Tag Archives: copyright

Test your online journalism law: 2 – the celebrity visit without pictures

Every day this week I am publishing an example of a legal dilemma that a journalism student might face (why? Read my previous post on students being publishers, and the responsibilities that come with that). I can’t promise a ‘right answer’ at the end of the week – but I hope you can comment on what a student publisher might do – and why.

Case 2: Celebrity visit – and you don’t have pictures

This is a true story. A fire drill has just ended, and as you’re walking back to the classroom you think you see a famous rugby player in the crowd. Your friend says “Nah, it’s not him”.

Like a good journalist, you don’t accept that, so you go to the university reception to ask if Famous Rugby Player is indeed around today. Yes, they say, he is.

Apparently he’s promoting a healthy eating scheme – and also looking at a new piece of kit designed by the health faculty.

You get the details of what he’s doing there, and where he will be when, make a quick call to your editor, and then chase off to find him.

Once there, you interview him, a marketing rep from the company paying him, and a representative from the health faculty.

But your phone runs out of battery – so you have no photos.

As you get back to the newsroom, Famous Rugby Star’s visit is already all over Twitter.

You want to get this story up on your blog before the local newspaper – but a celebrity story is nothing without images.

Thankfully, a few of those tweeting about the visit have taken snaps. Also, one has uploaded some brief video footage to YouTube, and embedding is enabled.

Meanwhile, you have emailed the marketing rep and the health faculty rep for images – both have been promised, but you have no idea how long it will take.

The questions

  1. What are the legal issues here – and what tests need to be met for them to be an issue (or not)?
  2. What defence could you mount?
  3. How likely is it that legal action would result?
  4. Would you publish – and why?

‘Answers’ and discussion in the comments

Ethics in data journalism: mass data gathering – scraping, FOI and deception

This is the third in a series of extracts from a draft book chapter on ethics in data journalismThe first looked at how ethics of accuracy play out in data journalism projects, and the second at culture clashes, privacy, user data and collaborationThis is a work in progress, so if you have examples of ethical dilemmas, best practice, or guidance, I’d be happy to include it with an acknowledgement.

Automated mapping of data - ChicagoCrime.org - image from Source

Automated mapping of data – ChicagoCrime.org – image from Source

Mass data gathering – scraping, FOI, deception and harm

The data journalism practice of ‘scraping’ – getting a computer to capture information from online sources – raises some ethical issues around deception and minimisation of harm. Some scrapers, for example, ‘pretend’ to be a particular web browser, or pace their scraping activity more slowly to avoid detection. But the deception is practised on another computer, not a human – so is it deception at all? And if the ‘victim’ is a computer, is there harm? Continue reading

Review: Internet law for journalists

Cleland Thom: Internet Law for Journalists

Most writing on law is like a gas: it expands to fill the space given to it. But a new ebook by journalism trainer Cleland Thom bucks the trend, and it’s all the better for it.

Internet Law for Journalists, Bloggers, Students, Social Media Users … is as impressively succinct as its title is long. The book provides a tour through the expanding range of laws you need to consider when you publish online, illustrated with copious and simple examples, along with guidance for what you should do to avoid being added to the list. Continue reading

7 laws journalists now need to know – from database rights to hate speech

Law books image by Mr T in DC

Image by Mr T in DC

When you start publishing online you move from the well-thumbed areas of defamation and libel, contempt of court and privilege and privacy to a whole new world of laws and licences.

This is a place where laws you never knew existed can be applied to your work – while other ones can come in surprisingly useful. Here are the key ones:

Continue reading

Finding images and multimedia for your news project (without breaking copyright laws)

For copyright reasons image is not available (badge)

Whether you need an image for your blog post, a soundtrack to your video or that YouTube clip for your documentary, if you’re dealing with multimedia it’s likely you’ll end up using – or wanting to use – someone else’s work as part of your own.

Here are some basic tips on finding and using multimedia across the web in a way that won’t (hopefully) land you in hot water.

The public domain myth

One of the mistakes that has repeatedly landed journalists and their employers in trouble is confusion over the term “public domain“.

Public domain has two possible meanings. In copyright terms, public domain refers to work whose copyright has expired, meaning that anyone can use it without having to ask the copyright holder. Disney – a fierce lobbyist itself for extending copyright – has used ‘public domain’ material as the basis for most of its cartoons, from the work of the Grimm Brothers to a host of other fairy tales, myths and legends.

