When Sky News needed a picture to illustrate a shooting at Waterloo Station, they found what they needed on Twitter: a photo of the crime scene taken by Joe Neale and posted to Twitter using Twitpic (used above, with permission).
Just one problem: they didn’t bother to tell Joe.
Joe explains in an email:
“I didn’t even know about it as I was in meetings all day but had friends telling me it was on the front of Sky News. I had to tweet Jon [Gripton, News Editor of Sky News Online] to get the name changed (from “Joe on Twitter” to Joe Neale) which took about 5 hours, Jon then stated I should have received an email which I didn’t, then said I needed to email the editor which I did but with no response.”
To Sky’s (and Jon’s) credit, they didn’t dispute the claim. Because Joe used Twitpic he had the advantage of being able to refer to their terms of service, which specifically say copyright belongs to the owner.
But they haven’t exactly rushed to respond to Joe, and so after 2 weeks, Joe is taking his cause to Twitter with the tag #skypic, making the very salient point: “Newscorp use your photos without permission but have plans to charge for reading their content”, which has since been retweeted across the Twittersphere.
In an email he expands on that point further:
“I think this story is interesting because it points to the dangers of social media for the citizen journalist. I’m pleased that my picture has achieved good reach but I worry that the cooption of apparently free content from twitter by big media is something that may become endemic and devalue the rights in photography. Rupert Murdoch has announced people will have to pay to access his sites from 2010, meantime he doesn’t seem to mind not paying for material and happily infringes on other people’s work.”
I’m waiting for a response from Jon Gripton on this (feel free to post it in the comments, Jon). In the meantime, here’s Joe’s email to Sky’s Julian March which he tweeted in 140-character chunks today:
“My photo was used without permission on the sky news website on the 5th of August 2009, and was taken from my Twitter feed without my permission(I have 20000+ mainly UK based followers including a large section of press/media folk): [URL]
“I waited/requested a confirmation email from Jon Grip (via Twitter) regarding payment that he said had been send out (on the 5th/6th of August, which I did not receive) and was told to chase Phil Wardman (on 11th of August) who did also not reply to me. The communication between us can be followed on my Twitter feed (www.twitter.com/joe). I feel justified to bill you for the use of my photo as a week has past since my last correspondence with Sky but will not charge you for the hours I have spent chasing Sky as I do not think that is fair.
“The conditions for using my photo without permission are £300 for the initial use on the front of the site and then charged at 5% for each additional week it is present on your site starting from August the 5th which will continue as long as the photo is present.
“As it still ranks high in Google search and has no doubt done its part to generated a decent amount of revenue.
“Please find my invoice for £326.24 which permits usage of the photo up to today, Monday the 17th of August.”