a credit that reads, “Screenshot by CNET.”  The image was captured from the Anonymous news website which headlined the full statement against NATO.  This case makes the ownership of the photo murky, but regardless of the photo’s origin and availability, it would be proper for Gizmodo to credit CNET with the photo at the top of the story or take a photo of their own and use it to headline on the Gizmodo website.

The big issue with the lack of attribution is that it’s illegal to take photos that are owned by some entity and use them without permission.  The over-riding attitude on the internet seems to be that any photo that can be found online is fair game for usage on personal blogs and informal websites.  Unfortunately, this is not the case.  It is necessary to ask permission of the photo’s original poster to use the photo.  Only after getting permission may you post and use the photo yourself.  You are opening yourself up to potential lawsuits if you use images without permission.

Not all images require that you ask someone for permission to use them.  There are images in the public domain that are always free to use without having to pay money or ask for permission.  These photos can be found online in a variety of areas such as the wikimedia commons and public domain images.com.  I’m not endorsing these websites specifically, but they are two websites that I know of and there are many more if you search for ‘public domain images’ on google or any other search engine.

Be careful where you get your images and always ask for permission to use them unless you’re certain the image is in the public domain.

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Written by Christopher Siler

2011/06/12 at 23:39

Posted in Uncategorized

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