But sometimes you will hear journalists talk about something being “in the public domain“, in other words ‘public’. For instance, when the Irish Daily Mail published photos of an air traffic controller from her website, they defended the decision on the grounds that the image was “in the public domain”.

But this is not the same.

For example, pretty much every piece of media, almost by definition, is “in the public domain”. Newspapers and magazines sit on the newsstands; television and radio reports are broadcast on huge city centre screens and speakers.

But if you take that content and reproduce it in its entirety without permission, you are breaking copyright law.

It seems odd that media organisations so used to protecting their own, very public, content, should think that another person’s photo, or video, or report, should be fair game because it is “in the public domain”. But they do.

If you want public domain (in the sense of ‘copyright expired’) content, there are some useful sources. The Public Domain Review, for example, publishes a range of public domain work and has this guide to finding them. And Angela Grant writes here about finding public domain video, among other things (note that Angela refers to US law, not that of other countries).

But never assume something is public domain because it is “in public”.

One point to make: while an image, story, or composition may be out of copyright, its performance, re-design or re-telling may not.

Just ask Disney.

Creative Commons – making UGC copyright explicit

If you’re dealing with content that’s been published on a platform like Flickr or YouTube, you may be able to find out the copyright status of that content relatively easily.

Both allow users to easily establish copyright through the Creative Commons licence. You can either look for that licence in the relevant part of the page hosting the content.

On YouTube it is under the video:

Where to find a YouTube video's licensing information - image from YouTube. Click to see original in context.

Where to find a YouTube video’s licensing information – image from YouTube.

On Flickr this is on the right hand side under License:

Look for an image’s licensing information on Flickr on the right hand column. Make sure you click on that licence to find out what terms it requires.

Look for an image’s licensing information on Flickr on the right hand column.

Make sure you click on that licence to find out what terms it requires.

Creative Commons, for example, has a number of elements:

  • Whether the material can be used only in noncommercial contexts, or for commercial use as well
  • Whether the material can be adapted and changed, or must be left unchanged
  • Whether you must use the same CC licence if you use this material (e.g. you cannot use a noncommercial licence but then allow your work to be used commercially)
  • Whether you must attribute the work (this is where many people breach the licence)

If you’re unsure of where your work fits against those criteria (for example, whether it’s considered as “commercial”), then approach the copyright holder for clarity. Remember that the CC licence is only a default position, and can be negotiated. Also, if you cannot get any response and decide to publish anyway, your attempts to contact the copyright holder will be important if there are any legal proceedings.

If you want others to publish their content under a CC licence, it helps if you publish at least some of your own work under a CC licence too. Indeed, if it contains other CC material, their licences may require you to.

Flickr and YouTube aren’t the only sites that use Creative Commons licences, of course. To search for media under a CC licence (including on those sites), use the search facility on the Creative Commons site and select the engine you want to search through.

If you’re running a hyperlocal site, or any site that needs images of places, check out Geograph, which hosts Creative Commons-licensed images of locations around the UK.

There are also specialist sites for sharing music under CC, such as Freesound.

Even if the media you are interested in using does not use a CC licence, of course, you can still approach the copyright holder for permission to use it.

Attribution does not cover you for copyright

Another mistake that some people make is to believe that simply linking to the source, or naming the photographer/source, is enough to avoid copyright issues.

This is only the case if the licence for the material says so.

Copyright has two elements: moral rights, and economic rights.

The moral right is the right to be identified as the author of a piece of work. This is the attribution which is in pretty much every copyright licence, Creative Commons or otherwise.

But it’s not the right that most people sue over.

The economic right is the right to right to “allow or prevent the copying of their work or the performance of their work in public” (IPO). This translates into the ability to earn money from a piece of work. And this is what people largely sue over.

Attributing a photo only covers the moral right. It does not mean you won’t be sued.

If, then, you have used an image, video or audio without the permission of the rights holder (granted through a Creative Commons licence or directly to you through correspondence) then you are still probably breaking copyright law.

Embedding versus re-broadcasting

If the media is hosted on a platform like YouTube, you may be able to embed it on a webpage without seeking permission at all: if the creator* has enabled embedding then they would have little argument in suing for breach of copyright because:

  • By enabling embedding they have given an ‘implied’ right; and
  • They could stop you publishing it instantly by disabling embedding.
  • Also, your embedding of their media would not lead to any loss of revenue (as advertising can be embedded too), so it is unlikely that there would be any damages to sue for.

*note: this does not apply to video created by other people and uploaded by someone other than the copyright holder.

UPDATE: Interestingly on this note, in March 2014 Getty Images made it possible to embed 35 million of its images for non-commercial use:

“In essence, anyone will be able to visit Getty Images’ library of content, select an image and copy an embed HTML code to use that image on their own websites. Getty Images will serve the image in a embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos – which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image’s dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website.”

Reality bites

Of course, it’s one thing to talk about the strict legal position, and another to talk about what actually happens. Journalists regularly publish content that breaks the law – but make a judgement about the likelihood of ending up in court over that. For example, I can say that the Queen is corrupt (a defamatory statement) and be almost certain that the Queen is not going to sue me (because she has a history of not doing so).

Media lawyers are not just there to advise publishers on their strict legal position, but on the balance of risk involved, and how to reduce those risks. While you cannot always avoid risks, you can avoid them in simple ways:

  • Always try to establish the copyright situation regarding any media you use: who holds the copyright (there may be more than one copyright owner: for example, performer and composer), and what are the terms of the licence?
  • Try to contact the copyright holder if you’re in any doubt – even if you can’t contact them your efforts to do so will help you if you do end up in court.
  • Always attribute authorship and link to the source (this can be done in title credits, captions and/or links on the host webpage). Copyright claims normally revolve around loss of earnings: anything that may have contributed to that (i.e. not linking to the source) will likely add to damages.

Minimal cost and royalty free

‘Royalty free’ is a vague term which is often confused with, simply, ‘free’. It most often refers to media which is paid for once and can then be used multiple times in different contexts.

For example, you might pay for a CD of ‘royalty free’ music or sound effects which can be used across multiple video projects – saving you the hassle of acquiring permissions every time for different music.

Or you might buy a CD of royalty free images (clip art, for example) that you can use across various design projects.

If you’re studying in a school of media, or working in a large media organisation, they will probably have some royalty free media for students or employees to use – so ask around to find out what’s available.

But don’t use it for the sake of it: the quality can vary. In addition, many other media projects may have relied on the same libraries, so you can lose distinctiveness.

You should also be aware that the licences of even so-called ‘royalty free’ material can be restrictive: the Wikipedia entry on royalty free music notes that “the royalty-free music license at SmartSound states “You must obtain a “mechanical” license for replication of quantities in excess of 10,000 units.” (Read the licence here)

Thankfully for those who want more diversity, the internet has made new types of royalty free media – and new pricing – possible, as a wider range of photographers and other media creators can now sell their work through online marketplaces.

Pond5 has sound effects, photos, video, illustrations, music and even After Effects projects from $2 up – as well as occasional free materialiStockphoto covers most of those, and adds Flash files too – again at often very cheap prices. Quality, however, does cost more.

Stock.XCHNG deserves special mention, boasting that it is the world’s “leading free stock photo site” and hosting thousands of royalty free images. Even if the image is ‘free’, however, it’s only free under the terms of the licence – so always check them.

You can find many more sources by searching for articles like this on the ‘best places to get free images’.

On the audio front, there are sites like Audiosocket, which allow you to browse and licence independent music for your film (if you use Vimeo you can also add this through their music store).

If you know of other sources or issues to consider in finding material for multimedia, I’d love to know.

For more on these issues, and for related tools and links, see my bookmarks at http://delicious.com/paulb/creativecommons

Finding images and multimedia for your news project (without breaking copyright laws)

For copyright reasons image is not available (badge)

Image by gaelx

Whether you need an image for your blog post, a soundtrack to your video or that YouTube clip for your documentary, if you’re dealing with multimedia it’s likely you’ll end up using – or wanting to use – someone else’s work as part of your own.

Here are some basic tips on finding and using multimedia across the web in a way that won’t (hopefully) land you in hot water. Continue reading

Database copyright: labour has to be ‘creative’

Posted in full over on the Online Journalism Handbook blog is a summary of a recent judgement in the Court of Justice, which suggests the idea of ‘database copyright’ has to involve creativity and originality – important for those involved in data journalism who are either seeking to establish copyright over their work, or understand the situation regarding the copyright of databases they are using.

Here’s a key quote:

“criterion of originality is satisfied when, through the selection or arrangement of the data which it contains, its author expresses his creative ability in an original manner by making free and creative choices […] and thus stamps his ‘personal touch’”. Therefore, the Court continues, the criterion is “not satisfied when the setting up of the database is dictated by technical considerations, rules or constraints which leave no room for creative freedom”.

More over there

A lesson in UGC, copyright, and the law (again)

Terence Eden filmed the above video demonstrating O2’s phone security flaw. He put it on YouTube with the standard copyright licence. And someone at Sky News ignored that when they used it without permission. But what’s interesting about Terence’s blog post about the experience is the legal position that Sky then negotiated from – an experience that journalism students, journalists and hyperlocal bloggers can learn from.

Here is what Sky came back with after negotiations stalled when Eden invoked copyright law in asking for £1500 for using his video (“£300 for the broadcast of the video [based on NUJ rates ...] £400 for them failing to ask permission, another £400 for them infringing my copyright, and then £400 for them violating my moral rights.”):

“After consulting with our Sky lawyers our position is that we believe a £300 settlement is a fair and appropriate sum.
“Our position is:

  • The £300 is in respect of what you describes as “infringement of copyright” rather than any “union rate”;
  • Contrary to what you claim, we did not act as if you had assigned us all rights. Specifically, we did not claim ownership nor seek to profit from it by licensing to others;
  • Criminal liability will not attach in relation to an inadvertent use of footage;
  • English law does not recognise violation of moral rights;
  • There is no authority that an infringement in these circumstances attracts four times the usual licence fee. To the contrary, the usual measure is what the reasonable cost of licensing would have been.”

This sounds largely believable – particularly as Sky were “very quick” to take the infringing content down. That would be a factor in any subsequent legal case.

Notably, the Daily Mail example he quotes – where the newspaper reportedly paid £2000 for 2 images – included an email exchange where the photographer explicitly refuses the website permission to reproduce his photographs, and a period of time when the images remained online after he had complained.

These are all factors to consider whichever side of the situation you end up in.

PS: Part of Eden’s reason for pursuing Sky over their use of his video was the company’s position in pursuing “a copyright maximalist agenda” which Eden believes is damaging to the creative industries. He points out that:

“The Digital Economy Act doesn’t allow me to sue Sky News for distributing my content for free without my permission. An individual can lose their Internet access for sharing a movie, however there don’t seem to be any sanctions against a large company for sharing my copyrighted work without permission.”

An interesting point.

Report: Social Media and News

Report: Social Media and NewsLast year I was commissioned to write a report on ‘Social Media and News’ for the Open Society Media Program, as part of the ‘Mapping Digital Media’ series. The report is now available here (PDF).

As I say in the introduction, I focused on “the areas that are most strongly contested and hold the most importance for the development of news reporting”, namely:

  • competition over copyright between individuals, news organisations, and social media platforms;
  • the move to hyperlocal and international-scope publishing;
  • the tensions between privacy and freedom of speech; and
  • attempts by governments and corporations to control what happens online.

These and other developments (such as the growth of APIs which “connect the information that we consume with the information we increasingly embody”) are then explored with specific reference to issues of editorial independence, public interest and public service, pluralism and diversity, accountability, and freedom of expression.

That’s quite a lot to cover in 4,000 words. So for those who want to explore some of the issues or cases in more detail – or follow recent updates (and a lot has happened even since finishing the report) – I’ve been collecting related links at this Delicious ‘stack’, and on an ongoing basis at this tag.

20 recent hyperlocal developments (June-August 2011)

Ofcom’s Damian Radcliffe produces a regular round-up of developments in hyperlocal publishing. In this guest post he cross-publishes his latest presentation for this summer, as well as the background to the reports.

Ofcom’s 2009 report on Local and Regional Media in the UK identified the increasing role that online hyperlocal media is playing in the local and regional media ecology.

New research in the report identified that

“One in five consumers claimed to use community websites at least monthly, and a third of these said they had increased their use of such websites over the past two years.”

That was two years ago, and since then, this nascent sector has continued to evolve, with the web continuing to offer a space and platform for community expression, engagement and empowerment.

The diversity of these offerings is manifest in the Hyperlocal Voices series found on this website, as well as Talk About Local’s Ten Questions feature, both of which speak to hyperlocal practitioners about their work.

For a wider view of developments in this sector, you may want to look at the bi-monthly series of slides I publish on SlideShare every two months.

Each set of slides typically outlines 20 recent hyperlocal developments; usually 10 from the UK and 10 from the US.

Topics in the current edition include Local TV, hyperlocal coverage of the recent England riots, the rise of location based deals and marketing, as well as the FCC’s report on The Information Needs of Communities.

Feedback and suggestions for future editions – including omissions from current slides – are actively welcomed.